We’ve had tons of lightning, thunder, big hail, and rain this evening, so I figured this was the perfect time to reminisce about beautiful weather on our trip last month to the Dominican Republic. I shared pics and lots of travel tips and info from the first two days of our trip in this post, and now I’m sharing our third day. This post only gets one day of pics because I took SO many on day three for some reason.

The morning of day three started out with this view on our way to breakfast.

Our budding photographer enjoyed capturing the beauty all around him during our al fresco breakfast.

Not a bad view while you dine!

That water… it still amazes me every time I look at these pictures! There were moments during our visit when I just sat in complete awe of the beauty. The water was like nothing else I had ever seen in person. Absolutely breathtaking.

One of the pieces of advice we received from a friend before we went was to bring towel clips for our chairs. I’m so glad we did. I bought these clips from Amazon. They came in handy not only for keeping our towels from blowing all over, but they were also great for keeping our clothes and hats from blowing away. I simply clipped everything to our chairs, and nothing went anywhere.

She’s got the photo bug, too, so we saw a lot of this on the trip. But I’d much rather have her taking pics on her iPod to preserve her memories than playing games on it while we’re on vacation!

The kids had their first kayaking experience – part of our all-inclusive package, which was great! Our daughter went with my husband, and our son and I went together. We didn’t get too far, but it was still an amazing experience to be out in the gorgeous, open ocean kayaking with our kiddos.

I mentioned in my post about days one and two that there was a lot of handstanding and cartwheeling going on during our trip. I wasn’t kidding.

And dancing. There was a lot of dancing… by one of us, at least.

You’ve gotta dance like no one’s watching, right?!?

These birds had the most beautiful coloring I think I’ve ever seen on a bird. I wish that I had been able to get a better picture to truly do their colors justice.

I was surprised at the lack of lizards we saw during our stay… this was one of only two we saw during our whole time there.

I had fun branching out with my work a bit by photographing all of the beautiful tropical flowers.

The forward flip wasn’t as popular as the cartwheel or handstand, but we did see a few of these.

After dinner on day three, I busted out my camera that has auto mode and on-camera flash and handed it to my husband so that I could be in a pic with my little loves.

And then I had to grab one of all three of my loves.

And then Bubba (our budding photographer) wanted to snap a pic of Mama and Daddy. It’s a new favorite of mine. I love that there’s more room below our feet than there is above our heads. Because that’s what happens when you’re eight and taking a pic of people who are more than a foot taller than you, right?!

Back in our room for the night after a fun-filled day. One of the perks of him having his own bed was being able to make his bed fort each night.

This last pic cracks me up. I was laying in bed looking through pics from our day, and our daughter came in to wash her face. Side note… my husband was watching Warm Springs (a movie about FDR’s battle with polio), so that man in the mirror is from the TV. The reason this pic cracks me up, though, is because of the little man in the second mirror. That’s Bubba. He was jumping on the bed. Because that’s what you do in hotels, right?!

 Thanks for stopping by!! More trip pics will be coming soon!


  • Meg - Wow the colours in your images are amazing! How have you achieved this?!ReplyCancel

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Five-and-a-half glorious days and five amazing nights. That’s what our family just spent in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. We went to celebrate some recent birthday milestones for myself and my husband. Considering I took almost 1000 photos during our time there, I thought I’d share our trip experiences across several blog posts.

I’ll start at the beginning and share how we decided on the Dominican Republic. When we first started talking about this birthday trip, we knew we wanted a warm, beach location, so we considered a lot of tropical destinations. Two of the main things we wanted were a white sand beach and turquoise water; those requirements took Puerto Vallarta off our list. We looked at Jamaica but didn’t find everything we wanted in an all-inclusive there, so we ruled Jamaica out this time. Turks and Caicos and the US Virgin Islands both looked amazing but were out of our budget for this trip. We didn’t consider the Bahamas for too long, as we didn’t find as many family friendly resorts there. That left us with Cancun, Playa del Carmen, Riviera Maya, and the Dominican Republic on our list.

With our locations somewhat narrowed down, I put together a spreadsheet (I’m a dork like that!) of all-inclusive resorts that had the main things we were looking for and that were within our budget. Then I started looking at resort reviews on various sites. One of the sites I found most helpful was Oyster, The Hotel Tell-All. The site shares hotel reviews by unbiased parties, and they offer Pros and Cons lists for each location they review, which were extremely helpful to us. You can search by a lot of different criteria – like best all-inclusive, best beach, best kid-friendly – which was also really helpful. I also looked at reviews on Google, TripAdvisor, Costco Travel, and Booking.com. The reviews helped narrow down our choices even further. We ultimately found pretty much everything we wanted at the Barcelo Bavaro Palace Deluxe in the Dominican Republic.

We booked our trip through Costco Travel, and we could not have been more pleased with the experience. Costco’s rates were better (by several hundred dollars, in most cases) than the rates we received from a travel agent on the same properties and with the same accommodations and inclusions. Costco was super easy to book through, and we were really glad to know that we could receive a large percentage of our package rate back even if we had to cancel our trip one day prior to departing.

I’ll share more about the Barcelo property, our experience at the resort, and some travel tips throughout this blog post and subsequent ones. For now, though, I’ll start by saying that we had an overall amazing experience and vacation. The Dominican Republic is absolutely gorgeous, and the people are incredibly friendly.

Our flight left Kansas City early on Friday morning, and we had a short layover in Miami, so we were in Punta Cana by mid-afternoon. One thing I forgot to pack was a pen, and you need one to complete customs forms on the plane. So if you’re going out of the country, make sure you bring a pen! The customs process in Punta Cana was easy and quite efficient. It hardly took any time at all for us to get through the process.

Our Costco package included a private transfer to the resort, which was equally easy and efficient. After being greeted with champagne and soft drinks at the resort check-in lounge, we were escorted to our room. Our resort guide showed us where everything was and how the TV remote worked. We spent a few hundred dollars to upgrade our Costco package to a ‘premium level,’ which was well worth the cost. The premium level included expedited check-in and check-out, a bottle of Dominican rum in our room, a two-bedroom and two-bathroom suite spanning more than 1200 square feet, wi-fi at no extra charge, and unlimited access to the resort’s water park.

We got settled into our room a bit and then headed to the beach… to do lots of cartwheels.

And hand stands…

I don’t generally include cell phone photos in my blog posts, but I love some of the photos my kids and husband took, so I’m including them. This was a two-person selfie (what’s that called?!). They were quite fond of the hot tub on our balcony. And the bubbles. Clearly.

This was our breakfast view the first morning we were in Punta Cana… not bad!! Our resort offered several buffet restaurants and even more ‘a la carte’ restaurant options where you could order off the menu. We tried one of the a la carte restaurants our second night but opted for buffets the rest of the time. The buffets were a better fit for our kids. The variety was extensive, and they could always find something that appealed to them at every meal. Both kids were big fans of the self-serve frozen yogurt machine and the dessert buffet at lunch and dinner, too.

Two particularly nice things about the buffet restaurants were that they don’t require reservations, and the dress code is casual. If you visit an all-inclusive resort, be sure to find out if you can make dinner reservations before you arrive. Also be sure to inquire about the dress code for non-buffet restaurants. At Barcelo, the dress code for men at the a la carte restaurants was shirts with sleeves, long pants, and closed-toed shoes.

She HAD to hold this monkey the minute she saw that the resort offered it. It was basically the only thing she talked about until she finally got to do it. I actually got scolded for taking these photos. As a photographer, I totally get it. They want people to pay for the photos they take of guests with the animals. This is their livelihood. They don’t want people taking their own photos and then not spending any money on the ones they take. I truly wasn’t attempting to get out of paying for anything, though; as a photographer and a mom, I simply wanted to document the moment.

And we definitely still paid for the professional photos the resort staff took. Note to self for next time, though… don’t attempt to document moments when you’re told not to!

On our first full day in Punta Cana we got to experience that white sand and amazing turquoise water we were looking for… and it truly was amazing!

I spent $6.00 on sand toys at Dollar Tree before we left. Though they were lightweight, they took up a decent amount of room in a suitcase, so we left them behind when we left Punta Cana, which I didn’t mind doing since they were so inexpensive.

She might be taking a pic of the gorgeous scenery, but a selfie is a better bet. You get used to lots of selfie moments when you travel with an 11-year-old girl!

We brought our own snorkels. Snorkeling excursions were included with our package, but I was glad we had our own snorkels to use anytime we wanted and not just on resort-led excursions.

We saw a lot of small crabs on our trip. It was fun to watch them scurry along with their claws up. Another cell phone pic… it was hard to document them since they move so fast!

The water park was clearly a big hit. Definitely worth the extra money we spent to upgrade to the premium level. 

Not quite sure what’s going on here…

Nose pluggers, unite! One of these days, we probably need to break them of this habit!

More cartwheeling…

The tropical flowers were incredibly beautiful. 

Back at the room after a day of beaching and water parking, Bubba offered free massages to resort guests (actually, just to his sister, thankfully!).

Once again, not quite sure what’s going on here…

Obviously, I need a lesson on where to look for cell phone pics!

The quality is horrible, but this is (sadly) one of the only images of all four of us in the Dominican Republic, so I’m choosing to love it!

Stay Tuned…

That’s it for days one and two of our Dominican Republic vacation! I’ll have more blog posts and photos to share soon!


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I’ve always loved babies. I love them so much that I’m pretty sure I even loved babies when I was just a baby myself. There are so many things about them to love. That precious newborn smell. All of their delicate, precious features. Their tiny little fingers and fingernails. Soft, fuzzy hair. Their expressions. Their newness. Little leg rolls. Itty bitty toes. Everything about them. And now that my kiddos aren’t babies anymore, I cherish my time with new parents and their babies during newborn photo sessions even more.

This beautiful baby girl was a little older than many of the newborns I photograph during in-home lifestyle sessions. Even at 10 weeks, she still did amazingly well during our time together.

mom cradles new baby girl in kansas city area homebaby girl sleeps in crib during in home lifestyle photo sessionbaby girl sleeps in crib during in home lifestyle photo sessionbaby girl sleeps in crib during in home lifestyle photo sessionbaby girl sleeps in crib during in home lifestyle photo session

With her being a little bit older, I loved being able to create lots of images when she was awake and alert.new kansas city dad admires baby girl in crib during in home lifestyle photo sessiondad rocks with new baby girl in kansas city area homenew baby girl admired by parents in kansas city area home

I remember so fondly how sweet my husband was with our babies. He was so tender and loving with them both, just as a new dad should be. It always melts my heart now when I see new dads being the same way with their babies that my husband was with ours. It brings back so many feelings of falling in love with my husband all over again every time I witnessed him doing something so sweet with our babies.dad soothes new baby daughternew kansas city dad soothes baby girlnew kansas city mom and dad admire baby girlnew kansas city parents feed baby girl with bottlenew kansas city dad feeds baby girl with a bottle on couchnew kansas city dad feeds baby girl during in home lifestyle photo sessionkansas city in home lifestyle photo session

That bottle put her right back out…

new kansas city dad feeds baby girl during in home lifestyle photo session

but not for long! After her feeding, I got the most precious little grin from baby girl… another one of those ‘so many things to love about them!’ new baby girl in kansas city area home

One of the things I love most about in-home lifestyle sessions with babies is how laid back they are. I document life as it happens. If baby doesn’t want to be swaddled, that’s fine. If baby isn’t tired enough to sleep, that’s no problem. There’s no stress and no pressure… just special time with your precious little one(s).

new dad plays with baby girl on couchmom cuddles new baby on couchnew parents cuddle baby girl on couchfeet of newborn baby girlkansas city mom snuggles new baby girl

Expecting a Baby?

If you or someone you know in the Kansas City area is expecting a baby, please contact me about scheduling an in-home lifestyle session! I would love to document one of the most precious times in your life! I can be reached by phone or text at 913-940-4121, by email at info@ashleyspaulding.com, or through the Contact link at the top of this page. Thank you so much for stopping by my blog and taking the time to peek at my newborn lifestyle work!

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We finished decking our halls today when we decorated our Christmas tree for our day 10 ’25 Days of Christmas’ activity. To read more about our ’25 Days of Christmas’ project, check out this blog post from a couple years ago and this one from a few years back. It’s one of my absolute favorite things about the month of December. And now that we’ve done the project for so many years, it’s even more of a favorite thing, as I’ve finally learned how to make everything go really smoothly with the project and not have it be stressful (which – we can all agree, I’m sure – is key this time of year!!).

One of my favorite things that we do for the project is decorate our Christmas tree. Opening our boxes of ornaments just one time each year is so special. We have a tree full of memories, so almost every one of our ornaments has a special meaning behind it. Unwrapping each ornament one by one brings back a flood of happy memories… seeing the tree ornament our daughter made in preschool with popsicle sticks, running my hand across the clay imprints of the infant feet of both our babies, coming across the framed picture ornament of my beloved first kitty who we said goodbye to eight years ago. Each one has a unique story. Each one holds a special place in my heart. And with our Christmas tree as the canvas, I love watching our kids paint the most beautiful picture as they find the perfect places for each ornament to reside.

We had a bit of a photobombing incident this afternoon…

It’s Piper’s first Christmas at home with us since we adopted her this past February. And at the risk of completely jinxing things… she’s really been terrific with all the Christmas decor we have around our house. Speaking of Christmas decor… I shared a tour of our home at Christmas time last year if you’d like to see how we deck the rest of our halls.

As part of our ’25 Days’ project, I started a tradition of taking each one of our kids on individual outings to Hallmark to pick out an ornament every year. One of the very first ornaments he chose when I started this tradition with him was this house with Santa going down the chimney. He loved it the moment he saw it, and it’s still one of his favorites today.

As you prepare for the holidays in your home, I wish you a season of peace, happiness, and love. I hope the traditions and moments you share with your kids and families are magical and memorable in every way.

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Fall is my absolute favorite time of the year (well, actually, fall is probably tied with Christmastime, but the two both make me super excited!), so I absolutely love documenting families in fall photos. We may not see a ton of fall color variety in the Kansas City area, but there’s still a ton of beauty in the season wherever we look in this great area we call home.

fall photos of family at lake lenexa

And there’s nothing like fall light, especially in the early evening when the sun gets ready to bid us farewell.

siblings pose for fall photos at lake lenexatwo kids on bridge during fall photos near kansas cityfamily walks on bridge during fall photosmom and daughter pose for kansas city fall photosdad and son pose for fall photos at lake lenexa near kansas citymom and son pose for fall photos

This particular evening last fall was so beautiful. The temperature was crisp but still comfortable. The leaves were the perfect golden hues for this family’s fall photos. And this beautiful party of four was so much fun to be around. Mom and dad were easy going and laid back, which always makes my “job” (it’s hard to call something I love so much a “job”) so enjoyable. Their darling son was cute and kind and so funny with his little sister… and he put up with the 800 questions I asked him about school, girls, etc., which is always a bonus. And their adorable daughter showed me her equally adorable personality during our time together, which I loved. I love it when kids are comfortable enough around me to really let loose and be themselves during photos… because those moments truly make the best photo memories.

kansas city family poses for fall photos at lake lenexasiblings pose for fall photoslittle girl poses for fall photos in kansas city areamom and daughter on bench during fall photos at lake lenexa near kansas citydad and daughter pose for lake lenexa fall photos

Thank you, B family, for sharing your evening with me and for letting me document the love you all share as a family.

I recently shared a blog post about what to wear for family photos, so if you’ve got your fall photos scheduled or are thinking about scheduling them, this is a great post to check out! And if you’re looking for someone in the Kansas City area to create beautiful memories in fall photos for you, reach out to me today! You can call me or text me at 913-940-4121, email me at info@ashleyspaulding.com, or use the Contact form at the top of this page. I look forward to hearing from you!

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