We Sick

It's been a rough past few days. Three sick kids and a ton of ish to do just doesn't mix all that well in our house. I knew. I knew before I even got out of bed that today was a sick day. I could hear the boys fight/coughing at 6 am. Mind you, this was after a night of poor Meadow feeling awful and not sleeping well (oh yeah and teething). The joys.

So we called in sick from life. We had elderberry syrup and fuzzy robes. We stayed in PJ's all day and had hot cocoa for breakfast. We read books. We had cuddles. We watched a movie and ate popcorn. And then when we all felt a tiny bit better, we played. We did high kicks and headstands. We mostly laughed with a tiny bit of arguing. 

And although these littles are feeling much better, I don't regret one bit calling off life today. 

The In-Between Moments

These are the in-between moments. They make up the story of us. They are mostly shot at home, in the early morning light. Each day, only one photo can stay on the memory card to remember the day by. Every month or so they get uploaded and edited and filed away. Only keeping one photo a day on that card really forces me to find the best light, the best angle, and the best emotion. It is the only daily project my scattered brain has been able to continue and I plan to continue it until the day I die.

We actually lead a pretty adventurous and busy life. We are outdoors most days, walking, hiking, camping, or playing with friends. We love traveling and exploring new places. We’re obsessed with the beach and sandy toes at sunset. We could tell you all of the family-friendly breweries in San Diego and which ones have root beer on tap. Our life outside these in-between moments looks nothing like this.

But these moments are the ones I want my children to remember. It is where the love exists in the story of us. To be fair, it is also where we do most of our yelling. Learning to live and love together despite our very different personalities.

These moments make us real. They are true and authentic.

They are us.

 

I started this project on May 23rd, 2017 after Michelle Gardella's retreat in Austin where she prompted me to write this artist statement:

My children are my heart but that heart has been broken. There is beauty there, in those quiet, dark, breaking moments. Happiness in the heartache. I am desperate to find the broken pieces and put them back together. But as with all things shattered, they will never fit just right.

I feel a piece of my heart find its way home when I photograph my children. Just as they are, without fuss or fancy. The love they share slowly replacing the love I lost. My love for them quietly filling the hole in my heart from my unmothered childhood.  The cycle stopping with this generation. With my beautiful children.

I need to document their life. The chaos. The quiet. The love. I need them to know that I see them and they are beautiful. They are important. Most of all, that they are protected.

They exist in these in-between moments as proof that someday my heart will be whole and that they are the ones who hold all the pieces.

When they are grown, I want them to look at these photographs and feel my love. I want them to see their beauty. Their worth. Their whole and complete hearts.

Their shining light in all the darkness is all I’ve ever needed to heal my heart.

 

 

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This Man

This man.

This handsome man. He's the love of my life. That love has been evolving for nearly two decades now and I can honestly say I love him more and more each day. As we grow older, more wrinkly,more weary and more tired our love grows stronger. As our youth fades, our love shines.

This man would never tell you how hard he works because he's not that kind of man but every single day he puts every ounce of his time and energy into our family. Yesterday, he got up at 5:30 went and worked a full day meanwhile I couldn't get my adulting off the ground. I was overwhelmed and exhausted and behind on life and work. It was one of those days that I keep looking at the clock to see how close we are to Dad coming home. And as soon as he got home he kissed me and knew already I was having an awful day. He asked me what he could do and when I was too overwhelmed to even think of anything he went to work in his shop in the garage, you know to help bring in extra income after he officially spent his entire day doing just the same at a "real" job. And when I handed him the baby and told him I needed to go to the store, alone. He didn't even flinch. He changed out of his work shirt and headed inside with the kids. And when I took an hour to pick up five things, he didn't question me or give me crap. He knew I needed that time and I am eternally grateful for that. And after he helped wash the dinner dishes and put the boys to bed, he went back outside to fix a piece of old equipment he bought off Craigslist. In our almost falling down garage which doubles as his second place of work. Seriously, the biggest tarp you've ever seen doubles as the roof. And when he finished that he came in and returned emails from his business account. And then he slept on the couch because the baby and I always mosey on over to his side of the bed and he wanted us to have a good night of sleep. And he left me an I love you note. Because this man is incredible. This man is the most amazing, hard-working, incredible guy that ever lived.

This man is my love. I have a paralyzing fear when I think of life without him. How could I possibly do any of this without him, how could we ever enjoy life without him

.I have nightmares about that one day when one of us will pass before the other.

I am so thankful for his heart. For his support. For his beautiful genetic code. My heart overflows because he fills it each and every damn day.

This love of mine.

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Midadventures

Misadventures. Our adventures are always more misadventures than anything.

There is always good intentions in the beginning. Some idyllic, lofty daydream that features our family harmoniously playing at our campsite after a beautiful day hiking in some national park that just happened to have free entrance that day. The boys enjoy a root beer, organic sarsaparilla of course, while dad and I have our IPAs. There is lots of laughter and fun. Some frisbee and soccer is played. The boys scoot or skate around the campsite while Meadow takes her nap wrapped up close to me. The dogs are well behaved. We make jiffy pop and tell ghost stories. We make s’mores and hot cocoa. The sugar doesn't affect them at this altitude. The kids all go to bed without a second thought. Dad and I stay up talking underneath a canopy of stars. It is a three day weekend and there isn't even an inkling of discord the entire trip.

I should know better by now.

At one point tonight I whispered to my husband "It must physically hurt them not to speak at all times." We were an hour and a half late getting on the road and while we normally leave the dogs with a pet sitter because of severe anxiety of our oldest pup, we decided today would be a good day to go against everything we know to be true in this world and take them. Thundershirt on and puppy prozac swallowed and she still barked at every single car from our house to the beach camp. Every. Single. One. We forgot one of the blankets so we had to go buy one. One of our headlights is out and our brakes are shot which makes just getting anywhere a misadventure already. We realized about 13 seconds after we arrived that we didn't bring anything for the baby to sit, rock or play in all weekend. I took the kids for a walk to go collect wildflowers for our picnic table and Everett parked his scooter in the middle of the road, which caused a woman who was skateboarding next to her pup to have to stop so she didn't hit it. Her kids were riding bikes behind her and didn't get the memo. They slammed into this poor lady. We couldn't have been here for an hour at that point. We didn't bring IPA, my husband bought a 30 pack of Natural Light. For old times’ sake. And it is just as awful as the last time he brought home a case. Our one dog peed on the other one. And at that exact moment I thought, "Yeah, that's about right." Everett threw a tantrum to end all tantrums. Our neighbors hate us. Who can blame them. Our dogs bark at everything that walks past the campground while we're constantly trying to shoosh Everett repeating "ME NO GO POTTTTTTTTY". There are no s’mores to be made tonight. No stories to be told. We are halfway considering begging our amazing babysitter to come get the kids and the dogs and give us a day to recoup after this day of "vacation". And I couldn't get the damn fire started. I always get the fire started. Quickly and easily, it's my camp thing. And we all sucked tonight and there's not much else to say.

Except that tomorrow is not today. Tomorrow is a clean slate. Tomorrow, we will wake up to the waves of the ocean (and more than likely our dogs barking at some kind soul). Tomorrow we will try harder. We will play soccer in the sand and we will scoot our happy bums up to the camp store and find a thing of Jiffy Pop.

Tomorrow will be better.

The Future Them

Sometimes, I can see them in the future. They smile a certain way or they're making a certain face in a photo. The baby face fades away and I can almost see what they're going to look like when they're older. Asking for advice for significant others instead of battling over hot wheels. I know it's coming. I know we'll blink and we won't have these babies anymore. Eventually, it will be our kids and then our teenagers and then our young adults. We'll be old and boring by then and they'll be excited and nervous with life. They'll fight their way through whatever obstacles they have to. They'll hopefully love each other more than they've ever loved anything. Because when my husband and I are gone they'll only have each other. Their children will play together. They'll start their own traditions and some of those won't include us. Eventually they'll have their own fully formed families and eventually they'll love their kiddos (and be just as tired) as much as we do (and are).

Eventually, our house will be still. And boring. We'll have time for everything we don't have time for now. We'll go on dates and adventures like we did when we were 19. It'll be an entire different life than the one we lead today.

But for today I'll just brush that vision aside. Today, maybe I'll enjoy the fighting over toys and complaints about damn near everything. Because soon enough we'll be talking about how much we miss our kids being kids.

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This is Two

This is two.

This. Is. Two.

This is count-down-the-days-to-three two. This is let-me-tell-you-a-story-about-the-grocery-store-trip-we-took-last-week two.

Wednesdays are accounted for. Every single second from sunrise to sunset is taken. We mad dash in the morning to get my oldest to his class in time. This usually means we've either forgotten to brush teeth, comb our hair, or put matching socks on. We kiss him goodbye at the door of his classroom. We can see his the back of his little Christmas reindeer cardigan as he runs to his friends. We run to the car and fight traffic just to be 17 minutes late to my middle kids "school". In reality, it's a mommy and me development class at the local college and truthfully he doesn't play with a damn kid there. But all week he asks me if it's Wednesday and if it's his turn to go to school. So we go. And he ignores everyone and it's equal parts hysterical and adorable.

At noon, we walk back to our car half a mile away because I refuse to pay for a parking pass. Then because it's Wednesday and Wednesday is double deal day at Sprouts, we head to the grocery store. Except it's nap time. And this kid needs a nap. Nuclear-meltdown-needs-a-nap two. So normally I drive slow and then I park at the grocery store and menu plan with my littlest in my lap. He gets a solid 45 in the car which is just enough to tide him over for an early bedtime. But this nap in the car means we have to rush through the store and then rush home with only enough time to put the cold stuff away before we have to go pick up my oldest. So I tried something new. And it failed miserably. I thought if I had him stay awake right after school then he could sleep after grocery shopping and he would be able to take a longer nap and in turn yell at me less.

It did not work that way. He had just fallen asleep as we got to the store. I handed him his canvas bag and got him all riled up to pick out his favorite produce and what sushi we were going to split for lunch. He was fine until he saw the chocolate muffins. He lost his ever loving crap. I tried to distract him. I tried to reason. I tried to get him to breathe with me. I tried to bribe him with a honey crisp apple. He lost it even harder. Epic-battle-cries-lost-it two. The-whole-store-is-looking-at-us two. I’m-debating-on-leaving-the-cart-and-walking-out two. And that's when a very sweet employee came over and asked what was wrong. And he screamed MUFFIN at her like he signs her paychecks. She asked me if he could have one because she would like to buy it. I politely declined and walked to the next aisle. Where an even sweeter employee bent down and asked him what was wrong and tried hand him stickers. He smacked them out of her hand. I thanked her for her kindness but said he just needed some space to work through this. We started with the produce. His favorite part to pick out as he normally chucks apples and bananas in his bag. Except I had to put him in the cart and he was furious that I had picked the wrong ones. So he took them out of the bag and threw them back in the pile. And then he picked the exact same freaking apples and put them back in the bag. At this point, an employee from the deli brought him a cheese slice but he pushed it away and then freaked out when they walked away with it. So they came back and laid it on top of the broccoli and ever so slowly backed away. I went to thank him for his kindness but the words hadn't left my mouth before someone else brought him a cup of fresh fruit. Then he decided he couldn't share the bottom of the cart with anything and started kicking the groceries to one side. He sat in the corner of the cart and ate fruit and sobbed. He was over the worst part. We breathed together as I eyed the wine aisle. I mentally added a massive white wine bottle to the meal plan. We picked out our sushi, we got an extra packet of soy like always for our crunchy roll. We paid. We thanked everyone again and we parked our exhausted bums on the wood pile in front of the store and we ate lunch. He laughed and ate and talked about how much fun it was.

This is two.

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My Little Girl

My little girl. This ever-so-sweet little girl.

She shares our bed in the early morning hours. She nurses, cuddles, grabs onto my finger, and makes the tiniest little mouse squeaks as she drifts in and out of sleep. Her grip fades as she smiles softly and drifts back to her dreams. I run my fingers through her hair because she’s the only 4 month-old I know that has bed head. She wakes and smiles at me. She nods off. She looks outside through the blinds, she has loved to do that since we brought her home. The white noise and the warm bed make it hard to get up. She drifts back to sleep. It is quiet and perfect in our bubble. This tiring bubble. She wakes. She giggles. Her brothers burst in. They climb into bed. They coo at our little girl. Tell her they love her. Everett squeezes her cheeks, hard. She laughs and giggles at him. Daniel kisses her forehead.

Our little girl. Our sweet, sweet little girl.

 

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Tiny, Little Clothes

My husband says to let them go.

I know he's right but I can't. I fold these tiny little clothes. I fold them for the millionth and one time. It is mindless and numbing and boring to fold. Until it's the last time. Until we've both agreed that our last baby was our very last baby. I have tears welling up saying those words. Five years and some odd months ago I had my first son. Today, I blinked and my family was complete. There will be no more pregnancies. No more uncomfortable sleeps. No more belly rubs, belly kicks or belly hiccups.

From now on, they just grow. There is no new life on the horizon. From here forward, it's a matter of nurturing the babes that make our family complete. But I can't let go. I hold the tiny clothes to my chest. I feel the fabric between my fingers. I remember just what my kid looked like as he was wearing this little hat. These tiny pants. That small shirt. I remember how cute and smiley he was. I remember exactly what pictures we took in it. And then I packed it away for his brother. And then I packed it away for his next sibling. And now. Now, we don't need these tiny clothes but I'm having a really hard time letting them go.

With them go the hopes of expanding our family. With them go the memories. With them go the tiny rips and tears from their falling first steps. They are taking a piece of me with them too.

Our family is complete. I keep saying it over and over and hoping the next time it doesn't sting to say. We live in a tiny home with five people and two big dogs. I completely understand my husband’s rationale that we need to find either a massive amount of cash or a house twice the size of ours. It's logical and reasonable and the best thing for our family. But it doesn't take the hurt away. When I think that our family will never meet another member, never bring a new baby home, never experience another personality to call our own. It hurts. It's logical but it hurts.

These teeny tiny little clothes. How much love and life they hold.

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We Are a Mess

Originally published on Bored Panda.

https://www.boredpanda.com/i-photograph-the-chaos-of-my-familys-daily-life-and-found-i-actually-like-it/

And then on Documentary Family Photographers

http://www.documentaryfamilyphotographers.com/we-are-a-mess-thoughts-on-a-happy-family-life-by-kelsey-smith/

 

We are a mess.

My kids stay up too late. We are not neat, nor tidy. My kids clothes are either too big or too small, most likely all in the same outfit. Our kitchen is yellow. Like the brightest yellow and cobalt blue you can imagine. We finally have a set bedtime after 5 years of nailing it down. We are always late to school. Everything we own is wrecked. Like things people had for years and gave to us in pristine condition. Yah, we wreck it within months. My kids aren't multilingual. They don't play any instruments yet. They won't go to the best academy in San Diego and honestly we're not pushing college as a must do rather than an option. We don’t listen to ‘kids’ music. In fact, my oldest knew how to sing “Sabotage” by the Beastie Boys way before he ever learned the words to “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star”. They’ve seen more bands in concert already than I saw until I was 18. They love to rock out to Vance Joy, The Pixies, and The Lumineers. We go to concerts at the Open Air Theatre but we don’t buy tickets. We sit on the grass outside and play as a family (and have a bottle of wine). We don’t buy all organic. We can’t, unfortunately. I tried to go to the grocery story three days in a row last week but never made it. The kids pick their own clothes out. They normally look disheveled but happy. We have a google calendar but I’m the only one who uses it. My boys didn't sleep on their own until they were two and a half and the little one still routinely kicks my hubby to the couch on the weekends. One of our family mottos is "Every day can't be the best day". My kids are almost always barefoot. My husband calls them little black foot which of course comes from the fact that he calls me black foot. We have an untrainable dog wild hybrid thing, seriously. We lovingly call our two year old Nick Nolte, and yes it's because he's crazy. The irony of yelling "QUIET" on a daily basis does not elude me.

We get by. We're happy. We are every ounce of mess and we love it.

Having 3 Kids

Originally published on Documentary Family Photographers website:

http://www.documentaryfamilyphotographers.com/going-2-3-kids-really-like-kelsey-smith/

What is it like to have three kids?

Honestly, it’s mayhem. But it’s the most beautiful kind of mayhem. The kind you’ll miss when your house is quiet and your family is grown. It is exhausted gratitude. It is an overflowing heart. It is the greatest gift.

Having three kids is crazy. It is the kind of crazy that means getting screamed at by a 2 year-old in a dream state demanding you bring him a book at 6:00 am because he caught you sneaking in to put his laundry away. It’s the kind of crazy that means 5 out of 7 meals will be made in a crock pot some weeks. It means your oldest will always remember when they didn’t have to take a turn for your attention. It means that your heart will break when you can’t be everything to everyone at every single moment. It is repeating yourself about a million and one times every single day. It is being outnumbered. It is entire days in your pajamas because you just can’t even. It is doctor’s appointments and endless fruit cutting. It is being so tired that you don't attach one side of your baby's diaper and she pees...all over your bed. It is sending your emails at midnight so you don't accidentally start typing what your kid is saying. It means your house will more than likely look like a tornado hit, always. It is Costco-sized bags of Pirate’s Booty. It means your baby will base their sleep routine off of school pick ups and drop offs, and you better hope that baby likes being in the car. It is wearing the baby while making dinner and refereeing an argument over toys. It means always looking for a coffee drive through because there is no way you're going to get all your kids out of the car for a cup of coffee. It is stopping your toddler from trying to jump to the couch from a stool on top of a coffee table, while on the phone with your insurance company...as you nurse the baby. It is being parked in the Starbuck’s parking lot and using the free wifi to do work because all three of your kids fell asleep on the ride home. It is putting on one of only three shirts that fits your post-baby body and immediately having the baby throw up on you. It is locking yourself in a room so you can make a 3 minute phone call while you can hear the house crashing down outside that door. It is a fridge stocked with all the wine. It is getting three little people dressed, fed, cleaned and ready for their day in under an hour with as few tears as possible. It is hearing ‘You sure do have your hands full!’ every single time you leave the house. It is being asked how you can afford to send your kids to college. It is a mountain of laundry, seriously, a Mount Everest of dirty socks. It is my husband and I, using one of our two annual date nights, to sneak past our babysitter and kids and watch Stranger Things cuddled up where the kids can’t find us. It is having your heart torn in three directions every day. It is typing this while the baby sleeps, the toddler plays loudly and the big kiddo bursts in every other minute to ask a question I just said no to. It is ALL of your time. It is the never-ending kind of crazy that is somehow the most overwhelming and most rewarding all at once.

It is hard. But damn is it worth it.
Having three children is the best gift this life could have given me. When I was pregnant

with Everett, my second babe, I was so worried I wouldn’t have enough love in my heart for two. How could I possibly love anyone as much as Daniel, my firstborn. I felt so guilty. So unbelievably guilty and scared. Guilty for making Daniel share his family, his toys, his dogs, his room. His everything. And when we brought home our Everett, I realized how infinite and unconditional love can be. One look at him and our love multiplied. Adding a second baby made our hearts grow in ways we didn’t know possible, Daniel most of all. I’ve never seen two humans love each other the way those kids did before Hot Wheels were involved. Daniel was the most gentle, sweetest older brother. He helped get diapers and clothes. He was patient and loving. He would sit for hours and play peek-a-boo with the baby. And Everett still has never laughed for anyone the way he laughed at Daniel. And although they argue over the most inconsequential crap right now, that strong foundation is already there. When they are older, they will have each other and that unbreakable bond. Always. And just when we remembered what a full night of sleep was, we added our little Miss Meadow Mae. We all turned to mush. The mushiest of mush. She was born the day before Halloween with the fullest head of hair and the sweetest smile. The boys, excited to meet their new sibling and dressed in their Halloween best, walked into that room and turned into puddles. They cooed and sang and whispered that they loved her. In their Batman costumes. It was the sweetest thing I’ve ever seen in this life and one of my most favorite memories. This little girl has completed our family. She has healed me from so much of my childhood. She is the perfect amount of sweet and sleepy. I have never had a happier heart than the day I watched all three of my children meet. The love that those three will have for each other will far surpass anything I can ever give them in this life or the next. So yes, having three kids is crazy but there is not one thing in this world I love more than my chaotic life with my little humans.

It is pure love and pure chaos.

Navigating The Murky Waters

Originally published on Documentary Family Photographers website.

http://www.documentaryfamilyphotographers.com/navigating-murky-waters-thoughts-parenthood-kelsey-smith/#more-11971

 

Navigating these murky waters is not for the faint of heart. Sometimes. Sometimes, I am the captain my kids need. The house is clean. Like actually clean. My kids are happy. They are full of laughter and love. The weekly menu is planned, the weekly calendar is filled out. Clothes are washed. We have time to play. Like three days in a row at the park play. Until the sun sets play. I am happy and able to steer our ship.

Other days. The seas are rough. Other days. I can't keep on top of it. Other days. I fail. There is a mountain of laundry either dirty or clean but it's been so long that I'm not sure. The boys’ room looks like a tornado hit. I can see the dog hair blow across the living room like tumbleweeds in the desert. We don't have park time. The kids are arguing over every single toy and who gets to sit where. I am behind on work. We are exhausted. It is overwhelming and loud, and I am solely responsible for sinking our ship. These are the days I apologize for.

The patience I didn't have. The short manner in which I told them to grab their ish for school. These are not the days I want them to remember. This is not the light I wanted them to see me in. But I can't shape their memories to my favor. I say I'm sorry and that I'll try harder. They instantaneously forgive me. Our ship rises together. I let them know I love them, I'm just not so good at keeping us afloat all of the time.

 

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At Least for Today

He had those big tears in the corner of his eyes when I picked him up from school. I could see him there across the courtyard, not talking to his friends. His eyes focused straight down. I knew he was just waiting until I walked up until he let them flow. He was waiting until he felt safe.

His "crystal" was taken. This beautiful quartz rock he was given a few weeks ago when we were out hiking. He wanted to take it to school. We talked about the fact that it might get lost, taken, or borrowed. That it might be safer to leave it with me. He decided to take it anyway. He must have been playing with it when he shouldn't have and the teacher's aid took it and forgot to give it back before she left. He. Was. Devastated. He melted into my arms as the tears got bigger and his whole body shook.

I have to admit, these situations don't play to my strengths. I have to force myself to be as empathetic as he needs in these moments. I hate that I'm not naturally the most understanding when it comes to lost rocks but it's on my radar and I'm trying hard to make it right. Some days, I'm trying to figure out if there's another reason bubbling underneath this meltdown. Sometimes that hinders my ability to be a good mom to my very sensitive kiddo. Today, today was all about that rock. He needed me.

I bent down to wipe his tears. I started to talk about this morning and the conversation about the rock and possibly losing it. I stopped myself. He just wanted to be heard. He just wanted to know that I cared about him being upset regardless that he was responsible. He just wanted his mom. His not-so-always-sensitive mom to let him feel safe enough to meltdown over a rock. He sobbed. He cried. He even wailed for a few minutes. I didn't try to distract him this time. I told him I was sorry it was gone and that I'll ask for it back Monday morning. He hugged me tight. Wrapped his little arms around my soft tummy. He squeezed.

Eventually, like always, he calmed down. I don't know what he'll remember from this when he's grown or if he'll remember it at all. But today. At least for this day. He felt safe and important and heard.

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Counting Us Safe

I feel so helpless today. It seems like every day is a different tragedy and we're just waiting to for the next one to queue up. I don't know what else to do, aside from donating. So here's to doing whatever you can whenever you can. That said, I'm offering 50$ off for the first person to book a Coronado Mini Beach Session. These sessions can only take place on Tuesday-Thursday right before sunset and must be redeemed by the end of the year. That would make final cost of the mini session and 10 images $325 and every last penny of that will be donated to relief efforts in Puerto Rico. I am so thankful for my little family's safety today and so awfully devastated as a human.

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Sunday Mornings

We enjoy our Sunday mornings around here. The kids usually stay in PJ's entirely too long. Dad makes his famous dad breakfast. We listen to music. The pups get a nice long walk. The littles play music, color, make messes, dress up, and make more messes. We don't do a lot of things well but we rock Sunday mornings. 

And although this Sunday morning came with a side of whining, I'm still going to count it as a win.

Pretty Light Tantrums

Yesterday was one of those days. Not great, not horrible, just a day soon forgotten. Everyone was off as Tuesdays tend to fall for us. My husband leaves for work at 5:30 ish on the Monday morning and we basically don’t see him during waking hours again until Wednesday evening. He works his bum off and we miss him. So usually on Tuesdays, we’re already ready for Wednesday. I fed the kids dinner at 3:30. that’s how excited I was for the day to be over.

So we were bored and irritated and *some* of us were pushing boundaries. And sometimes these days end with everyone going to bed early enough to try again tomorrow but yesterday ended with a sunset. I threw the kids in the car, told the dogs to hold down the fort, and we headed to the sea. I thought the water would magically make the bad moods disappear. It didn’t. We had tantrums and timeouts even there. And that’s just ok because that's just how it had to be yesterday.

I’ll take a tantrum at sunset over a tantrum at home any damn day. 

 

We got some gems like this because basically this is us:

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The boys believe that 'jumping like Kung Fu Panda" cures all:

We're still waiting on Everett's ninja skills to make an appearance:

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Meadow just continued on being world's cutest baby:

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Even with a mouthful of sand and shells:

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Finally, we did catch some of those in-between moments that make my heart full:

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Ev and the first day of preschool

This kid started preschool last week. I took this photo of Everett James right before he walked in. I still see him as a baby (especially when he throws the mother of all tantrums) and I just couldn't believe how grown up he looked in the photo. Like a future projection of his little self. My not-so-baby middle baby just walked right into his new classroom, hugged his teacher, and waved goodbye. I had tears in my eyes and hung by the door, figuring he would start to cry as soon as he saw all of us leave. I was slowly starting to walk away or rather my husband was slowly starting to nudge me when he ran out. He waved a confident wave to let me know he was good and then he ran back inside.

And just like that, he's a boy. Send wine, please.

                         Everett James on his first day of preschool. Send me wine, please.

                         Everett James on his first day of preschool. Send me wine, please.

7 down. 100 more to go.

We have this chest. This beautiful, dark wood, massive chest. On the inside, there is a heart. A heart my husband carved along with our initials.

It holds the story of us. A series of moments that make up our love. Letters from the time my husband spent at war, plane tickets, mementos from vacations, photos from a decade and a half ago. It is my most treasured possession.

It hasn't been opened for ages. Before kids, we used to look through it often and reminisce about our story.  Right now it's being used as a shelf to hold our daughter's swaddles and books. This multi useful piece of our heart. The time we carved aside to reminisce has slowly been replaced with extra loads of laundry, beautifully loud children and the humdrum of everyday life. But it's there. Like our love. And it will be there when all of our children have grown. When the walls are quiet and clean and the house is boring. That little reminder of our love that quietly sits in our room until we have time to add to the story of us.

                                                         Photo for proof of chaos

                                                         Photo for proof of chaos

None of it was real and now all of it is broken

At 6:50 every morning, a stream of soft, blue, daybreak light spills across our bed. Our little Meadow Mae and her most glorious mop of dark hair are always laying in this little ray of sunshine. I sneak out of bed to get my morning cup of quiet before the kids and dogs wake, leaving her in the warmth of our bed. Whenever I peek in to make sure she's still sleeping, the light is still hugging her little shape, highlighting all her beauty in the darkness. It doesn't matter where on the bed we fell asleep or how much sleep dancing we did, she always finds her way to the light. She snores, snorts, and wiggles her way around the bed. Somehow, no matter where I move to, she always ends up with her teeny legs wrapped over mine. We fit perfectly, this little girl and I. Like we were made for each other.

I love our little Meadow Mae. She has completed our family as only a sweet and sleepy third baby can. She heals a part of my heart that only a daughter is able to when you were unloved by your own mother. She breaks the cycle. Finally. I will always and forever protect her and my boys from ever entering into that familiar spiral.

I came from a lineage of women that refused to take any responsibility for their own actions and instead packaged everything with a pretty little bow for the outside world. It didn't matter that you hurt just long as you pretended your family was fine. You didn't have to believe in God, you just had to make sure people saw you go to church. The mother she was in public and the person she was behind closed doors were not one and the same. Because the illusion was all important, the mask so convincing, I was always the wrong one. Always. As children, we were taught to protect the image. First. Always. My heart broke a million times in the relationship with my mother but it never mattered. It never does when the most important thing in your life to is project perfection outwardly while playing the victim and martyr role perfectly behind the scenes. I was dying on the inside, I just had to make sure I hid the pain. More importantly that it never reflected badly back on the family. And when it did, I was always vilified, at any age. Every age. I fulfilled my wayward daughter role quite well until I became aware that it didn't have to be. And so goes the heart of the scapegoat in a family with a narcissistic mother.

None of it was real and now all of it is broken.

Meadow makes me want to be the strongest, fiercest, most empowered woman I can be. For myself and for her. For all women. I want to teach her all the things I was never taught. Give her all the permission to be herself that I was never granted. I want her to feel the maternal love I was denied. The support. The truth. The laughter. The light. The life she deserves. That every child deserves. She will have everything I didn't. I want her to know she will be loved, just as she is and whoever she grows to be. And whoever she is is just perfect. For today. For always.

My sweet little Meadow Mae, with her entire beautiful life waiting to unfold before her. Every morning, I stare at her in that soft glimmer of light. Every morning, I know that, without a doubt, she will be whole and happy in this life.

This Love

Every single night, at about 5 pm, our little Meadow's witching hour hits. It is not an easy hour for our family. Between dinner and dishes, evening stories and tubbies, 5-6 ends up being the crescendo for our already loud day.

But after having two babies that refused to sleep, I am so grateful for a baby that asks to go to bed. Dinner is left to simmer, dishes are left dirty, and the bath water cools. Out of the wrap she goes and into a quick bath followed by warm Pjs. I massage her little arms and chest with lotion and wrap her tight in her swaddle. Then we read this "I Love You" book that grandpa sent. It immediately calms her. Even from a near feverish scream. As soon as the first page is read she has completely calmed. I kiss her round cheeks after each page and she smiles. The same sweet smile she shows us all day. The lights go off and the white noise on. She drifts to sleep and thankfully stays there until at least midnight.

Yesterday, I needed help. The baby was fussy but didn't want to be wrapped. So I laid her in our bed and her brother asked if he could read to her while I finished the dishes. For an hour, this sweet boy read the same 10 pages over and over, changing the story every single time. I love that he can make up his own stories. Meadow laid there just staring at him and smiling. It is the kind of sibling love that makes me completely forget that an hour before I heard battle cries over legos coming from the boys' room.

It is this type of love that I hope they remember.

Please, Universe

I’m sharing this photo as a statement to the universe. Because you have to put your hopes and dreams out there for them to happen.

So Universe, this summer I want to go to Hawaii with my family. I want to rent a van with beds in it and travel the island (or islands if you feel so generous). I want to get paid for it or at least break even. I want to adventure. I want to see my kids climb mountains and play in the rain.

This photo was taken in Victoria from my family’s greatest adventure so far. A few short weeks before this, the rug had been ripped out from under out feet. My husband had been working up to 20 hours a day, some of those days were 7 days a week to finish a project at work. I was 6 months pregnant, we had just bought a new house with a hefty new mortgage, we were finally in a happy place financially and we were excited for the future as a family. Until it all went south.

Without warning, he was let go. The day he was let go, he was also told he wouldn’t be paid for all of his overtime. All of those hard hours he was killing himself. All of those hours that we missed as a family. All of the extra housework because he was only home for a few hours when we were sleeping. He was told to be grateful for the experience. Can you even imagine?

This lit a fire in both of us. For my husband, it was to start his own business. Make his own hours. Pay his own employees and treat them with the respect we weren’t afforded. For me, it was to hit the road. To pack up our falling apart travel trailer and load the kids and one of our pups into our 15 year old car and send offerings to Buddha to make it to the Canadian border.

We set off. We had less than zero dollars to spend on anything that wasn’t gas or Voodoo donuts. We slept in our trailer in the most beautiful rest stops in America and Canada. We swam in lakes beneath the great Mt. Shasta. We took detours and had no idea where our destination was. We saw the coast. We saw the mountains. We explored.

Our kids stopped asking to watch movies and started looking outside their bubble. They were dirty and muddy and I’ve never seen them so happy to be outside. They smelled like campfire. They rode their scooters at places I have dreamed of visiting since I was little. We were happy and tired. It was the most perfect adventure.

I want to do this every summer. I want to pick an adventure and go. I want my kids to always ask for more life. To not worry about having nice clothes. To not care what people think.
To be happy and free.

So Universe, I did my part. Now you do yours.

Please.