Frank. And only Frank. Thanks, Kid. I’m now sick of Frank.

Every night and every nap for the last two years my daughter has had to listen to Frank Sinatra’s “In The Wee Small Hours” album while she’s falling asleep.

I’ve tried to change the music without her knowing but as young as two she would look at me and say “no. I want frank.” In the beginning she called him “Frank Satra,” but as she grew she knew how to pronounce his name clearly and she let me know no one else would do – no Nat King Cole or Diana Krall or even a different album by Frank.

I finally slipped in some Dean Martin from his “Sleep Warm” album, skipping over the slightly faster songs thrown in the middle of the more gentle and melodic tunes, and she accepted it.

Last night I decided to try some Sarah Vaughn, who I’ve never actually listened to that much, but we only got two songs in before I heard an exasperated sigh in the dark.

“What’s wrong?” I asked, hoping to God she did not ask me for the snack she’d tried to tell me she needed a few moments earlier, even though it was way past her bedtime.

“It’s the music,” she said with exasperation dripping off each word. “It’s just not working.”

Now it was my turn for a sigh. I switched the Apple Music on my phone to the playlist of Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra.

She relaxed in the darkness, obviously content, and in less than five minutes she was fast asleep to the smooth, soothing baritone of Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra.

Someday we’ll find another artist who lulls her into a state of pure relaxation but for now Dean and Frank remain our close and repetitive friends.

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Letter to my daughter

At 20 months of age you are insanely clingy and there are brief moments it drives me crazy.
“I need my hands free to push this cart! Good grief! “
“I brought the stroller so you would sit in it, not so I can carry you in the sling while I push an empty stroller and get bewildered looks.”

But those protests are quick ones because there you are, eye level with me, in my arms, secured against me with a sling, and smiling while you lean your head At 19 months of age you are insanely clingy these days and there are brief moments it drives me crazy.
“I need my hands free to push this cart! Good grief! “

“I brought the stroller so you would sit in it, not so I can carry you in the sling while I push an empty stroller and get bewildered looks.”

But those protests are quick ones because there you are, eye level with me, in my arms, secured against me with a baby sling, and smiling while you lean your head against me. You are safe here, arm up on my shoulder, tucked securely against my side, under my arm. All the people towering above you and the ceilings and world so high and far away aren’t as scary if you’re kept safe by the person who is the center of your world.

I can certainly relate to the need to feel protected and sheltered from a world that feels scary and overwhelming. I often long for my own safe haven as I force myself to leave the house when many days I instead want to hide away and not be seen. For years I have forced the introvert within me to be an extrovert and the introvert has decided she is no longer happy with that arrangement. 

Many nights I lay down thinking about and mentally preparing myself for the next day’s errands or chores that will require me to go into public; associate with the rest of the human race. I often try to find a way to avoid the trip, even going so far as to wonder if peanut butter sandwiches are okay for dinner simply so I don’t have to shop among the masses. 

Sleep comes only after I recite a verse that has become a daily mantra: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Sometimes I have to say the verse over and over while trying to chase away the anxiety that creeps up into my throat like reflux from a spicy supper. In the morning I remind myself I can’t be a hermit, no matter how much I want to. I have children to feed or take to the doctor. And I have life to experience because as much as life terrifies me it fascinates me.

The appropriate Christian thing to say is that God is my safe haven, the One who keeps me from living my life behind closed doors, and He is. But sometimes I don’t trust the way I should; I don’t listen the way I should. Thoughts overwhelm me and all I hear is condemnation and criticism. 

I pray so I can find comfort in the One who reminds me He is home even when I’m out in the big, scary world. 
I want you to feel comfort while I hold you, Little One.

I’m so honored to be your safe haven, your comfort zone, the person who you need to make you feel like you’re home no matter where you are.

So cling to me when you need to and I’ll cling back and treasure these simple moments of comfort.

Part of Melissa Firman’s 99 days of blogging and my Letters to My Daughter’s feature.

I wish I was a better mother

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I wish I was better at being a mom.

I wish I didn’t cry like a toddler when my toddler won’t nap on the one day I really needed one myself.

I wish I didn’t let curse words fly out when she won’t sleep and when I know better and when I’m supposed to be that good Christian who never makes a mistake.

I wish I didn’t get grumpy on the days she gets grumpy.

I wish I didn’t get aggravated beyond belief when my 9 year old stares at me blank when I ask him why he didn’t brush his teeth last night or why he isn’t eating his dinner or why he’s playing Minecraft when I told him to do his homework.

I wish I was the mom from the books and the movies and the TV shows who pulls her children on her lap every single time they have a break down and hugs them and tells them it’s OK if they cry, mama doesn’t mind not getting sleep or not getting a break or never eating a warm meal.

If I was that mom then I wouldn’t feel so guilty. If I was that mom then I wouldn’t have to cry instead of nap when the toddler finally does fall asleep. If I was that mom I wouldn’t sit and wonder if some day my kids are going to tell all their friends about all the mistakes I make and all their friends are going to feel bad for them because their moms never do that stuff.

Some days it is just flat out exhausting wishing to be someone different so you can be better for your kids.

This is the part of the post I should write something encouraging and uplifting about how all you can do is try, but today I’m not feeling it. I’m just feeling the discouragement, the failure and the sadness at all the motherhood missteps I made.

 

Woe is me, the temporarily wallowing in her misery mom, who I guess, needs to remind herself if she wasn’t at least a somewhat good mom then none of this would bother her.

 

 

Embracing the role of motherhood

For 13 years when someone asked what I did for a living I said “I’m a newspaper reporter”.  It made me feel like I had accomplished something in life. Four years of college, a degree, and a job in what I went to college for. I was a contributing member of society. I was a public servant, informing the community. I was important, at least in some small way, or so I thought.

Then I burned out on the news and, really, on people. I left newspapers, convinced my love for photography would translate into a successful business. Then I could say “I’m a photographer”

I left the paper for two reasons: to be home with my son and to start a photography business. When the photography business never happened I was left with . . .being a mom because in my mind I wasn’t a photographer if I didn’t have a business, which, of course, I now know isn’t true.

Just a mom.

Just.

A.

Mom.

I couldn’t imagine having to answer the question of what I did for a living with “I’m a mom. JUST a mom.”

As a kid, I’d never imagined myself a mom. I’d always pictured myself traveling the world as a writer and photojournalist.

My mom was “just a mom” and I had never looked down on her for that so I had no idea why being “just a mom” filled me with a feeling of personal failure.

Why was it bothering me so much to be “just a mom”?

I think the society we live in today, especially in the United States, tells moms that being a mom isn’t enough. The idea that being a mom is the best job a woman can have is very popular but only if a person can say “I’m a writer but I’m also a mom and that’s the most important job I have.”

If a woman can only say “I’m a mom. It’s all I do” I believe many look at her as if to say “is that really all you do?”

Last year I sought out a natural doctor for some health issues I’ve been having. She asked me what I did in my spare time. I started to tell her I was a mom so I don’t have much spare tome and she interrupted me “but what do you do for you?” I photograph my children in what I feel is an artistic way and told her but she shook her head in disapproval and I immediately felt that shame at being “just a mom”. Here was another woman, maybe even a mother herself, reminding me that I needed to be more than a mom. I needed to do something more with my life. I couldn’t just be a mom.

Other women shame each other into believing they need to be more than a mom but I don’t believe God desires there to be any shame felt when a woman’s sole job, so to speak, is “just being a mom.”

I’m working on accepting this title of mom, which I know sounds weird since I’ve been one for almost a decade.

I’m practicing saying “I’m a mom,” and not needing to add after it “And I am also a photographer.”

For me, photography isn’t a job, and I don’t want it to be. It’s part of who I am in the same way being “just a mom” is part of who I am and who I always will be.
 

I always want to remember | Sayre PA Child Photographer

I always want to remember these days. The days when you grabbed Four, the old cat at Grandma and Grandpa’s that used to be mine, and tried to carry her around the porch like one of your dolls. We were lucky she didn’t try to scratch you, since she’s an outdoor cat and your used to the ones that live indoors.

I want to remember how you took off for the stairs by yourself and reached up for my hand and then walked down those high concrete steps with only my hand as your support. At 16 months of age and already climbing stairs on your own, not crawling but actually doing your best to walk up them on your own.

My bedspread is not white | Athens, Pennsylvania Photographer

When I look at Instagram this is the impression I get: 
Every photographer owns white bedspreads in rooms with white walls and white ceilings, perfect for angelic photos of their blue eyed, blond, curly haired babies sleeping while wearing homemade neutral colored sweaters or magazine worthy pajamas on a furry blanket.
Every photographer has hardwood floors, perfect for capturing the reflections of their solemn faced cherub, sitting in a stream of light with their teddy bear/doll/dog/cat/sibling/something cute or cuddly and oh so photogenic.
Every photographer lives behind the most amazing forrest known to man and everyday beautiful light streams through the trees and on to a soft bed of leaves where the photographers little girl spins in a white dress because white denotes perfection and purism and all things good and holy in the photography world.
Don’t forget the home of a photographer is spotless, their children are spotless and well behaved and when they come to photograph your family you will appear the same way.
Everyone will see your photos and know how lily white perfect your family is. Not how real they are but how pretty they can look in front of a camera.
Yes, you’re reading a lot of snark in my words. Maybe because I’ve been a quiet observer of the photography world for a long time and have become a bit disenchanted with the way photographers like to recreate reality and then get very twisted up inside of their reality does not look like their Instagram feed. Maybe it’s because I had become that photographer and this year I want to disengage from the photography world and capture authenticity. 
My house is dirty. My kids are dirty.
I have one off white bedspread my parents gave me and I rarely put it on my bed; no reason why, I just forget I have it. My bedroom walls have horrid brown panels and there isn’t one big, beautiful window casting light on to the bed, the clean children or the hardwood floor. If there was any white in this house my children would have already marked it up or I would have already spilled something on it or my aging dog would have already peed on it.
I’m not rambling about all this to condemn photographers for showcasing pretty pictures of their lives. I understand Instagram and Facebook and blogs are only a snippet of a person’s real life. Those photographers can do what they want. I just prefer not to be one of those photographers. Then again “those photographers” may really have pretty white walls and bedspreads and their lives might actually be that sunny all the time. If it is then that’s what they should showcase because that is their real life. It’s just not mine. 
I’m almost 40.
The last four years of my life have turned me upside down and shook most of my insides out and I’ve shoved myself back together and I’m not who I once was. Every day I care less and less and less about what others think of me or what others think I should do or be.
Dr. Seuss said it best “I’m me and there is no one else I’d rather be”.
What a freeing feeling when you no longer see a well lit, white washed view of life and think it has to be your own; when you realize life creates scars that you didn’t ask for, didn’t deserve and that you aren’t alone in not being perfect.
Here is my goal from now on: photograph what I see, perfectly beautiful moments or not. I plan to capture real life and if that real life makes someone a bit uncomfortable or makes them turn away because they don’t see a world of white and sun, and perfect smiles then  I’m ok with that because I’m photographing for me, not for perfection.
 

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!