Archive for 'Our Life'
Right. Never. Miss. A. Moment.
When my dear friend Leslie passed away at the young age of 32, she requested that her headstone read “A Participant in Life, not an Observer.” And by that, she meant she tackled her bucket list (hiking Tuckermans, a visit to southeast Asia, pasting temporary tats on half of Nantucket, and many, many more remarkable and not-so-remarkable activities). Leslie, truly didn’t want to miss a moment.
As I became a photographer — really in my “learning” and early business years — I slowly came to realize that I had drastically reduced my “participation” in particular aspects of my life in my attempts to document every moment. Every photographer, every photography forum, every blog and Facebook resource tells you “never miss a moment.” So for a time, not only was I not fully participating (so I could document with my camera), but I’d then miss MORE moments by ignoring the “right now” so that I could edit “what just happened.” Nothing like ignoring imminent and immediate everyday needs of your children so that you can perfect — on your computer — the documentation of the “every day.” Everyone would comment “You must have beautiful images of your children, every moment captured!” My family (and honest friends) would think (or say) “Not with the camera again.”
I suppose as I was learning, I wanted to use every chance I had to try to perfect my craft. And as I got better, I wanted the praise of “Oh you take the BEST pictures! You have a great eye.” Nothing wrong with that last part, except sometimes I’d let it swerve me from my real course. Was I documenting to document or documenting to validate something within myself (To distinguish myself? To show I had something more to offer? To prove that I could in fact become a photographer?)? Whatever the case, I loved toting my camera, I loved that people looked to me to see what I captured, and I loved that I captured IT ALL.
As I moved from Corporate America to running my own business, photography became a job, one that I love, but also one that is about 20% shooting images (the rest is, you guessed it, RUNNING A BUSINESS). And so to a degree, any form of photography (whether it be my clients or my kids) is sort of still work (even though it’s the best work I’ve ever experienced). Did that jade me? Maybe. But more than that, I decided to actually listen to my husband (hear that Owen?). During our family time, sure, he wanted great captures of our family, but he missed that rather than being along-side having fun, I’d be two steps behind changing a lens or trying to vie for perfect lighting. He hated that I’d be chimping, or worrying about my gear, uploading/downloading and editing when we were supposed to be relaxing, or having fun, or collectively listening to each other. He hated that I was MISSING ALL THE MOMENTS because I felt the need to “NEVER MISS A MOMENT.” So slowly, I decided to leave the camera behind during certain events. Yes, each year I really plan a full day with my gear at the beach… or some nights when something awesome like a great meal and the firepit and sparklers come out, I shoot the hell out of it. But not every moment, not every event, not every “every day.”
And so today, at the school Walkathon, no less then 3 people asked “Where is your camera?” And my answer “I’m good with my iPhone.” And the reason being is that I really only need 1-2 shots of my boy. I don’t need 100 shots of the entire school, and of kids I don’t know.
If I have my camera, I am worried about water splashing on it or where I will put it down so that it’s safe from harm, and then when will I get around to uploading, and how much time do I need to allocate to editing. And let’s be honest, if I am so busy photographing every “moment” that happens at the Walkathon, I am not high-fiving the kids, I am not running a lap with my boy, I am not pouring the water for the thirsty walkers. And when I am at the park, I am not on the swing next to my daughter swinging it out like an 8 year old. I am not shooting hoops with my son on the basketball court. I am not coloring with the crayons on the driveway, or holding the hose and spraying with water. Instead of participating, I am observing.
Does it mean that I don’t photograph my kids? Hell no, of course I do! And I often lament “I have so few pictures of my own kids!” But over the years I’ve learned that sometimes enough is enough. I love sharing images of my kids, but I love my iPhone and Instagram shares just as much as the ones taken with my “good camera.” I get just as many “likes” on the quick snaps as I do on the edited ones. And when I look at my friend’s images, I feel the same. There are times each month when I bring out the big guns and really focusing on shooting my kids (that’s a bad analogy, sorry), but the rest of the time, I give it a rest. Because after a while, the kids want me. Not me with a camera. They want to see my face, not my lens. They want me to push them, not be standing under them creatively capturing them up in the air. They want me to read them stories and watch them cartwheel rather than see me edit (and if you know me, you know that I cartwheel and hand spring right along with them). They need me present in their life, participating, not always observing and documenting.
And so because of that, nothing makes me happier than MISSING the moment, because I am LIVING the moment. And so to the 3-4 people I talked to today, thank you for pulling together out loud what’s been on my mind for a while. And to my buddy Christofer, I have no images of your walk today – I am sure there are others that do – but I loved looking down and seeing your face as we ran a lap together, I am happy I didn’t miss that moment.
I know, it’s an awful title, but you know me, if it’s in the head, it’s out the mouth. I actually think maybe tomorrow is the day, for no other reason than I folded EIGHT loads of laundry and perhaps God is saying “Now, her work here is finally done.” But no, obviously I don’t want my plane to crash, and usually there would not even be a question… but I think we all know what sort of week it’s been in Boston, and so nothing is off the table. Plus, I used to be a big believer that if you said your worst fears out loud, they’d never happen. Except now I know that’s not true, but they will happen, if they happen, whenever they damn well please and so you just sort of have to roll with it and live for the best.
I know the timing is such that I always bust out a letter to the kiddos when something horrific has happened. I planned to do another one before I left, and it happens to also coincide with a tragedy (the last two letters were spontaneous, but occurred after Colorado and Newtown, so maybe not). But honestly, this post isn’t anything about the Marathon. There’s nothing I can even say about that. We are unscathed. I am not going to pretend to have associations with it other than Owen was right there, but missed… and it happened in our fair city.
But more like, here we are, it’s been a few months, what in the name of Sam Hill is going on with our life? Not much and a lot of everything.
Janey still sleeps with me every night. Every. Single. Night. It both pains me to wake up and get her and I love it more than anything in the world. She is a soft round mess of snarls and hot and blankets and lovies and sometimes Barbies (that tramp!) and things that poke into me. I spend a lot of the night falling off the bed… and she wakes up screaming mad most of the time. And now that I think of it, this is remarkably similar to the last update I posted, so really, nothing is new. My conservative, rip off the Band-Aid style of parenting succumbs to an overly excited version of co-sleeping attachment parenting and I am all good with it.
The chick is also registered for Kindergarten. She is psyched. She wants to do all of Christofer’s homework. She pretends she can read, she loves to write. People thinks she’s genius, but a lot of that has to do with the fact they also think she’s three… not almost five… so an almost reading, good speller three year old wows.. but really, she’s right on track, which is exactly where I want her to be.
She’s finally growing, out of 3T! Big girl! She is on track to have maybe her 4th haircut? And we finally cut out her hair wrap that I think was pretty much starting to mold, but she loved it because her Big Cousin Kaela did it for her, and that’s all that really matters. She misses her best friend Annie something fierce, and is really ticked off I’ll see her in California without her. And she misses Gracie, she wants to show Gracie her new “American Girl Doll McKenna.” I have to tell Gracie not to burst her bubble, it’s a $16.99 doll from TJMaxx that is in no way even close to the “real” McKenna. Let’s not let this cat out of the bag please.
The boy is the boy… love of my life… forever my clone, mini-me, mind-melded best friend. It’s vacation week and so we spent the ENTIRE day together today. I loved every minute of it. He is totally happy to just sit near me and do whatever he wants to be doing, whether it be Legos or some game on the iPad. He likes his space, so we don’t have to talk, but he likes his proximity and so he’ll stay close by.
School is good for him. He gets a daily report card with smiles, sad faces and somewhere in between. He’s brutally honest and so when I ask “How was the day, Buddy?” he will vomit out the good, and the bad. Again, in a mind-meld with me. We are not all rainbows and unicorns, so I know we’ve had our fair share of shitastic frowns on the report card, but it’s amazing when he says “Mom, I had the BEST day of Kindgarten EVER.” It’s just surreal to try to coach yourself through a day of listening, waiting for direction, paying attention, sitting still and not disturbing or interrupting others (not sure how to do it at almost 7 since doing it at 42 is still just as hard!).
He’s come so far with the big kids though. He’s moved out of the little boy phase and holds his own with the big kids now. It’s a relief. You spend so much time worrying about your kid’s normalcy, and their ability to interact, and do you jump in and save, or let them figure it out on their own? And I don’t suspect that will stop, ever, but it’s so good to see him being able to figure out tough situations, try to make the call, and really only ask for help when he really needs it.
And so here I am, a few glasses of Morgan Sauv Blanc deep, Janey upstairs screaming for me, and me ignoring her to finally blog something about her (the irony). I am beyond excited to be heading to California to photograph Kristian & Derek’s wedding. I miss my friend Jen, and I cannot wait to view her version of perfect, which is her California life. I know it’s so hard for her right now, and her heart aches not be living in Santa Barbara. And I know nothing will make her realize that we need her RIGHT HERE where we are… because our need is really quite selfish. And so it is an honor to me that not only can I capture her family, as they are today, and Kristian & Derek as they make their life one, but to be with her in a place that makes her happy. Because I think we all can say, resoundingly, loud “Hells YEAH” because if anyone deserves to be where they are happy, it is her.
So off to Logan, and a long flight, a pick up from my brother-husband, and to see my good friends. Let’s hope, from the bottom of our hearts, that my plan does not crash tomorrow. But if it does, you all know what to do….
Here we are… winter. Except that yesterday it was 57 degrees out and my crocuses are starting to come up, so I feel a little funny making that statement. So I mentioned I’d try periodic, maybe quarterly letters to you, and that was a giant fail, and so perhaps bi-annual is a better, lower goal to set, easier bar to hurdle. And here it is, the six month mark since I last wrote.
So nothings really changed. Except that Christofer, you are in Kindergarten five days a week and Janey, you are in pre-school for four. You still eat, sleep, fight, whine, laugh, terrorize the dog, make messes, clean them up, and play.
But everything has sort of changed. It kind of all changed on December 14th with Sandy Hook. I was watching the news via Facebook at my studio desk, probably designing a holiday card, and listening to “Ho Hey” by the Lumineers. Because of that, every time I hear that song I can neither keep listening or turn it off. Prior to that day, it was the song both Dada and I would sing with you, to you — the refrain keeps you going, smiling, clapping and knowing that we were placed on this earth specifically for each other, we belong to each other. So I hear that, and I freeze.
I am no different that any parent, when it comes to internalizing tragedy (though I think women do more so then men). It’s only been a month, and so I still think about it absolutely every day. It’s not my personal tragedy, yet I feel both guilty and incredibly blessed when things are too good with us… and when I am screaming at you guys. You, specifically, Christofer, are just a tiny bit too young to understand what happened – I know kids on your bus get it. Most parents think “I want to shield my child…” but I was more thinking “I almost want you to know a tiny bit so that when Mrs. Ragan runs the drills, you pay attention instead of screwing around.” But, no, you don’t know, unless you’ve heard about it and can’t process it enough to even ask me questions. I do wonder if it’s the cause of the horrible nightmare you had about a week after it happened… you are not a nightmare kid, but there was just no calming the terror you had in your eyes and the trembling and the shrieks. It lasted 5 minutes, then was completely done and gone from your memory. Whatever it was, I am glad it didn’t linger.
So mostly I am overwhelmed on the days that I drive you guys to school (which for Janey, is every day). I feel it happening as I turn into the Steward lot. My chest tightens as I see the AMAZING staff lined up to open card doors, to help you with your fumbling backpack, and to help you close the door (by the way, if you could, please stop jumping out of the car when it’s moving – thanks). Christofer, I watch you run into your school, which is filled with not only your friends, but also the most amazing teachers, and a Principal that both you and I admire. And I think “we are all doing everything we can” and I know each of those teachers would do exactly what they had to in order to keep you safe. I think about how many people have said “Michelle Costa would do the same” or “Mrs Ragan would be all over those kids” or even how I know Renee better now and I just know she would have had them covered. Sadly, I will never, ever think of age 6 & 7 the same… and my heart hurts when I look at you. In a good way, in a longing way, and it a way that makes me think of the unfairness of it all. Damn, it’s been a month and I still feel, again, guilty and blessed, and I am crying for those babies and their mamas again. Guilty blessed guilty blessed.
This is NOT where this was supposed to go. But it did. And so here we are.
Because of that day:
- I spend an extra 10 minutes each night with both of you, no questions asked.
- I try my hardest to walk away from work and do one little thing with you when I should be working… it might just be watching you write your name, but whatever it is, I try so hard to focus just on you when previously, I’d work.
- I try so hard to not scream, but we all know, I still do.
- I tell you I love you just a few more times when you get on the bus.
- I carry you uppie or I hold your hand extra tight when we walk into your classroom (but I do image myself diving to cover you too).
- I stare in wonder at you.
- I say my prayers at night again.
So from all that tragedy, I think I am a better mom. Though sometimes I still suck. Like on Saturday I gave you iced sprinkled Donuts, Cheetos, then Skittles, all to keep you quiet before, during and after hockey. I still swear too much. I don’t spend ENOUGH time with you after school, like I promised in my resolutions. So as always, I have some work to do.
But let’s check in on where you really are at.
Janey, you insist on sleeping with me almost every night. Two nights ago I woke up to the feeling akin to what a large animal must feel when a boa constrictor is strangling them. You literally had me in a headlock with your legs. But the nice thing about it, once I extracted myself, is that you will sleep, with your squares blanket and Sophie, until whenever the heck you want… which can be as late as 9AM. And for this, I feel blessed. You are a hot mess of sweat, blankets, soft things, snarls and roundness. And you sound like a Who (Cindy Lou, not Roger or Pete). You like homework WAY better than your brother and I am always shocked that you know so much from an academic standpoint. Your best friend is Annie who you fight with like a sister, but miss tremendously when you don’t see her. Your boyfriend is Miles, even though Dad tells you that you don’t have a boyfriend. You could live on cheese and yogurt sticks. You are so loving to your brother, like insisting on buying him something whenever you get something. But you also turn cray-cray in the blink of an eye and you make me nuts when you do things like refuse to wear pants if they aren’t purple leggings or you won’t come down stairs unless you are carried. Like as I type, you are hitting me and screaming… why? I can only imagine.
Christofer, you are in Kindergarten. I say I am so sorry you have to go five days, but really I am not. You need to be there. Truthfully, Mrs Costa and Mrs Ragan tell me you love it. You are right on track, which is a pleasant surprise because you only spend 50% of the time sitting in your chair learning. The rest of the time you are just somewhere else, where you aren’t supposed to be. I don’t know where you get that. I know you’ve had some challenges like kids being jerks on the bus or someone laughing at you because your boot fell off in the snow. But you’ve also made some amazing new friends and I love it when you tell your stories about Matty & Trey and how you guys schemed something together and came up with an awesome new idea. It’s all so much part of life. There is no way I am going to be able to fix all the tough things, I know a lot of times you think I don’t stick up for you, and I do try to toughen you up a little… but when the going really gets tough, I am there with you, for every single step of it. You idolize the big kids and I am so happy you are finding a place with them after being the little kid for so long. You have to remember to look after the little kids that are now behind you and remember to be kind and help them. Nothing makes me happier than hearing your stories of how you helped someone who was sad… it almost makes me forget your trip to the Principal’s office for being a little &#($&#(* to someone. All of that aside, you amaze me and I am really proud of you. And as you know, you are the boy who made me a mom.
So I should clarify… this is as schmoopy as I get. Dad likes to call me “all business.” But a lot of this has to do with the fact that I am getting on a plane tomorrow on a top secret mission. And I will have multiple, silent, nervous breakdowns at take off and landing. I have no idea how Dad would do it without me. He’s an awesome guy who helps out so much, and he loves you so much, but honestly, he’d take you through the McDonald’s drive through and he might even send you to school with a Peanut Butter sandwich because he thinks I’ve made up the “no nut” rule in my head and that the school really does allow it. He loves you, but he’s just not me. I know it will be alright, but the last time I got on a plane, I hadn’t said anything to you and I worried “what if.” Now the “what if” has happened to so many families — unexpectedly, unpreventably — and so I do feel it’s necessary to put it down on paper.
So with that, I love you to pieces, you crazy little Mini-Mes.
Your well-rested, finally exercised, working-the-right-amount, still-won’t-fold-the-laundry, adoring Mom.
I hated my last blog so much and it was difficult to post because it seemed like each post required so much thought and style, simply because of the format. I eventually stopped almost entirely, and I’ll be honest, I really missed it. Back in the day (what day?), I used to blog religiously, and it was a great way for our family to keep up with what was going on with the kids, and us, and life. So with a few new promises, and a new blog format, I am really excited to pick back up documenting the randomness of our life, alongside my work, and my awesome client’s and their images.
So Lunch. I live for food. Plain and simple. This year I’ve been extra careful with what goes into our mouths, and I try to make the majority of what we eat. I’ve always been fairly healthy, but often relied more on pre-made (marinades, sauces, etc.) than home made and I challenged myself to just do a little better this year. I’ve had a blast trying to improve my food photography (as previously everything I photographed looked like vomit). And with that, I scored a few commercial food photography gigs which were awesome.
So Lunch. Land the plane. Today’s lunch is The Big Sando. I’ve been making this for as long as I can remember, and when I met Owen, it was my ticket onto the fishing boat with he and Doyle. Have big sandwich, allowed on boat. This is my favorite lazy day lunch and when I make it, I make a few – it’s also a fav to pack up and bring skiing, or the the beach! I vary the ingredients because I am sort of a “everything but the kitchen sink” sort of person, whatever is in the house, I put in the sandwich. I’ve kind of backed off bread & wheat, but honestly, it’s not a slice of sandwich on the weekend that is going to do irreparable harm to my diet plan. You have to live!
Today’s sandwich included: olive oil, balsamic, fresh ciliegine mozzarella, artichoke hearts, kalamata tapenade, turkey, ham and sweet capocolo. On other occasions, I’ve used roasted red peppers, sun dried tomatoes, smashed olives, salami, prosciutto, or turkey salami… oh, and roasted garlic cloves dug into the bread! I usually like a flatter, ciabatta for this, but this is what the bakery was baking and so there it is.
Once the sandwich is made, I like to wrap it super tight in saran and leave it out for a few hours so it sort of congeals together, but if pressed for time, I’ll pop it in the over for a few just until things stick together.
And for the hell of it, I threw together my 3rd orzo salad of the week. Olives, artichoke hearts, olive oil, balsamic glaze, sundried tomatoes… I am going to grill up some chicken and add that in for dinner. This, on the other hand, might actually being doing the irreparable damage to the diet as I stand in front of my refrigerator and take periodic scoops ALL. DAY. LONG.
Following a recent trend (one that I actually really like), I really wanted to write a heartfelt letter to you guys (ideally periodically). A letter that would bring tears to my reader’s eyes. Then it occurred to me I might not have any readers. And you two are wired like you’ve been mainlining pixie sticks. And so I figured I’d just write a little “what up” letter and maybe it would serve as a good check point on where we are in our lives.
It’s summer. This summer I tried to make a dollar out of 15 cents and I opted to keep you home, with not much planned, other than my frantic texts to Kendal saying “can you please come over for a few hours.” There were a few reasons… mostly because we couldn’t figure out when we’d be here, when we’d be away… and I knew I’d be working most nights and didn’t want to double up child care. But the net of it is, you are home… and you are BORED.
Today, this week, this month rather, you two spent just under 50% of your life sleeping. It’s a beautiful thing. Christofer goes to bed, sleeps like a rock, gets up at 7AM, marches into “his office,” slamming his bedroom door, and the office door, and plays his computer games. Other than the fact we need to WD40 all of our hinges, it’s uneventful and fine. He is my boy. Four out of seven nights, Janey is in bed with me when I wake up, Owen somewhere else. She is like a hot water bottle that wants me to be facing her, yet not breathing on her. When she wakes, usually late, she alternates between a big smile and cuddles, sometimes stroking my face… and screeching with her mouth closed and kicking me as hard as she can because something between REM and waking has pissed her off and she can’t shake it. She is, unarguably, a chick.
You spent 15% of your time fighting. Fighting about whose looking out whose window in the car. Who got in whose side or who won’t let who pass. Someone took the better spot on the couch. Someone touched someone with their toe. Someone breathed. I actually have no idea what you fight about… but I called my mother and said “Mom, seriously, when do siblings stop fighting?” She just chuckled.
You spend 15% of your day asking for what’s next, who is coming to play, or for some snack or meal that you probably won’t eat. During this time, usually the TV is on, and you alternate between staring intently, jumping on the couch, or trying to get my attention. It’s usually during this part of the day you are bored, and I am tuning you out. I am probably on Facebook discussing tuning you out. But honestly it’s because the previous 15% has exhausted me to no end. Every day I feel terrible when I scream at you for this, it’s not your fault your bored (and slightly spoiled), and so when I randomly pull you onto the floor or couch and tickle the daylights out of you and smother you with kisses and kind words, it’s because of the screaming. But like the disposition of the country, the economy, or even marriage, the scale tips to one side, then it tips back.
You spend 10% of your day, often much more, actually DOING the things you nagged me for. There is no shortage of company, friends, fun young babysitters, and activities. This week alone you had a playdate that stretched from Friday at about noon to late Monday afternoon (it encompassed our house, The Fellows house, Martha’s Vineyard, our house, The Fellows house, and our house again). So I guess that probably overlaps the 30% mentioned above (because you didn’t stop fighting or nagging). But it was a good week, you did a ton of AWESOME stuff, and things you’d never done before, like taking the small ferry and driving in a big truck on the beach.
And you spend 10% of your time being absolutely the bomb-diggity and everything I’d ever asked for when I decided to sign up to be a mom. Janey is wearing a “vikini,” which is her 3rd outfit change of the day (her room is trashed). Christofer is wearing whatever I asked him to wear, which he’d wear until I remember to ask him to change (his room is clean, except for Legos). I am not sure either of you have brushed your hair, but I did make you brush your teeth, and immediately remembered that I immediately forgot to schedule dentist appointments for you. This week, oddly, you are obsessed with guns, and we’ve had to have Nerf Gun Safety & Etiquette reviews, which in light of Colorado, feels both wrong and necessary at the same time. You’ve scared the dog, he’s long gone with his buddy Bandit. And you are generally making a mess, which I’ll take… because you are playing so nice. I can hear you collaborating, there is no TV, there is no computer, and there are very loud belly laughs coming from the other room.
Next week will be more of the same, with an Art Camp mixed in. I miss you guys in the evening because I work almost every night, but I come home just at the right time, to find you tired, worn out, fed, clean and in your little PJs, ready to slip into dreamland and start it all over again.
Perhaps next week, or next month, or next year, it will be the list of things that amaze and inspire me… and with it I’ll post those hazy, muted, grainy BW photos that accompany personal posts and generate the “oohs and ahhs” from Facebook admirers. (Those folks outside of my real life, that don’t hear the screams that accompany those images – “forget it, you won’t cooperate, I’ll just find NEW kids to photograph.”). But for now, we are who we are, which is keeping it real. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.