Friday, February 28
I decided yesterday, instead of taking my usual daily iPhone photos of life with these kiddos, to concentrate only on detail shots for the day. It was surprising to me how just making that little shift in perspective for one day felt so refreshing and inspiring. It may just be coincidence, but yesterday was a marvelous day, even when I had to adapt from the routine more than I usually care to do. I just felt in the groove and able to enjoy the littlest things, letting go the other things.
It may just be the ending of winter, or it may be that I've been trying to take better care of myself physically, or it may be that in making the effort to see the little things and give them value, the little things brought more joy. Or it may have just been a lucky day, mood-wise. All I know is, I had a lovely little day yesterday. Here are the photos I took, most of them also Instagrammed. My day, in detail shots.
(Funny to note- almost every day, and this one was no exception, my documenting of moments almost always ends the minute my husband is home from work. Having him home feels so great, and I feel less like I am a lone soldier in the parenting war... Plus, once dinner prep starts, there's not as much margin to the evening... Less time to think to grab photos, less pretty light to inspire... And a whole lot of food prep, cleaning up, baths, jammies, teeth brushing, stories, songs, and bedtimes. Then parental collapse. So... Long story short, evening snaps are pretty rare...But even without photos to prove it, the day continued to be just lovely yesterday. Really simple and everyone in a great groove. And then I indulge in a massage appt after kids' bedtime and well, that capped the day nicely.)
(Note 2: this is the first blog post I've attempted entirely from my iPhone. I am a little nervous about how it will look, format-wise. It's super handy to do it this way, but I may have to go back on my desktop and double check the formatting.)
(Blah blah blah. Ramble ramble ramble. Haha!)
Posted by Emily S. at 10:19 AM
Tuesday, February 25
I intended to blog last week. I even had this Instagram photo collage ready. But I had two photography clients that needed sessions edited, and so I was back to the nightly grind of editing and trying to stay on task, and somehow I didn't get time for personal blogging. I think I COULD'VE managed it, if I'd been more efficient with my time.... but efficiency seems nearly impossible in my current life. So I edit, check Facebook, edit, answer an email, edit, get up to get a snack, edit, go tell Lucy to get back in bed, edit, check Facebook again. And a session that should only take a handful of hours takes two or three nights. Times two.
So. That whole last paragraph was me making excuses for failing to do something that is only an expectation in my own head. Once-a-week blogging. The only person making me feel guilty here is..... myself. I read a quote on Pinterest the other day that said something to the effect of, "The biggest troublemaker you'll ever confront is the one looking at you in the mirror".... And I feel that. A LOT. I create most of the guilt I feel in my life. I like to say I have an overactive "guilt gland". I kind of hate it. I create a lot of unnecessary worry because of it.
Its a strange place I'm in right now--- this season of life. It's the longest stretch I've been in where I'm not really DOING anything. Not in the sense I used to think about "DOING THINGS". From birth to high school, of course, it is endless progress-- learning and milestones and "becoming" little people.... learning to ride a bike, to play an instrument, to read, to write.... Constant growth. And then from high school to the end of college, it is constant self-searching and self-awareness and academic blossoming. Discovery of SELF and how SELF fits into the world. Experimenting with human relations, feeling emotion acutely, feeling breathless with possibility.
And the rest of the 20s.... they're a time for most people, myself included, to find someone to marry, to move, to seek real jobs... travel.... settle into truths about likes and dislikes....Then take those likes and explore them further and develop them more. Again, year after year of external growth and change and discovery. Mile markers most everyone can see, and in a lot of instances, celebrate with you.
And then 30. For me, 30 brought my first baby and another huge learning curve. Seeing him change and develop was life to me. And then doing it all over again with the next baby. And the third. Except by the third, while all the changes with the children were special, they weren't strange and new enough to distract me from the truth that my own life had settled pretty squarely into a rhythm and consistency and pattern of NON-milestones. A lack of measurable growth.
Someone dear to me I had lost for a couple of years came back to me (joy!), and in the coming back together, asked me the other week, "So.... tell me about you. What have you been up to for the last couple of years?"
And I sat there.
I found, to my unsettlement, I was speechless.
I didn't have, really, any clever accomplishments to describe. No big trips. No new and exciting growth within my business. No big personal goals met, like running a 5K or losing 50 pounds. In fact, I'd gained more than I'd cared to admit over the last two years. I didn't win any awards or change jobs, really. We moved, but not to a new town or anything. I hadn't tried any new and clever hairstyles. I hadn't taken on any new hobbies--- in fact, I'd lost a few over the last two years. The truth was, as I reflected on the last little while, all I could find was a pattern of loss and paring down--- of being humbled by the increasing challenges of life as a mom. I felt like there was nothing of note to report.
Except the kids. Of course. The kids. In the last two years, there was Lucy and Quinn. And my learning how to be a mom of two. And then of three. My learning how to forgive myself a little better as I continued to make more and more mistakes and live up less and less to my own expectations. My discovery of small ways to find peace amid constant noise and neediness. There was a new calmness in my marriage of late... sort of the calm after the storm of The Year We Had The Third Child-- a new rhythm and wordless synchronicity in how we managed our life together. More forgiveness from him, for my loco times. The last two years had seen a streamlining of a lot of things-- my commitments to the outside world, my "fashion", if you could call the yoga pants/fleece/tshirt/flipflops/messy bun/occasional maxi skirts look "fashion." A streamlining of how much work I could take on (and still manage to feel like I was failing at). A simplifying of the clutter in our home. A letting go of things I WANTED but didn't NEED--- like sewing time, personal photo editing time, sleep....
In short, there was nothing really IMPRESSIVE, by the world's standards, to tell anyone about my current and recent life.
Yet I didn't FEEL like my life wasn't worth talking about. It was a strange catch 22--- though it felt like my life was the LEAST remarkable it's ever been, I was also the most at peace with it I'd ever been. There wasn't an easy answer to the question, "What have you been up the the last few years?".... But I lived the answer every minute of every day.
I am in the middle of a thousand trees....And I see those trees and tend to them every single minute of every day. I cherish these trees. But most of the time, I don't see the forest for the trees. A tree, by itself, is pretty unremarkable. But a forest? Well that's something to stand in awe of-- and I'm tending a forest. Growing a vast and lush and beautiful forest.
My dear friend Julia put it another way--- we're so busy painting individual brush strokes, we don't know how to step back and look at the entire work of art we're creating.
This family of mine--- these three children and my dear husband--- and myself. We're the work of art. Every meal I prepare, every kiss I give, every load of laundry I wash and dry and fold... Every word of praise (and every word of anger) adds to the painting. Every day I show up and do the little things, I am molding my kids (and myself) into better (I hope) human beings. We are in the thick of it. And I don't know what it all really looks like from the vantage point of a few more years or a few steps back... All I can do it keep working on my little life, feeling a bit unremarkable, and have faith that these little "brush strokes" are going to make something unbelievably beautiful.
The collage of iPhone photos at the beginning of this post: they prove all of this to me. I take these photos all day long, every day. It's almost compulsive--- my need to snap a photo of something maybe only I find to be special.... And more often than not, lately, I don't have time to do anything with the photo once it is snapped. I just collect them. But once in a while, I have time to cull them, to lightly edit them... and then even to order some of them to be printed on lovely little cards of thick, good paper (I love getting Instagrams printed on good paper). And every time I get a set of these daily, nothing-special photos in the mail and into my hands, something magical happens: with the distance of a few months from when those images were shot, and with the tangibility of HOLDING them all at once in my hands, I can see with crystal clarity--- MY LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL. These moments are gorgeous and rare and special and fleeting and so so beautiful. The tiny moments of dailiness, caught with a phone camera, moments that repeat day after day in the same house in the same spot on the couch in the same striped shirt with the same quilt.... but with some hindsight and time to become precious, that dailiness becomes so breathtakingly beautiful.
So that is what I am up to these days: living moments of breathtaking repetitiveness, being wholly unremarkable by the world's standards... and finding ways to forgive it all and cherish as much of it as I can. I'm painting constant tiny brushstrokes with no clue what the final painting will look like... but with faith that the work is worth it.
In my more perfect life, I'd go back and really edit this entry to feel more cohesive. I'd trim the part about the trees/forest and stick with the painting analogy to tighten it up.. I'd cut that whole first two paragraphs because they are irrelevant to the rest of the post. I'd have someone double check my switches from past to present tense and tell me if they work or need to be changed... I'd probably trim a lot of words and reshape the whole entry to have a better arc. In my more perfect life, I'd love to write memoir. But for now, this IS my life, so a rambling, messy rough-draft is about all I can ever manage. And I have to forgive myself and let it go. But just know--- somewhere in me there IS a writer, screaming to be given time to hone the craft. But tis not the season.
Posted by Emily S. at 10:59 PM
Thursday, February 13
From my little stinkers to you.... Hope you find a little bit of happy tomorrow-- a treat, a kiss, a hug, or a snuggle from a pet. Valentine's Day is less about romance and WAY more about just embracing the love we feel for our family, our friends, and our amazing world. So here's some love from us to you. Happy Valentine's Day!
Posted by Emily S. at 11:15 PM
Wednesday, February 12
As the inevitable funk of late winter sets in, reminding me how mostly-awful February really is, I am having to work overtime to feel warm and grateful and optimistic and cheerful. And this year has been EXTRA cold, and EXTRA snowy, and with Quinn only being a year old, I don't feel like I can take him and Lucy outside for walks like I might with older kids. Ten degrees (or less) is simply too extreme. So we sit at home, day after day, trunky, restless, softening from disuse, feeling pent-up in our muscles and our souls..... Aching for warm and itching for exercise, and chafing under the rigid, cold regime of Winter.
So I've been jotting down a list lately. Forcing myself to tune in and really FEEL it when something lovely or wonderful is happening... even if it is something so small or so simple that most folks wouldn't think twice about it. I'm making a Happy List so I can remember that feeling of abundance even when it seems that we've almost run out of everything.
Some of my Happy List:
1. Oatmeal with craisins and chopped up apple bits
2. Space heaters on cold feet
3. Lucy wanting to wear her new Korea "princess" dress
4. My vintage red-stitched "Wednesday" dish towel, found at Artichoke Annie's
5. The corner of the couch with a pillow and a quilt, either asleep or awake
6. Alison Krauss Pandora
7. Extra-hot dishwater and Judie's Glam-Gloves
8. the smell of Sweet Pea lotion
9. My new fluffy pillow that feels like a hotel to me
10. Peeking in on my little ones every night before I go to bed-- adjusting their legs, blankets, lovies, etc.
11, Quinn's crib-smiles and greetings when I go in to rescue him.
12. Getting away with going braless all day
14. Putting on a fresh set of Jamberry nails
15. "Grey Havens", from the LOTR: ROTK soundtrack
16. My new little porched birdhouse in my entryway
17. Vintage Fisher Price toys
18. Lucy in her baseball gear, giving her self pep talks as she "throws" the ball (kind of flailing her gloved hand up with the ball atop the glove, til the ball falls out at a distance)--"I gotcha! Y' did it! Let's try again, ball!!!... I found him! We'll try again!! Great job!! Ha HA!!! CRAZY!!.... It's a BALL! Let's try again!!"
19. Bonus Check day from Jamberry
20. Setting a timer for 6 minutes and tidying as much as I can in that time
21. Looking out at our vast backyard and seeing the blanket of snow, touched only by squirrel footprints.
22. Getting a fountain soda or Starbucks hot chocolate once or twice a week
23. Inside jokes
26. Lotion on my feet
27. Getting to see a movie in a theater
28. Finding out about friends' pregnancies
29. The peace of our daily Quiet Time, even though I am nearly always snappish and depleted just prior to it. Oh to finally have all three kiddos situated and the sigh of release and peace that follows....
30. Seeing Noah come off of his bus every day, in his red coat and robot backpack, all eagerness and friendly waving to the bus driver as he runs to me...
31. Joe coming home every evening
32. Junk TV and giving myself permission to step away from "work" to have a TV night with Joe next to me
33. Baker's twine and brown paper
34. Serenity and Elevation oils
35. The stack of thrifted doilies waiting for me to cut and sew into a garland
36. Listening to songs from "Frozen" and hearing Noah and Lucy get more lyrics every time
37. Anytime Quinn "dances" in his sitting-circle-bop on the floor
38. The pretty fingerless gloves from Jen, getting worn out by getting worn almost daily
39. ANY happy mail
40. Seeing order and clutter-less-ness in pockets of my home
41. My succulents garden, mostly still alive
42. The smell of fresh chocolate chip cookies
43. Reading beautiful things that move me
44. ANY happy tears, really
45. Addendum: My marvelous siblings. Especially Steve. (Happy, bro?)
Oh, and SNOW PHOTOS, like above, when I manage to get out a real camera and chronicle the GOOD stuff about the white stuff.... When we're all still a little excited about it--- about trying to blow freezing bubbles, or shoot fake macro snowflakes with a reversed lens, or just get out and play in the stuff together. I do love seeing my little ones love the magic of snow. ♥
So. It's Feb. 12. And we can make it a few more weeks. Slow down, notice when something tickles your senses. Treat yourself a little nicer. Make a Happy List of your own. We'll get through. Sunshine warm enough to walk under is just around the corner.
Posted by Emily S. at 12:21 AM
Sunday, February 9
Goal: To blog my clients' sessions more consistently again. No more excuses.
Goal: To go easy on myself when I don't manage it as often as I like.
Truth: I adore my job. The sweetest little babies, all mine for 3 hours, sleepy and tiny and perfect.
Truth: Even though they take the most time and work, newborn sessions remain my favorite.
This little one: Miss Claire Delaney, a peanut, and so dear. Sweet dreams, sweet girl!
Posted by Emily S. at 10:50 PM
Tuesday, February 4
Someone tell me I'm not the only one who ends up in tears when it all just gets too hard, too intense, too stressful to keep it together while handling yet another everyday parenting crisis? It feels, in the moment, like I must be the only basket case who is reduced to tears by a mere 2-year-old and one-year-old--- I mean, mamas have been having babies close together since the beginning of time, and you don't read about the pioneer women losing their cool and bawling while they struggle to finish a simple task like getting two wiggly little ones dressed after a bath.
What's my DEAL?
Today's steady decline started with one VERY wet, stinky 2.5 year old waking up with an overly-full diaper and smelling like a barnyard. It was apparent almost immediately that not only did her whole bed need to be stripped and washed, but the girl herself needed a bath. She was just FOUL. You know what? This wasn't a big deal. Unplanned daytime baths have their own charm, and I'd had a good morning so far. Quinn was in a great mood, fed already, and Noah was in school and not even part of the equation.
Lucy was NOT happy about the wet, cold, naked start to her morning, and cried the whole way to the bathroom and tried to not get in the tub... but once the warm, bubbly water filled up, she perked up. I had Quinn with me, bathroom door closed so he wouldn't be able to escape and fall down the stairs. All was going well, and I felt very much in control of the situation. Even when an overly-curious Quinn reached too far into the tub and fell in, headfirst, I was able to laugh, roll my eyes, and get him upright and say, "Well, buddy, guess you're taking a bath, too!" Lucy was a little weirded out by the fully clothed baby in her tub, but I I got him stripped down and his clothes wrung out, and we were in business.
It was still going well when I darted out to get both kids some fresh clothes and diapers, and got Quinn out to get him dried off and dressed. It fell apart only when the time came to get Lucy out. She didn't want to. And she let it be known. I wrestled her out and into a towel.... but meanwhile, the one-year-old was getting REALLY curious about the emptying bathwater again. Either that, or maybe the sorely-neglected toilet area. Where two boys happily pee in broad strokes several times a day. An area I am horrified to imagine Quinn near.
So I had to try to wrangle a wet, shivery, mad 2-year-old into clothing while constantly throwing an arm out to block Quinn from one side or the other. He was getting mad. His nose was running in streams of goopy snot. Lucy's dress wouldn't go over one arm because the arm was still dampish and the fabric was catching. Nothing was happening in an efficient manner because I couldn't focus on just one task at a time. Quinn got more persistent AND more angry. Lucy cried because I was tugging her arm too hard. I was kneeling on a hard tile floor and starting to ache from the posture, and yeah-- I lost it. I burst into tears of my own. WHY WAS THIS SO HARD? Surely it should be no big deal to get two kids two and under out of a tub and dressed without incident. Yet all of us were crying and mad, and I felt TOTAL defeat. How was this so hard? Why was this STILL hard for me to manage, this life as a mama-of-little-ones?
It really colored my day. Drained me. Defeated me before I'd really gotten a foothold on the day. I was tender-emotioned and raw the rest of the day. Many other things pricked at my tear ducts. I managed to take care of my kiddos pretty well the rest of the day--- they all ate regular meals and got snuggles and mom-time.... But the toll on my own spirit had been taken. I was achy inside the rest of the day. ANY external stresses that came the rest of the day, and there were a few, felt bigger than they probably were. Any external requests on my time and energy and attention made me feel extremely stressed and resentful. I wanted EVERYONE and EVERYTHING to leave me ALONE.
The build-up of all of this resulted in some cathartic crying as I stole a hot shower while the kids all rested/napped for Quiet Time..... I could tell that the knot in my chest was working towards a good cryfest.... And it really did help. Just letting it out, letting the steam and hot water pummel my aches until they calmed down a little....
(Practicing some gratitude in the midst of YUCK)...
And the rest of the day was just an exercise in letting go. Putting a big HOLD on the to-do list, grinding the thoughts to a halt, taking time to laugh with my mom friends in our Facebook group, and then letting Joe take me in his arms for a big, great hug when he came home from work early, trying to beat the worst of the snow coming down. Letting Joe take on a bit more of the evening work than he probably should have. The evening has been an exercise in forgiving myself.
I don't have lofty and marvelous conclusions. But I do have a couple of observations, as I have made my way through this rocky day.
1. When my deep-felt emotions have been scraped open, leaving me raw in sad ways, I am also more open to tender and sweet emotions. Today was the day that Facebook gave all of us a10-yr anniversary montage of our own Facebook history. The little videos have been ALL over FB today. And nearly every one has moved me, made me feel little brilliant bursts of total joy and natsukashii. Not just mine, but my friends' as well. I've felt more attuned to lovely words and moments, more aware of the good. More quick to tears in general. Happy, sad, frustrated, wistful-- all of those kinds of tears. Maybe when these raw days happen, I can let ALL the feelings flow over and through me and just be grateful to be so blessed to have the richness of these experiences. It's LIFE, after all.... all of it. Lucky me.
2. When I first had three kiddos, it was HARD. Then it got easier. I thought I'd "made it through". But now it's hard again. And it's VERY easy to see this as falling backwards, messing up, failing. I had gotten it figured out. Why is it hard to keep that going? But it occurred to me today that what has happened recently is that both of my youngest kiddos have been slowly, steadily entering a MUCH needier stage of life. Each of them completely different from the other, but both supremely, intensely needy.
The almost-three year old is finally getting her verbal footing, and as such has begun to try her hand at whining and repeating herself over and over until she's given what she wants. She is very dramatic and demanding and touchy about Quinn invading her space. All of this is frosted with a thick layer of her newfound language development, and she gets very exhausting very quickly.
The newly-one-year old is a mobile terror. He is persistent and brave and clever and daring and as such, he is a menace to himself and therefore demands nearly 100% of my attention 100% of the time. He doesn't think he needs it, but trust me: he needs it.
Add to the mix the oldest kiddo, who has NEVER stopped needing constant dialogue and validation and participation in his games and ideas, and I am surrounded by a level of CONSTANT NEED that is crazy-making. It's at a frenzied climax right now. Surely I can hope that one or another of these children will CALM THE FRACK DOWN and settle into an easier stage sooner than later, right? Give me a break??
3. I gotta get more rest somehow. I don't know how. I laugh bitterly at the concept. But I need to get more rest. Can anyone tell me how many days of good sleep might do me some good? Maybe I can commit to a set stretch of early nights, just to reset. Is this wishful thinking? Like a "fad diet", but for sleep? Yo-yo sleeping?
I am not this crazy crying lady every day. I have some days where I want to grab anyone near me by the arm and say, (probably with a dangerously wild look in my eyes): " See this? See all three of my kids dressed in seasonally appropriate clothing, ALL in the car at the same time with little fuss, happily listening to the Frozen soundtrack while I drive through the bank to make a deposit and then head to Target for diapers? This is like AMAZING. I'm DOING this Mom-thing, yo."
Or, "Look! Look at me sitting at the McDonald's Playplace [don't even judge. Just don't. I don't care.] with all of my kids, who I brought here BY MYSELF so they could get some much needed exercise and kid interaction. I'm dressed, they're dressed, I have makeup on, I remembered to pack food AND A BIB for Quinn, and my kids are eating their apples without me telling them to. I AM AMAZING. I got this."
Some days, I GOT THIS.
Today wasn't one of those days. But I got some catharsis by crying in the bathroom, TWICE, and for now, the knot in my chest is gone, and believe it or not, I'm ready to try again tomorrow. Thank heaven for a fresh starts every new day.
Posted by Emily S. at 11:23 PM