I needed the quiet

The magic wore off today.

Yesterday we were so wrapped in love and gratitude and today was just rough. The kids, filled with extra sugar from the pumpkin pie they made were loud and insane. Me, tired from burning some midnight oil lately, was not my best self. My husband had to catch up on some work (STORY OF OUR LIVES) and I had hoped a little fresh air would shake things up as it usually does for us. So I grabbed my camera and threw the kids in the car for a quick sunset hike slash crystal scavenger hunt.

It didn’t work. I felt even more irritated there. The kids were even louder and more insane (yes, I totally realize they’re playing off my crap mood). We *just* missed the sunset and I was a total downer. I just wanted some peace and I realized it wasn’t coming from within today.  

Normally, when we hike, the boys run ahead, dig for rocks, try to find snakes even though I warn them a billion times to stay away from the snake holes. Normally, we play. Or they play and I capture it. But today I needed peace. And peaceful photos. I needed the quiet. So, I separated the boys and they instantly calmed. The baby finally fell asleep on my chest all snug in her carrier. We all took a deep breath and inhaled the quiet. The boys let me photograph them in their peaceful moments, which honestly are pretty rare these days.

I needed these quiet moments.

Turkey Day

I am so grateful for this mess of a life.

The kids that don’t sleep. These dogs that don’t listen. This house that is never clean.

Every day without fail, we wake up healthy, safe, and mostly happy. We have hot running water, the ability to buy good beer, and friends that have become family. We have laughter and happiness and we love each other fiercely. Each person pulling their portion of this messy train we call a family. I am so grateful for my little family and I am so grateful for you.

Happy Thanksgiving, I hope your day was filled with as many mimosas and movies as ours was.

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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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Six

Six.

I can barely say it out loud let alone believe it. Six years ago today, you came screaming into this world and didn’t stop for the first two years of your life. Ironically, right now you are bundled up all snug in your bed, not ready at all to get up for the day.

Daniel Grayson, I can’t believe how much you’ve grown in the past year. In all aspects. You are an amazing little human, a unique little man, a connoisseur of crystals, hot cocoa, and bubble tubbies. You are the best big brother to your siblings, the look of love they have when you help them is only reserved for you. You are incredibly smart, undeniably sweet, and give the best hugs. Whenever you see Dad and I hug, you run from whatever part of the house you are in and give us both the biggest squeeze, which is when Ev comes running in to complete it. You are a great friend and the sweetest of sweet. You love the beach and the Smith family “bazzagna and neatballs”. You are always exploring, adventuring, and using your imagination.  We couldn’t imagine a more perfect kiddo to start our family.

We love you so much, Daniel Grayson! Happy birthday, little love of mine.

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The Hairvolution of Bon Jon Baby

1 year. Hair halfway down her back. From the little Golden Girls do she was born with to matching top knots with mommy. This girl and her sweet beauty have stolen our hearts.

 

Here's the Hairvolution of Bon Jon Baby in pictures (naturally).

Meadow, just a few days old.

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Everyone told us it would be such a shame when her hair fell out but it just kept growing...

And here's the mop of hair on her half birthday

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Don't worry, we now own detangler...

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Perfect Pumkin Patch Fail

It’s always when I try to prove we can be normal that we fail the hardest. I’ve been seeing everyone’s perfect pumpkin patch pictures, with kids dressed in perfectly coordinated fall clothes, smiling perfectly at the camera. I guess you could say I just wanted to see if we could even pretend to be normal, just for a few hours.

The answer is no. Absolutely not.

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But at least we have fun.

Happy Birthday, Minnow Mae

My name is Meadow Mae. Code name: Bon Jon Baby for my glorious mop of hair.  

Today, I am one.

I am sweet and beautiful, like a little elfin princess. I bring joy and laughter and all things good into this world. I hyperventilate with giggles when I see puppies or goats, especially my own Dax Shepard who has not stopped licking my face for an entire year. I love to walk around my house with my new mower while singing to myself. I adore my brothers and their sweet forehead kisses. I still sleep in my parents’ bed but have since kicked dad to the couch by constant midnight kicks to the face. I am smart and inquisitive and I also love to pull the recycle bin over just for fun. I love my daily walks with our pups, cuddled up to moms heart in the baby carrier. I love having my hair brushed. I will eat anything you put in front of me. My mom calls me Vladimir Putin because I’m always Pootin. I love sitting in the grass and playing in the sand. I love naps (only if Mom is holding me). I am an expert cord puller out of the wall and really love to sample all the cord flavors in the house. I love playing cars with my brudders. My dad sneaks kisses to my forehead when he thinks no one is looking. I complete my little family. I’m pretty much perfect.

Happy birthday to me.

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Austin and Michelle Gardella Magic

I still have no words for this weekend in Austin. I have never been somewhere I needed to be more in my little life. Michelle Gardella is a beacon of light and if find yourself in her presence, count yourself as one of the lucky ones.

Also, everything BW is edited with her presets, which happen to be the only BW presets that I've ever loved. You can find them here:

http://www.michellegardella.com/shop/lrstormywaters

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.

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 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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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.

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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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

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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