Thursday, August 29
Photo post today... Except I had to do client work most of the time I had tonight, and when I went to work on Lightroom-editing my personal photos really quick for this post tonight, I got really discouraged really quickly when I couldn't manage to get my color right for the Lucy session represented by the first image of this post.
And it reminded me that there is no "really quick" when it comes to managing my personal images...
Which discouraged me further.
But then I forced myself to shake it off and do a smaller version of what I'd envisioned this post to be. So instead of OODLES of images, here is a mere sampling of what my Big Camera did during the month of August 2013. Believe me--- there are dozens more images I cherish, and it kills me to only select one per event... but I am committed to this "blog every day" thing this week, so this is how it has to go down.
1. Lucy and the Queen Anne's Lace... I finally got the color on this single shot to be what I wanted. I see a LOT of editing work ahead for the rest of this session. *sigh*
2. Noah's "Special Trash" Space Station-- a big end-of-summer hurrah project I'd promised him all summer.
3. Daily Lulu, as opposed to "portrait Lulu". I kinda love it.
4. Noah started kindergarten. He has LOVED it. Lucy insists on wearing her "pack pack" every morning to take Noah to the bus stop.
5. Coming home on his half-day bus at the end of his first day.
6. All dolled up for church, and completely unable to pose nicely. And I ended up loving this outtake more than any "perfect" shot I was trying for. I mean, look at Quinn!!
7. Quinn turned seven months old. I took his pix. I need to edit and blog the rest of them in a dedicated Quinn post. But for now, behold his cuteness in a solo pic.
It makes me feel relieved to see that I did manage to shoot with my big camera this summer... though my iPhone definitely still bears the brunt of my snapshotting. I'm okay with a mix of both... it fits my life right now.
Okay. Pic post, as it is, done for tonight.
Posted by Emily S. at 11:39 PM
Wednesday, August 28
Wednesdays are my long day--- Joe goes into work late, so he stays late. And this summer he's been taking a Wednesday night comic book class (I love him for that!), so my Mama Shift is a long one. So tonight for a blog post, I'm just going to whip out twenty questions and twenty answers. First ones that come to mind. Just because it's easy and I don't have to add images.
1. What are you watching these days?
Lots of Family Feud, as has been established. Steve Harvey is the best host yet, in my opinion. I've been watching Under the Dome on Amazon Prime. Loved Call the Midwife earlier this summer. Trying to catch up on SYTYCD. Just started watching "Scandal" about 15 minutes ago... we'll see if it sticks. I tend to watch 2-3 episodes of something then forget to keep watching.
2. What is your guilty pleasure these days?
Oof. So many. Triple-dipped toffee bits. I discovered my Whole Foods has them (!!!) after only being able to find them sporadically at a small little candy shop back where I used to live. So it's been easier to get them and WAY easier to eat too many.
Any sweets, honestly. Chocolate chip cookies from McDonalds.
Letting my eyes drift closed while Quinn takes his morning nap and Lucy watches Sesame Street.
Popping by HomeGoods to see if they have anything new from my "Want" list for this new house.
3. What are you proud of?
Getting things hung up on walls. Not done yet, but I've made a good start.
Noah loving kindergarten so much already, and getting right into the groove there.
The times I manage to take all three kids out on an errand and it goes smoothly.
That I've only bought one tub of mini pb cups from Aldi this time around. Post-Lucy, they were my number one addiction and I vowed not to repeat it. (Never mind I replaced them with other high-calorie things. oops.)
4. What are you unhappy with?
I'm not happy with my physical appearance since baby #3 came along. I have not felt this much lack of physical confidence since I was a tween. It's sad and I want to feel better about myself.
I'm not happy with the possibility that we have rodents in our garage and our basement. Turns out that with every new encounter with rodent pests, I develop an ever more finely-tuned sense of fear and dread about it all. I am not handling it well.
5. If you could take a week's vacation alone somewhere, all expenses paid, where would you go?
I'd probably go to Italy, get a small apartment for the week, and just wander, treasure-hunt in shops, nap, eat good food, and take photos/write.
6. If you could take a week's vacation with only Joe, all expenses paid, where would you go?
Ireland. Scotland. Wales. London. Hold hands and stroll and take photos and talk and take naps together back at our rooms.
7. If you could take a week's vacation with the whole brood, all expenses paid, where would you go?
A Disney Cruise. Sounds like so much fun, and like something we'd never actually ever be able to afford.
8. What is your current "project"?
Oh I have a million, as usual: I'm working on a "mish mash wall" in my dining room--- one of those walls with photos and art and a few other misc. pieces, all kind of random but seem to fit together somehow. I don't want to be TOO spontaneous with it and ruin it, so I just put something up a little at a time.
I want to sew a bedskirt for Quinn's room, but I'm second guessing my fabric choice.
I need to order my 2011 Blurb books of my personal photos, but I keep waiting for a better coupon than the current 15% one.
I'm beginning to try to learn studio lighting, and it's scaring me to death.
9. What grosses you out?
Rodents in my life.
That I just ate potato salad for my late-night snack.
How the outside garbage cans smell permanently of poopy diapers, thanks to our baby kids.
Sticky kitchen floors.
10. What do you want to change?
My hair. I gotta cut it. I know--- some of you are really liking this length, but... ugh. I can't.
My weird bad lame current food habits.
I want to smile more with the kids. Not be so laser-focused on keeping it all going smoothly that my face only has a look of concentration and focus on it, and no smile.
I want to find a way to go to bed at 8pm at least one night a week. Seems impossible.
I want to want to run/walk.
11. How's the new house working for you?
It's already home. I can't believe it, but it is. I love it. I love so many things about being here. We're just fitting into the spaces and creating new rhythms and routines and lust relaxing into it and living here. Even with a few random setbacks/quirks (plumbing stench that needed repairing, bathroom remodel, possible rodents, and now the garbage disposal isn't working), I do not regret being here in the least.
12. What new with your work?
I thought after a few months post-Quinn, I'd be ready to get back up to full-speed with regards to taking sessions... but it's become clear to me that to keep my balance, I need to stay at about half-speed still. Even through the coming fall, usually my busiest season. And though it means less income I can contribute, I am at peace with that. The sanity is worth the cutbacks. And God provides, you know? A small raise for Joe, a surprise order from a client, etc. etc.--- somehow it works out. I fully believe that my decision to be a SAHM is a blessed choice, and if Joe and I dig in and work hard with what we have, God helps us make it all work out.
When I DO shoot, I tend to feel more anxious prior to a session than I have in a long time--- just because I'm not constantly in practice. But once I'm shooting, I get in the groove and love every second. I'm grateful that I get to take sweet and lovely images of marvelous babies and kids for a living.
13. What is the hardest part about having three kids?
It is the honest-to-gosh PHYSICALITY of it. And most specifically when I have to do something in a time crunch where each kid needs to be attended to. Example--- having to get all three into the car to take Noah to preschool this past spring. Or currently, getting three of them ready for church and into the car and then into church without losing patience or a shoe or something.
Getting food ready for all three of them at one time.
Getting all three bathed and ready for bed without Joe home.
Anything like that, where two of the three require full physical attendance and the third one requires my full mental attention simultaneously. It gets HARD. Like sweaty forehead, two-babies-in-one-arm-as-you-unlock-the-front-door, strained brain HARD.
14. What is the best part about having three kids?
Oh gosh, every other moment besides those crazy ones. I love how they interact with each other. I love that if one isn't being their best self, I can turn to another one and they'll happen to be in a cute mood and that reassures me and makes me smile. I love how different they all are, in their various stages, but also just their different personalities. I love watching them experience wonder. I love seeing them learn. I love the physical contact of being a mom. I love how it elevates my love for Joe as their daddy. I love a full table and a full car (mostly.) I love it. Love them.
15. What are five things you want?
a. it to be cooler weather finally. I'm sick of summer clothes and how they show spare tires and chubby arms too well.
b. someone to come over here and just SHOW me how to set my light settings for a 1-year-old portrait.
c. two days to just sleep, then read, then snack, then sleep, then read some more.
d. my kids to be these ages for an extra several months. I'm really liking 5.75, 2.5, and 7 mos.
e. to be able to sew a few dresses for Lucy.
16. What is one of your recent "pure happy" moments?
Either yesterday, when we had to improvise our nap-less afternoon, so we drove to the Magic House and Noah told me to put my current favorite song on ("Hopeless Wanderer", Mumford & Sons) and I did, and both he and Lucy rocked out with me as we drove into the leap-of-faith outing away from home and routine.
Or today when at Walmart, I let Lucy get a balloon to soothe her grief at not being able to keep Noah's dentist-visit balloon, and as we rolled toward the check-out counter, the balloon floated to Quinn and bopped him on his head-- and he burst into spontaneous laughter. And then it happened five or six more times. TOTALLY made that darn $3 balloon worth it.
17. What are 5 blessings in your life?
a. Joe. He makes me a better mama, and is such a good dad and breadwinner. He's begun working on an MBA. Have I mentioned that? He's always striving for more. And still comes home, lets it go, and is present, REALLY present with us, in the evenings.
b. my family. My mom and dad came and helped me paint a few walls the other weekend. They are always so good for those things--- moving furniture, painting, packing, unpacking... Among a million trillion other things they do that enrich my life.
c. Joe's family. His parents worked so hard to help us get into this house and make it our own. They love us and the babies so very much and we are so lucky we belong to them.
d. God. Forgiving me every second of every day and gently teaching me how to refine my rough edges and get better, be better... Teaching through joy and through music and through the things my children do.
e. a HOME. This home. Our safe haven and peace of comfort and peace.
18. Five favorite things right now:
a. big t shirts and yoga pants
b. my two photo walls
c. a lovely and super-functional kitchen
d. finding the light in this new home
e. pink grapefruit hand soap
19. Five favorite songs right now:
a. "Hopeless Wanderer" by Mumford and Sons
b. "The Stable Song", Gregory Allen Isakov
c. "Hey Mama", Matt Kearney
d. Any Alison Kraus, as usual
e. Any Wailin' Jennys
20. What is next?
Next is proofreading this post, formatting it, then peeing and checking in on the two older kiddos, then falling face-first into bed and hoping I get a good stretch of sleep before Quinn wakes to eat.
And hey, if you feel like answering these 20 Questions yourself, I'd love to hear from you. Blog it or email me or whatever.... *shrug*
Posted by Emily S. at 11:58 PM
Tuesday, August 27
There's a post I've been trying to write for almost two years now. It changed me so much back in the fall of 2011, and I always meant to come back here to share the glorious idea and my subsequent journey. I took photos to match the idea a few months later, in winter of 2012. And then in both June of 2012 AND July of 2012, I started to write actual blog posts. The drafts still linger in my blog post list as evidence that I really DID intend to write this all down at the time. Except by then, by 9 months after the fact, I'd healed and strengthened enough that I sort of ended up shelving this grand idea and moving along.... In the best possible way, mind you. This IDEA had run its course and done what it needed to, and I didn't need to be so rigid with it anymore. I moved into other phases of my life.
Fast-forward to summer 2013. and though it feels like the craziest coincidence, I think perhaps it is not: just when Quinn hit 6 months old, I suddenly and completely needed this idea again. The first time? Fall 2011? Lucy was 6 months old. I think maybe, just maybe, there is something to this time in the journey of having a new baby where the "just hanging on and keeping your head above water" phase slowly ends, and the mama begins to wake up a little from the fog and realize maybe she's got her crap together JUST enough to start moving forward again.
In any case, here I am, almost two years later, and I am back to thinking about rocks and sand.
It's not my original idea. In fact, I believe it is covered in Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey. And I daresay it is not HIS original idea. It's a simple thing, but so profound. And I almost missed out on its beauty, because it was my mother who brought it up, and though I love my mother so completely, you KNOW we all get a little bit "teenager-ish" when our mamas try to suggest ways we can change or improve. Even when we're 36. So I shrugged it off... not ready to hear it. But then one day the words sifted back up to the top of my mind, and suddenly it was right. It was time.
The rocks and the sand. Here's the basic idea:
You have this jar. You have a lot of sand and a handful of bigger rocks. If you start out by filling your jar with all of the sand first, you'll never be able to fit those big rocks in at the end. They simply don't fit.
If you put all of the rocks into the jar first, then put the exact amount of sand as before into the jar, the sand trickles between the big rocks and fills in all the gaps, and lo and behold-- it all fits.
This is an analogy, of course. And here is what each thing represents:
Jar: your daily life.
Rocks: the most important things. Your priorities.
Sand: the rest. The minutiae. The to-do list. The dusting and the laundry.
It is so simple. The idea is to try to always put your rocks in first. The sand will follow. And it will somehow fit. But if you spend your days only ever doing "sand things", by the end of the day, when you are tired, cranky, worn down, how will you ever have the time or the desire to work on your "rocks"?
It's a cool idea. But in order to really get deep into implementing it, you have sit for a quiet stretch of time and really ponder what your "rocks" are. You must figure out what REALLY matters to you in a daily way. In my case, I tried to keep my list short. It would be easy for me to go overboard and end up with a list of 20 "rocks"--- an impossible daily life. I ended up with eight. (Now that I have Quinn, it's at 9.)
Allow me to share MY rocks. Yours won't be the same. They shouldn't be. They are so intensely personal, these rocks. Only YOU know what your daily life needs above everything else. Here are mine:
7. 15 minutes of creativity
8. 30-minute walk
9. 10-minute pick-up
That's it. And it is hard to keep it to that. What about work? What about extended family or friends? What about bills or grooming or music or writing or education or naps? I could easily add any of those to my rock pile. EASILY. They matter so much to me. In the end, I made myself winnow it all down down down-- especially because of the overwhelmingness of being a new-again mama. For now, I HAVE to have faith that if I attend to those 9 rocks above, the other things, especially the other SPECIAL things, will fit. They will follow. And it will all work out.
And you know what? For the most part, it does.
For me, right now, this works because I can so easily find myself spinning my wheels and wondering where my day went. If it's 3pm and I'm feeling a bit useless and like the day has been wasted, I can run down that list of rocks and latch onto one of them and do it right then--- to get myself back on track... to feel like I'm back in the "zone" of what truly matters. (The most any one of those rocks takes is THIRTY MINUTES. I can manage that.) And at the end of the day, I can review how I did and plan how to do better the next day. Because INEVITABLY, even with only 9 things to accomplish daily without fail, I still fail to do at least three a day. Different ones every day. But the goal is there, and it is simple and it is consistent. And so these are the days I think about rocks. All the time.
In fact, two years ago, I even went to a pond and gathered visual aids to keep me going. (forgive poor Quinn's name missing from these images. Remember I photographed my rocks in January 2012, a year before he was born. I DO now have a Quinn rock. I promise.)
I have these pretty reminders on my entry table right now. On especially hard days, I actually take them out and line them up and then put them into their bowl, one by one, as I manage to get them done. It is really healing and positive and marvelous to hold these rocks in my hand as tangible reminders of what really matters to me.
And I guess maybe a few of you might want to know more specifically what I mean when I say Joe is a rock or what a 10-minute pickup is, or why it matters to me, specifically.
So with my beloveds-- my husband and the kids, my "rock" is that I want to devote at least 10-20 minutes a day to really BE in the moment with each of them individually. In the case of Quinn, well, that's easy. It means I try to put my phone away one or two of the times I'm nursing him and just gaze at his face--- stroke his hair, touch each of his toes individually. Or it means when I'm playing with all of the kids, I remember to face him to ME, instead of away, and look him in the eyes and try to make him laugh. Oh, he is the best at laughing!
For Noah, it might mean letting him talk on and on and on about whatever he's drawn that day, and ask him more engaged questions than usual... Or it may mean getting on the floor WITH him and getting more physically committed to the pretend games he loves so much. It just means LISTENING and SEEING him better, for a good concentrated span of time, each day.
For Lucy, it's somewhere between the simple attentions I give Quinn and the more mentally rigorous attentions Noah needs. Lucy just needs to be played with. Sung to. And these past few days, I'm realizing she also just needs me to go HER pace a bit more. Let her determine how fast or slow we walk, and where we go to next.
And for my Joe--- well, this last few weeks, it's manifesting in a strange and lovely little ritual I brainstormed one evening, remembering our pre-kids days. We used to be addicted to backgammon. Like crazy. But neither one of us had played it in over 5 years. So I asked him if he'd play a nightly game with me. So we do. Most nights. And its so small, and no big deal, but it puts us at the table together, talking as we strategize... a light-hearted span of time where we don't have to talk about the bigger issues or the kids... We can just chat and play. I'm loving it. He is too.
Other rocks--- the prayer and scripture rock are pretty self-explanatory. For me, I tend to not feed my spiritual side as consistently as my soul craves. So if I can get better at it being daily, it really helps set the tone for the whole day.
15 minutes of creativity: two years ago, this was the sewing I alluded to in yesterday's post. Right now, it may simply be pondering what to hang on my dining room wall. Or planning a photo shoot. Or even just TAKING a few iPhone photos and making time to cull and edit them. I'm being pretty lenient with myself for this one. As long as I feel like I dipped my toe into the pool of inspiration at least a little each day.
30-minute walk: this is proving SO hard to do right now. Two years ago, it was October and GAWGEOUS and so so easy to get out and get moving. Right now it is A*ugh*st and so UGH and blah and ick. And I'm just gonna be lame and say it-- there are just more hills out here. Meh. I'm a blob of non-activity. But CLEARLY this is why this is a ROCK and not sand. I may not manage it, but I NEED to be trying.
10-minute pickup: I need just a little bit of order in my life to feel sane. So if I can just manage to finish the day with 10 minutes of putting things back in their place, the next day starts out so much better. This is really so small... and for most people, probably NOT rock-worthy. But I've learned for ME, it is so good for my chi.
And there they are. My rocks. And like the parable of the rocks and the sand, I just have to trust the rest, like sand, will fit. That if I can attend to the most important parts of my life, the other things will fall into place. I will be more charged and filled and receptive, therefore being more prepared to manage the rest of it.
It's a daily work. And many many days, I'm still left with handfuls of sand and a few big rocks and that jar is nowhere to be seen... But there is always tomorrow.
And who knows? Nine months from now, I may have grown enough from this exercise to find that I've put it away again. Just a pretty bowl of named rocks on my shelf.
(At least until the next baby hits six months old, amiright?)
Posted by Emily S. at 11:22 PM
Summer is nearly "officially" over. On Tuesday of this coming week, Noah starts KINDERGARTEN.
.... Said the start of a blog post I began three weeks ago.
And yet, here we are. Three weeks later. Noah's been in kindergarten for days and days now... old hat. Summer is basically a memory, except for the 95-degree heat outside and the little attempts of mine to get one more summer memory in every few days... a snow cone here, a trip to the spray ground there....
And here is my blog. My sad, sweet, beloved blog. Started it SEVEN years ago, and have been a committed and mostly regular poster. Until this year.
So I am here to confess. Confess a few things, actually.
Confession 1: People said going from 2 to 3 kids was going to be a game-changer. I shrugged it off. I figured I'd had my "tough transition" when I went from 1 to 2. I'd gotten a colicky Lucy instead of a dream baby, I'd been out of baby-practice for 3.5 years by the time she came around... getting used to having her was HARD. So I figured with this baby #3, I'd be a seasoned pro-- and pretty freshly trained since they were only going to be 21 months apart. I was gonna be FINE.
Except I wasn't. I really should've listened to EVERYONE. Going from 2 to three was SO hard. IS SO HARD still. I confess I was a jackass overconfident mama, and I didn't listen to the veteran mamas warning me.
Confession 2: It always seemed like these mama bloggers I knew went from pretty passionate, consistent blogging to just fading away one day... no explanation. And I smugly KNEW that would never be me. I was COMMITTED. I was not just a MOMMY BLOGGER, I was writing beyond just the report for the kids' grandparents. I was a WRITER, ya know? I had THINGS TO SAY.
Looking back, I think probably most of my mom blogger friends who faded away did so right about that third kid. And I am mortified at that awful smugness that I felt about it all. Turns out, it's basically the hardest thing ever to get myself to sit still long enough to write any kind of post. EVER. When I have the thoughts and the ideas and the epiphanies, I DON'T HAVE THE TIME OR THE FREE HANDS. When I have the time and the free hands, all I want to do is use them to watch DVR'd episodes of Family Feud (oh yes I did. I began DVR'ing F.F. because it is so mindless that I never have to commit to a plotline or keep up with episodes. And I love "Fast Money". Sue me.) And honestly, if I'm not watching Family Feud, I'm falling asleep in my soup or trying desperately to keep my business from falling apart. There is simply not enough brain power to fuel pithy blogging as well. And it is breaking my heart.
I am here in spirit. I have not given up. But maybe that's its own kind of unhealthy--- another burden, another thing not done well, weighing me down...
3. One of my dear mom friends told me it was at baby #3 that she stopped sewing. I was horrified. Again, I vowed, "NOT ME." I would always make time, even if it was just the littlest bit, for sewing something pretty. If I only committed 15 minutes a day, I could still make things happen. Fifteen minutes is not hard, right?
And here I am, shocked-- SHOCKED -- at how impossible that feels right now. Fifteen minutes? I definitely have that TIME to carve out. It's not that. Its the mental commitment I am not handling at all. I am simply not mentally able to juggle as many balls as I used to be able to. As I so smugly did with ease just one baby ago.
This has been a humbling journey, this baby number 3 and the new lifestyle he brought along. Since baby #3, I simply AM LESS than I used to be. Less able to think sharp and clever thoughts. Less able to act quickly and efficiently. Less able to manage most things outside my immediate day-to-day tasks. Even now, with baby #3 being SEVEN months old, when someone asks something extra of me (can you join this committee? Can you babysit my kiddo? Can you feed the missionaries?) I get almost INDIGNANT that people cannot see how thin the thread is that I am barely hanging onto.. that I cannot FATHOM adding something else, however small, to my plate.
And that humbles me. Because I used to be able to "do it all".
But now, for my very sanity and happiness, I have had to let so much sit and rest on the sidelines while I try to catch up or just stay afloat.
And it's not like I'm a scrabbling, clinging, terrified mess every day, barely able to manage my little life even without the extras. No, what has happened is, I have had to strip down to the barest minimum of life obligations--- the kids, my husband, my business (workload still halved for now), my home, and my own inner self-- and refine and redefine only those. To get good again at only those, for now. And seven months into it, I am doing okay. I have a good rhythm to my days... a good feeling about my rapport with each of my littles. I feel creatively stimulated even with just the small projects I'm doing to set up our new home. After the refining fire of learning how to have a third child in our life--- those messy, hard, sweaty, complicated early months--- I feel like I've built up those muscles for the most part and have been left with this sparse, but clean and pure version of my life with which to practice living well.
But it is at the sacrifice of a LOT that I didn't imagine would go. The blogging. The reading of good books. The sewing. The chit chatting with friends on the phone. The trips home to see my parents. But they are pretty much gone, those things.
I think (i hope. i pray.) they will come back. That I can reintroduce those things back, eventually.
But perhaps not just yet.
For even as I have begun to thrive a bit at this life again, there are so many ways I mess it up daily--- so many things I wish I did better. Eating better-for-me foods. Moving this old body of mine more. Taking more time to really LISTEN to my kids. To Joe. Sleeping even just one hour more a night. If I still have those very basic things to master, perhaps it SHOULD be a while longer before I clutter it all up with more more more.
Last confession for the night: I used to feel optimistic I could find the answer (any answer) if I wrote or talked or prayed long enough. Blah-blah-blahed my way to clarity. I'm starting to think perhaps I'll never have it all figured out. That maybe there ARE no answers. And that is okay, I guess. Except I'm not entirely comfortable yet with how I am supposed to figure out how to "live the questions", as Rainer Maria Rilke speaks about.
"Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”
― Rainer Maria Rilke
― Rainer Maria Rilke
So I'm doing a lot of waiting, a lot of scowling, a lot of needless worrying... And ever ever ever trying to STOP ALL OF THAT and get back to the present moment, to the gifts at hand. It's what always seems to work best when I don't know what else to do.
So there. Confessions made for tonight. And a ridiculous goal/project for myself this week: I am going to blog every day this week. Because I miss it. Because I miss you readers. Because I want to prove to myself I CAN , even if it is only for a short-term period.
So. Well. I'll see you tomorrow night. Thanks for letting me be me, flawed and confused and searching and candid.
Posted by Emily S. at 12:09 AM