Posted in Storytelling Photography, The joy of motherhood, week in focus, Weekly Favorites

Winter weather, cold babies, and weekly favorites | Athens, Pennsylvania Child Photographer

Part of my Weekly Favorites series, where I post some of favorite photos from the week.

She stood there in her winter coat and boots and made those questioning little trills she makes with her voice when she is curious about something or asking if she can touch it. She wouldn’t keep her mittens on and the wind that day was one of those winds that feels like needles being shot into your skin.

Once her feet are on the ground she takes off down the sidewalk or the road to see what she can see and experience and learn away from home and mom’s voice of caution and concern. I honestly wasn’t expecting this to happen so early. I had hoped she would wait at least until

I’m convinced she would have ended up at the end of our street, half a mile away, if I hadn’t stopped her. She didn’t seem to understand how cold the air was that day until about ten minutes after we’d been outside. Her expression changed from curiosity to confusion and soon she was reaching up for me and tears were pouring down her cheeks from the cold wind.

Her brother, a lover of all things snow, didn’t even last as long as he normally does after our first snowfall. He threw the snow up in the air a few times and then was more than happy to retreat inside for hot cocoa and cartoons before homework.

Inside, Baby Girl immediately wanted to nurse, to find comfort in the warmth found against her mama, confused by the tingling pain in her fingers and face. I didn’t even take our coats off.

Instead I sat in the floor in the entrance of the house and held her against me as she clutched my chest and played with my hair and enjoyed the moments I knew would pass by too quickly.

Posted in 10 on 10, personal reflections, Storytelling Photography

10 on 10 January | Pennsylvania Photographer

It was like she had found the most exciting location in the world the way my daughter stomped her tiny 15 month old, boot-clad feet in the mud puddle in the park of a city we’d visited for the day.

We hadn’t brought extra socks so her dad and I wavered between telling her and her brother to stop playing with the icy water and not wanting to squealch their childhood fun.

Water splashed out onto the brick road and up her legs and she threw her head back and giggled.

And when she giggled her brother laughed. But with the laughter I remember tension and sadness because I didn’t let my nine year old splash as much as he would have liked. He was wearing his school shoes and we didn’t want him to get them wet and dirty.

I’m not good at being a strict parent. I’d rather be the parent who has fun and lets my children have fun, unless they are risking their safety.

I remember my son’s sad, disappointed expression on his face, the way he looked at his sister, as if to say “she can stomp in the puddle, why can’t I?” Looking back I wish I had let him stomp in that puddle. The fun of splashing with his sister was much more important than his shoes, which, if we had had to, we could have found the money to replace.

I look at these moments that leave me with a twinge of sadness as learning moments. The next time we’re near a puddle I’ll let him jump in, as I always have before and did one day after school, ignoring the other parents watching as my son jumped up and down and sat in the muddy water of a deep puddle.

Life is too short to worry about mud covered shoes and too precious to give away moments of pure joy and laughter. (Even though his shoes are these really cool light-up Batman shoes and I’d hate to have had them ruined with the muddy water, so, yeah, maybe it was OK to say no this time. Ha!)

This post is part of a blog circle with a group of other photographers. We post 10 photos on the 10th day of the month. To continue the circle visit Katie Brenkert!

 

Posted in Days with Gracie, Motherhood in Action, Mothering is hard, personal reflections, The joy of motherhood

This mom stuff is hard

“I’m a horrible mom!” I sobbed into the phone at my mom while waiting for  a call back from the triage nurse. It’s not the first time I’d said these words and I’m sure it won’t be the last, even though I know it should be.

It was the second time we’d called the number in a week, both times for my 15 month old daughter we have affectionately, and aptly, nicknamed The Hurricane.
The first time we called she had fallen off the back of the couch, her favorite spot to perch on, much to the disapproval of her dad and I. On the way to the floor she cracked her head on a bookcase.
She cried and was fine within minutes, even though I had been sure we would be holding back blood on our way to the hospital. We called the nurse on call and I woke up 20 times that night to check on her. She was fine and was left with only a small bruise above her eye. Ten minutes after she fell, in fact, she was trying to climb the couch again.

The second call involved her walking out of the bathroom and toward me, down the upstairs hallway, with an empty bottle of allergy medicine in her hand and a thoughtful look on her face. It was a bottle which had previously been partially full. Apparently it fell off the counter and the lid was either placed in crooked or not tight enough. I had left the bathroom, expecting her to follow me.

Yeah. Right.

Why would a 15 month old follow their mom if there is so much they can get into in the bathroom?

I had pretty much convinced myself she’d been poisoned, but the nurse on call and Peggy at Poison Control felt, based on the fact much of the bottle had been poured on the floor, that our little girl would be okay. And she was, despite trying twice to do a somersault of the end of her brother’s bed while I was on the phone with the triage nurse.

She also emptied my entire box of feminine pads while I was on the phone telling her dad what Poison Control had said and spread them across the bathroom floor, as if she was redecorating.

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I often tell myself I’m horrible at this mothering job. What’s worse is I utter it out loud. A lot. In front of my children.

Being a mom is not a job I ever thought I would have. As a teenager I imagined myself traveling the world, photographing wars and famine and the beauty of nature, not raising babies in a small town only 45 minutes from where I grew up.

But, here I am, a mom.

And many days I question what God was thinking giving these poor children a mother like me.

The day the baby eats cat food off the kitchen island and my son feels ignored because I was chatting on Facebook longer than I intended. The day I yell at the elderly dog because he nipped the baby when she sat on him. The day I sighed heavily when my son talked about Minecraft again, making him feel like what he says isn’t important or of interest to him. Those days are the days I wonder what I’m doing as the mother of these two beautiful and amazing children.

Jonathan and my favorite movie these days is ‘Mom’s Night Out’ and toward the end of the movie Trace Atkins, playing a tattoo artist named Bones, tells the main character; “You all spend so much time beating yourselves up, it must be exhausting. Let me tell you something, girl. I doubt the good Lord made a mistake giving your kiddos the mama he did. So you just be you. He’ll take care of the rest.”

Oh Lord, it’s why I pray, so often throughout my days: “Fill in the gaps where I fail. Help me care for these children they way you’ve called me to. And most of all, please, Lord, don’t let me completely scar them for life.”

My brother chooses a word at the beginning of each year to set the tone for the upcoming year. He does this in conjunction with another blog and this year he chose the word reinvigorate. I thought the suggestion to choose a word for the year was sort of dumb, if I’m being honest. Still, when I started to think what words I wanted to choose as I moved forward into a new year, it only took me 30 seconds to know what words I needed: Peace and simplicity.

I complicate my life so much and when I do that I lose my inner peace. I lose sight of the peace that only Christ can give and let it be replaced by the chaos of the circumstances around me.

To have both peace and simplicity  I want to work on blaming myself less for accidents, recognizing what is my responsibility and what isn’t, and most of all being less hard on myself as a mother.

So, if you could choose a word, right now, even if it is the middle of the year, what word, or words, would you choose?

Posted in letters to my son, Storytelling Photography

Letters to my Son January | Athens, Pennsylvania Child Photographer

When I look at this photo of you I see a little boy who has my heart completely and has since the day I first learned you were growing inside me. I see your brilliance, your wit, your charm, your amazing ability to look at almost any situation in a positive light. How hard it must be for you to have been given parents who sometimes lean too much toward the negative yet God gave you the gift of compassion and encouragement because he knew we would need to be reminded. 

You wanted to cross the entire bridge that day but daddy and I were tired and said “no.” I wish I had said yes. I don’t ever want to limit you in your dreams or your goals. I don’t ever want to slow you down.

Your future is so wide open and though I often want to keep you close to my side, tucked under my arm, I know I’ll someday have to let you walk the path there on your own.

Before we know it it will be spring and I hope we go back to that bridge because we are going to walk all the way across it together. 

Posted in Storytelling Photography

A little snow must fall. . .eventually | Athens, PA Photographer

You would have thought we had never seen snow before the way Jonathan and I quickly dressed ourselves and the baby and headed outside into the cold.

“Quick! Before it melts!” I called as I buttoned Grace’s new Christmas-styled coat.

With a winter that was featuring temperatures way above normal I knew the day could warm up fast and turn our yard into mud instead of a winter wonderland.

I also knew the forecasts were calling for record breaking warm temperatures for Christmas and we wouldn’t be having a white Christmas, so we’d better enjoy the snowy scene while we could.

I placed Grace in the slushy white snow in the side yard and watched her look down at it with a confused look on her face. She’d been too young last year to really notice the snow but this year I watched her poke her finger in it on the grass, my shoe, her brother’s shoe. She seemed to be genuinely puzzled by the cold substance on the ground.

I’m sure it will be another year before she really enjoys the snow the way her brother does, building snow forts and snow men (though we’ve never actually been able to make a real snow man).

As for when we will get any measurable snow again in Pennsylvania – your guess is as good as mine.

Posted in Uncategorized

The Christmas Star | Athens, PA photographer

Each year he pulls it from the barn where he stores it and checks the bulbs in the light strings. 

This year he had a knee and back injury so his grandson helped him drag it into the garage for the inspection before it was placed on the hill by the house, above the nativity scene.

He built it several years ago to reflect the true meaning of the season.

Now the Christmas star my dad built is a tradition that even non family members look for each year.

Posted in personal reflections, Storytelling Photography

Why documentary photography? | Athens, Pennsylvania photographer

Sometimes I want to give up on photography that speaks to my heart so I can make a quick buck with some quick poses but then I remember why I love lifestyle, or what I also call storytelling, photography.

It’s real.

It’s emotive.

It tells stories.

It’s memories frozen in time, not poses.

One of my favorite, newly found photographers is Lisa Tichane and she spoke at Click Away, a photographers’ conference, this Fall about why she incorporates movement in her family photography.

If I look at this image, (posed portrait photo) what does it tell me other than look how sweetly they were posing for the photographer? . . . this isn’t real. They are playing a role. As a photographer what story am I telling here except the photographer was there? . . As a family photographer this is not what I want to provide my clients. I want to create memories for them. Memories that wll remind them who they really are in 2015, not the fact that I was there.

She’s right. I have frames full of photos a family member used to give us every year for Christmas. It was the only gift she ever gave and it was her children looking uncomfortable and unnatural in posed portraits. I don’t want this to sound like a complaint, because the images were a kind gesture and we appreciated them each year. However, even though the lighting was lovely the only thing those photos tell me about her children is they know how to follow directions and be forced to smile.
I couldn’t tell from those photos that the youngest was full of crazy fun or the second oldest loved all things sparkly and shiny or that the oldest was a sports fanatic.
Eventually these portraits made me uncomfortable, partially because the family members no longer spoke to us and partially because the expression of the one girl was so full of discomfort I felt bad she’d been forced to pose.
I put those images in a closet and filled my walls with images of my children being children. There is one of my son standing in my parents driveway, wearing my dad’s fishing hat and another of him standing in a pool of light in a local creek.  
There are others of him smiling at the camera,but none of them were forced and I didn’t ask for the smile.

The photos on my wall tell a story for me of a boy who likes to explore the fields at his grandparents’ house. They tell a story of a family who isn’t always perfect, but is loved, is trying, is striving to be better.

I have images of smiling faces, but almost none of them were obtained by asking for them, they came naturally, they were gifts, given to me in naturally happy moments.

Most importantly, the images I treasure most tell a story and that story is what I want to remember as the years pass.

“What I like about photographs is that they capture a moment that’s gone forever, impossible to reproduce.”
— Karl Lagerfeld

Posted in personal reflections, Storytelling Photography

What are we waiting for? | Ulster, Pennsylvania Child Photographer

I  meet my son’s bus at an old school parking lot and usually we head home right away to make dinner and get ready for karate or to get homework started.

This past week we’ve had warm temperatures and sunny days but I’ve been too busy to enjoy it. By the time I have been ready to experience some of the warmth, the sun is already sinking below the hills that surround the small town we live in.

One day I took my daughter out of her seat as we waited for her brother and admired the golden light of the already setting sun. When my son got off the bus I heard myself say:

“Oh wow… Look at that light … It’s amazing.”

I knew we had to get home, get dinner done and get to karate. No time for photography or having fun or just cutting loose. I had to start being responsible and stop being such a goof off, as I tend to find myself being.

“Then what are we waiting for?” I heard my son say and before I could remind him we have responsibilities he took took off across the still green grass, tinted golden by the sun.

Without even thinking I was carrying the baby across the grass and watching my son climb a tree limb that had broken off one tree and fallen against another.

Soon My daughter was trying to eat dried black walnuts and I was admiring the sun flare behind her head.

I forgot schedules and responsibility and we ran down a hill and laughed and hugged each other while the sun set behind us.

Sometimes we need those spontaneous moments of joy. We need to put aside what we tell ourselves are responsibilities but are probably only things we do because someone else does and we don’t want to look like a bad parent to someone else.

My son seems to often transform mundane moments into magical ones. Watching him climb the tree limb, sitting at the top,proud of his accomplishment, I found myself admiring his willingness, maybe even his determination to seize the moment and go with the flow.

Before I had children I saw parents as the teachers and the children as students but now that I’m a mother i realize my son often leads me and where he leads me is into a world where the focus is on what is true, real and important.