Toddlerhood is such a unique time in your life as parents. Yeah, I said unique. I choose my words carefully, because toddlerhood can go from one extreme to the other in about 2 seconds. It can be all cuddles and sloppy kisses one minute and 30 seconds later be an epic, bring-down-the-house meltdown. It's a wild, yet beautiful ride.
Toddlers are such interesting little creatures. They are growing, learning, and exploring at a crazy fast pace. Sometimes, you just need to take a step back from all the crazy, climb up on the trampoline, and watch the clouds go by.
So, that's what we did.
I love seeing the family connection here.
I heard this quote from another podcast by Marie Masse (one of my favorite photographers) and her special guest was Nick McArthur. I'm paraphrasing what he said, but basically it was something like this "I'm not here to make you pretty. I'm not going to photoshop you skinny or shoot your perfect house. I'm going to take your mess and show you the beauty in that."
That resonates so much with me. I feel like if you are here and reading my blog, then it probably does you too.
It's not about the pinterest perfect life. Who lives that way? I mean, really?! It's about the life that you have created. The people you love the most. Who you do life with.
And this, my friends, this is what life looks like. This is what capturing the moments that matter looks like. And if I've said it once, I've said it a hundred times here on my blog, real life is beautiful.
So climb up on the trampoline today or spread out a blanket on the grass, take your shoes off, and just watch the clouds go by.
Naptime. That magical period of the day when the house is quiet, mothers can eat lunch, shower, or finally get that load of clothes out of the dryer that have been dried 8 times. Maybe catch a nap too...
That sweet, precious little one is sleeping so peacefully. And strangely, you begin to miss them. And you just want to wake them up and snuggle them and kiss them- but you don't. Because that would be insane. And no one wants that kind of crazy.
But on this day, during this particular naptime, I was invited to document naptime.
I love a sleeping baby. I don't think there is anything more precious than seeing their chest gently rise and fall, their long eyelashes resting on their plump little cheeks, and hearing the sweet sighs they make every now and then while dreaming of some milky, cuddly dreamland. I do wonder what they dream of...
And when he wakes up, he knows his mommy will be there with open arms and a big smile on her face ready to play the day away until daddy comes home.
Being a mother is one of the most rewarding jobs anyone could possibly have. The sleepless nights, the seemingly endless days of teething, cuddling a cranky baby for hours, forgetting to eat, and a mountain of laundry- everything is worth it when those big eyes look up at you with all the love and adoration in the world. And these little naptime moments are the ones that are in danger of slipping away from us, so easily forgotten are the "ordinary" days of sitting on the floor reading a book. We get caught up in these big moments and these extraordinary events that these little moments often don't get documented. The memory fades. But on this day, they were documented and we will always remember this particular naptime on a Sunday afternoon in February, in a little house in Chesapeake, Virginia.
If you live in the Chesapeake or Hampton Roads area of Virginia and would like to schedule your own documentary family session, please contact me using the Contact tab above. I'd love to hear from you!
I can't lie. I am a self proclaimed Costco snob. I drive about 25 minutes out of my way and pay a toll to the nearest Costco, straight past the other warehouse stores. It's true. I can always count on finding an enormous amount of everything I need and sometimes a few enormous amounts of things I don't need. Who can resist the bargains? I can't. I absolutely need 10,000 tablets of the Kirkland brand Tylenol. Have you had their rotisserie chicken? Oh my goodness, it's the best. Trust me. The membership is worth it for that one item every week alone.
I always have my children with me. And like every mother in the world, there are times when I can absolutely pull my hair out. My three-nager is the one screaming on the floor...you can hear the echos of his earth shattering "trauma" throughout the entire warehouse. All the while, my daughter is dancing and twirling in an alternate reality a million miles from me- the one grounded here in reality. I'm trying to grab their delicious organic tortilla chips and the perfect cantina style salsa I can't live without and they are trying to lick raw chicken.
It has been a personal mission of mine to document us more out in the world instead of so much in our "comfort zone". I happened to have my gear with me this past week on one of the busiest shopping days of the month. Payday. Bravely, I strapped my camera to me, took a deep breath, grabbed the kids hands, and began the treacherous trek across the insanity that happens to be the Costco parking lot. I fumbled for my membership card amidst my 1,000 other cards and prayed for a good buggy as we entered that glorious (yet slightly intimidating) warehouse. And just like clockwork, the kids personalities came out in full force.
She began singing and twirling and he suddenly became ravenously hungry and needed a snack (or a slice of pizza) immediately. And they both had to potty.
Anyways, about 50 feet into the entrance I remembered my mission. I put my "mom hat" aside, if you will, and put on my "photographer" hat. I flipped the switch. I began watching them, trying to visualize the world through their eyes. Costco must be the biggest place on Earth to them. Filled with delicious samples and snacks. How can they take a mundane task like grocery shopping (on payday) and have fun? Like, actual fun? People must've thought I was crazy, following my kids around with an gigantic camera and taking seemingly meaningless pictures.
But here's where it gets insanely real. This is where the truth bomb was dropped on me and where I was moved to tears. An elderly lady was in front of us in a checkout line that seemed endless. She looked at my fearless, light hearted children who were dancing and singing and playing with a plastic bag (yes, a plastic bag...like the kind you put raw meat in); and she smiled. A great, big, ear to ear smile. She played the bag game with them. And she laughed. And that's when she told me how precious they were and for me to remember times like these. I got a lump in my throat and could only vigorously nod. She's right, you know. You know it as well as I do. We will never get back that day. We will never get back that particular adventure in Costco. How important is it to truly remember these times and not focus on the cookie cutter vision of what we want our trip to Costco to be? It took me switching into photographer mode to truly see the beauty in it.
She was trying to tell me to soak this up. Soak up these memories and not to stress the small stuff. Let them be children, let them be magical and carefree. These aren't meaningless photographs and video clips to me. I've preserved them for generations to come. So that when I am watching my grandchildren play, I can pull out the album that houses these memories and tell the story of the day we went to Costco. I'm sure it will spark my dusty and faded memory. I'm sure I will remember how it felt when they hugged me with those little arms, how frustrating, humbling, and amazing motherhood can be in a span of 1 whole minute. What a rollercoaster. So that when my children come to me thinking that they are failing as parents and completely screwing their kids up, I can pull out these images and show them the beauty in it all. I can show them that it's all just a part of this amazing journey of life.
I'll never forget this woman and the lesson that was taught to me. Take it all in stride mamas, it's a beautiful ride we are on.
I'd love to hear your thoughts on this, your adventures grocery shopping with your kids. Does seeing the beauty and innocence of times like these help you through the frustrating ones? Have you ever gotten some unexpected words of encouragement from a stranger?
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Jess is a photographer serving families located in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia. She specializes in documentary and storytelling photography.