Summer

Summer hasn't really felt like summer in years. Since college maybe? Those long days spent entirely outside, running and climbing and splashing. I remember falling into bed sometimes, hair still wet, in fresh pajamas which felt so distinctly summery after a day spent in my damp bathing suit. Exhausted, I'd fall asleep with the sun still high, my bright pink nose and shoulders still warm from my constant summer sunburn.

Those were the days.

But once college ended and the real world began, summers just weren't the same. Sure there were weekend days spent outdoors, but the feeling wasn't as carefree, as relaxed and exhausted. After the full-time real world job became the full-time mom job, summers involved babies and small kids. And though amply full of "free" time, they felt just like those real world job summers. Only sweatier.

But I've got a good feeling about this summer. The kids are shooting into a really fun age. I mean we still have epic meltdowns on the regular, but they can actually do some things. On their own, with much more minimal supervision. Naps can be skipped occasionally meaning we don't necessarily have to rush home at 12:55. And today for the first time in years, I really got that summer feeling while watching the kids play at the pool all day long. We arrived at 10:15 this morning for swim lessons and unexpectedly stayed until 4. I made the executive decision we'd skip naps at about 1:30 and we raided the snack bar for refreshments. Their angelic faces (HA!) were full of delight with each splash, I hadn't heard a screaming screech in hours, and the allure of a 6:00 bedtime was just too strong to shake. 

So we stayed and played. And the kids went to bed while the sun was still high in the sky with pink noses and fresh pajamas, utterly exhausted.

Sprinkling

Last weekend we tackled what has been my personal biggest challenge thus far in day-to-day parenting. Potty training. Good grief. Somebody should write a manual for this. Oh wait, they have! They call it the 3 Day Method! I think they should burn it! Somebody should write a manual for how to manage the stress of it as the parent, I mean. 

We attempted the 3 Day Method with Christopher a whopping 3 times, over the course of nearly 12 months. In the end, I think he was potty trained (I mean, let's face it, he still has occasional accidents), just a few weeks (days?) shy of his 3rd birthday and it certainly took longer than 3 days.  The entire ordeal was seriously so frustrating and stressful for us both, I didn't even think I'd broach the subject with Matthew until his 3rd birthday had passed.

But, our new preschool starts at age 3 and has a "fully potty trained" requirement, so as his 3rd birthday is the day before school starts, I figured we'd better get going on the training. I mentioned it to a few people in passing, strangers mostly, who don't know the drama of training Christopher and every one of them said brightly "Oh! It'll be fine! Just do the 3 day method"! And I politely smiled, privately sulked, and put it off. 

I'm not sure why I decided last Friday that we were going to go for it, but 11:30am found us at Target in the underwear aisle with a dozen new Lightning McQueen undies, a matching potty seat, and a mediocre level of excitement. This is usually the way things go for me...I buy all the ingredients knowing they'll serve as the motivation to actually start a project. By 5:00pm Matthew had soaked a carpet sample at Home Depot (totally my bad) and left a small puddle in the grocery store (why I thought we'd be safe to go out is beyond me).  I was sure we should call it in and postpone preschool next year. But by Monday afternoon we were flying. And, here we are on Wednesday, about 75% done I think.  

And frankly, most things in my life are about 75% done these days, so I'm calling it a success. 

So I guess the 3 day method sort of worked, except that it's day 6 and we're still not quite there. On Sunday evening, after about a dozen outfit changes that day, we decided to take a quick breather. We let the boys go wild in the backyard with the hose, spraying themselves and the dog in the warm evening air. It was such a great release for everyone I think. Freedom from the potty and constant "dry" checks, and a chance for the boys to run free for a while. 

I had intended for these photos to be mostly of Matthew, but had to include the last two of Christopher because um hello, teenager. What?

I feel like I can safely say we'll see this thing through before the end of the summer. Daytime diapers be gone!

The Joker

Christopher proudly declared as he jumped into the car after preschool, clobbering over his brother and flinging is backpack over the front passenger seat, that he told his "Knock Knocks" today. 

His "Knock Knocks" go a bit like this:

"Knock Knock"
"Who's there"
"The chicken that crossed the road and went down the street and then saw a doggy eat ice cream."

And then he laughs hysterically.

He learned to tell knock knock jokes from his Pop Pop before we left Seattle. Each week on our Skype call, Pop Pop recites a couple new jokes to us, and the kids laugh and laugh. Sometimes we practice Pop Pop's jokes during the call, and sometimes Christopher tells us his own.  A sort of random brain dump of something he thinks might be funny to see. Mostly beginning with a chicken that crossed a road. And we all laugh with and at Christopher, exchanging sideways glances and wondering where he comes up with his material.

I can't help but wonder which jokes he decided to tell his pals at school. I wonder if he laughed hysterically at himself when he was finished, and whether the teacher chuckled along kindly. 

Settling In.

I feel like I've been taking a lot of deep breaths lately. Breaths that stretch deep down into my lungs and allow me to settle in and sink down, tension evaporating with each exhale. The turmoil of the last several months is starting to shape it's way into a memory. Thank goodness. There were definite highlights. We spent 4 months with my parents, which was such a gift. I loved watching them be grandparents, and the bond they have with the boys is something I'm so grateful for. 

But I, admittedly, was not at my best. I'm not so good with stress. And, I'm not so good at having our entire life up in the air. So while I enjoyed our time in Seattle with my parents so much, I'm feeling much more settled in and grounded these days. 

We are absolutely in love with the little house we bought. We've got a bucket list going of things we're dreaming of doing around here, and we've knocked a couple off the list already. The town we ended up in is completely different than where I imagined we'd be, but I'm so thankful we landed here. It just feels good. 

We've got no routine of any kind established just yet, and I don't imagine we will for some time. I begged our local parish preschool to take Christopher for the remainder of the year, sight unseen, and after his first weeks he's smitten with his teachers and the fact that there are big kid busses out front. I'm smitten with the fact that there's a carpool line for preschool. I've somehow managed to wiggle them both a spot for next year, provided Matthew is potty-trained. Thinking positive!

All in all we're doing so well. We've got some great neighbor friends on each side, who've welcomed us so well already. I can definitively say that spring is springing; the lilies in my garden confirm, and we've been spending long afternoons running around outside with our new friends next door. We're still pinching ourselves over here, and feeling so grateful.

The Guy Turns 4

Our biggest little man turned 4. Goodness, FOUR. We celebrated with adventure, our favorite way to celebrate, and spent the day in the city. We lunched and rode in taxis and ascended the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere and ate a seriously ridiculous lava volcano sparkler cake. It was magic. 

Christopher has become a very early riser. So on his birthday after he crept into my room at 5 minutes to 6 in the morning, instead of pulling him into bed for an extra snuggle, the two of us snuck quietly out of the house for our first adventure of the day. A quick sunrise photo shoot down by the train tracks and a stop at Starbucks on the way home. I love how these 4 year old portraits turned out. He looks so mature and serious, which is both perfectly fitting and totally unlike him depending on the hour. 

Happy Birthday big little guy. We love you. Lots.

Um, and then it snowed.

Second and last post on snow! Promise.

I'd by lying if I said we weren't a little excited to see some snow flurries. In fact, the whole time we were in Seattle I wished and wished we'd arrive here in Chicago in time for the last snow of the season. We're not ready for a Chicago winter, not by a long shot, but a quick spring snow? Perfect. 

The guys and I spent the afternoon watching the flurries come down and start to accumulate from this sweet window bench seat in the our bedroom. It looks out the back of the house; sort of a dormer window peeking out between the slant of the roof. There's a flat surface about 5 feet wide across and deep just outside the window, on which I'm thinking I'll plant some window boxes. The morning light streaming in is insanely lovely and waking up to some vibrant flowers might be quite a treat. 

Post Nap Gaze

Post nap gaze. Out the front door. AT THE SNOW. 

I have no further comments to make because we were so lucky we missed the winter Chicago had this year. But Spring, if you're listening, HURRY UP.

Baby James + Family

I loved everything about this session. Multiple generations, a sweet sweet baby boy, rocky Pacific Northwest beaches, pale muted colors, and some time with two of my brother and sister-in-laws very closest friends. Gregor and Nicole, I had a blast (like, really, a great time) laughing with you and photographing your beautiful family. 

Baby Elly

Meet sweet Elly. I've been so fortunate to meet several new families while I've been here in Seattle, and meeting Elly and her parents was no exception. Newborns are such fun to work with and I feel like I'm gaining some traction each time I shoot. I just about squealed when I arrived to a room full of pink furry bows and sweet soft booties. Newborn girls are fun, I'm learning. 

I hope you enjoy these shots of Elly in all her newness!

Moody Window Light + My Monkey, Matthew

**This was supposed to post last week but things like moving across the country got in the way. Whoops.**

I'm going to miss a lot of things about Seattle. My parents, for sure. Rediscovering old haunts and finding new ones. The coffee. Oh my gosh, the coffee. 

My camera however is going to miss the moody flat gray light. We haven't seen a whole heck of a lot of the sun in 2014, as is to be expected in these parts, and I've developed a sincere love for moody rainy days and unexpected pockets of window light. Shooting outside is a dream here. DREAM. I've got a post scheduled for next week with the most lovely soft colors, shot on a gray Seattle day at the beach.  I'm actually a little bit afraid of what the sun is going to do to my camera when they cross paths again in Chicago. Sun flare, haze, what?! 

Matthew is 2 and half years old and the most mischievous little monkey I know. This kid. He's either going to be a rugby player or an acrobat. He's got the appetite and energy of a linebacker and the balance and coordination of tightrope walker. And he's finally, FINALLY, starting to let me take his picture. Sometimes I feel like Christopher dominates the camera. He's totally comfortable with it at this stage and can sit still and take direction. Matthew just never stops moving. I swear I do actually have photos of him, they're just mostly a blur.

So when I noticed some moody light streaming in the kitchen window, I grabbed a bag of chips and bowl of salsa and let him go to town. These shots turned out just as I'd hoped. Dark and dramatic and showing Matthew being lighthearted and goofy. And, a really fun exercise in creativity for me.

Us Sheedys

Oh dear. I'm afraid I've had these photos of my sweet family sitting all packaged up in a very adorable USB for terribly too long. My dear friend Cheyenne Schultz came to stay with us last fall while she participated in a conference (which I'm dying to attend one day) called Making Things Happen. She brought with her a delicious seasonal gift basket, warm hugs and long comfortable conversations, and her sweet sweet (then 8 month old) daughter Crew.  I'm sure I smiled the whole two days they were visiting. 

Cheyenne and I go back to our days in college together at the University of Redlands. She was the only person I knew in North Carolina when we moved to Raleigh 5 years ago (even though she lives in Charlotte). Cheyenne and her husband Geoff photographed our wedding in the Bahamas, way way way back when, and we've been fortunate enough to see them yearly since arriving in NC. Though we don't get to spend nearly as much "facetime" as I'd like, Cheyenne's friendship is easy and earnest, humble and heartwarming, and just plain comfortable. She's the kind of person who makes you feel good about yourself; always encouraging, always honest. I admire so much about her and feel so thankful I can call her a friend. 

In exchange for hanging out with Crew while Cheyenne was making things happen, she snapped some pictures for me of my family. The first proper family photographs we'd had taken with the kids, ever. I know. I know. I'd say I definitely got the better end of the deal on this one. Crew was about the easiest kid I've ever "babysat" and I so enjoyed playing Mama to 3 for a couple of days. And I mean just scroll through the photos below. She captured my family beautifully. Canvas has been ordered, gallery wall sketched. I'm so very lucky. 

Cheyenne and her husband Geoff are The Schultzes, wedding photographers based in Charlotte, NC. You need to check out their beautiful work and their brand new website. It's just so delightfully lovely. Thank you dear Cheyenne. These are a such a gift. 

Baby Archer

Words can't even begin to describe how beautiful this little guy is.

Almost a year ago, my dear friend Andrea and I were chatting pregnancy and babies and motherhood and I was crossing my fingers and toes at the time that she'd be pregnant with her first child soon. Andrea and I have been pals since the first day of freshman year in college when she came bounding into my dorm room wearing a Dave Matthew's Band t-shirt and inviting me to dinner at the Commons. That t-shirt sealed the deal, and we remained roommates (in some capacity...one year with me frequently sleeping on her dorm room floor) for rest of our years in college. She's been a constant in my life all these years, and no matter how far the distance or how infrequent the phone calls we always go back to where we left off like nothing has changed. Her friendship is something I'm so very thankful for.

I got to spend some time with Andrea and her husband Simon (I'll spare you his college nickname) last weekend and I just can't help but feel so lucky that we happened to be here in Seattle, still, so that I could meet Archer.

Andrea and Simon, you guys are incredible parents already. Listening to you talk about your son and watching you interact with him was a blessing to me. This little guy is so loved already, and I can't wait to watch you guys grow as family. 

All my love!

Shamrock Sheedys 2014

You didn't actually think you'd make it through the day without seeing a few snaps of my little shamrocks, did you?

We're celebrating with corned beef and cabbage, irish soda bread, and perhaps a few pints of the black stuff. Special thanks to Pop Pop for the shamrock shirts which arrived in the knick of time. 

Happy St. Patrick's Day to you!

Reporting In: Update from Team Sheedy

Last weekend I fell hard for an ancient pistachio sink, matching towel racks, and a soap holder in a master bathroom. Like really hard.

master bath.jpg

Since I last checked in on Valentines Day (!), we've bought a house, returned a house, had a week of utter emotional exhaustion, and...bought another house. Phew. Our house in Raleigh sold in early February and we started our search for new digs the following weekend. We found a charming, very small, 100 year old bungalow in a super area of Chicago and jumped. A couple of days later it failed (like, literally failed) its inspection, and we quickly withdrew our offer. And then emotional distress (on my part) ensued and I was sure we'd never find another home or community in the entire city of Chicago to live in. Thankfully I have a very practical and very patient husband, and shockingly (not really shocking at all) we managed to find another community and home we love. And this morning it passed inspection! Because I'm a total worry wart I'm convinced some sort of disaster is going to happen and we won't actually close on this house in 3 weeks, but I'm trying to stay positive. This is me being positive! 

Did I mention there are matching pistachio tiles in the shower? Swoon. 

I can't wait to share more details on the village we chose and the home itself. For now, think English cottage, exposed wooden beams, secret hobbit rooms, and lots and lots of white walls. We're dying over here and can't wait to get our little family settled in.

One more peek: the boys room is below. I also fell hard for this little secret hobbit room we'll kit out for the kids. Christopher is slightly concerned about bumping his noggin on the roof, but I'm sure he'll get over that when he discovers all the nooks and crannies in there to store his toys. 

bed.jpg

So if you'll excuse my absence for just a little while longer, I'd appreciate it. I'm super busy over here worrying my little heart out and just praying that everything goes smoothly from here on. 23 days and counting. Chicago here we come!

Muddy Monster Truck Morning

There will be no red and pink or foof and fluff in this Valentine's post! Just some shots of the boys I love most and of the trucks they love most. A perfect love day share from my family to you. Sadly I don't have nearly enough pictures of my biggest dreamboat, though I'm sure he'd be quite embarrassed if I did create a montage to him here. Know this though; he's quite cute and very smiley and full of so much love for our little family. Someone pinch me.

Pike Place Market : Seattle, WA

My most favorite Seattle landmark is Pike Place Market. I've always been a sucker for farmer's markets, and perhaps this is the root of the reason why. Growing up we'd take anyone and everyone who came to visit us in Seattle down to the waterfront to show them our famous market and the famous flying fish. There is such a colorful vibe going on down here and I make it a point to visit at least once every time I'm in town (I've been a half-dozen times already since we've been in Seattle). 

On this particular morning, the weather was fairly moody, and the vendors were still setting up for the day. It's noticeably quieter down here on a weekday morning, but you really get a good feel for the farmers, florists, and craftspeople who set up shop in their stalls. They're working for their living down here, not merely part of the tourist spectacle. And they are always happy to chat about their story. 

Even the kids were grossed out...Seattle Bubble Gum Wall

Meet the infamous bubblegum wall of Seattle. Located just steps from Pike Place Market, this hidden alleyway boasts one of the germiest tourist attractions in America. I'd actually never visited myself (didn't even know it existed when I lived here years ago), but had been wanting to show the kids. 

I generally don't consider myself someone who gets freaked out by germs; I believe in boosting immune systems. However, this place was just gross. Not only is the wall immense and literally covered in gum, it stinks. Wafting off the thing was what I can only describe as an odor of stale fruit mixed with bad breath. Even the kids were grossed out and wouldn't go near the thing. I was certain I'd have to wrangle Matthew, my sensory child who still puts everything he can find into his mouth at nearly 2.5 years old, but even he stood a cool 5 feet away and made no move to touch anything. 

A fun sidestep from Pike Place for sure, but prepare to be thoroughly disgusted!

05//52: Noise

She can turn it up or turn it down! My mother has been hard of hearing for years and finally decided to get aids a few years ago. She said the noise of the world was deafening at first, but we're all so thankful she has them now. Finally she can fully participate in the world around her!

noise.jpg

Brotherhood: Ages 2 & 3

They say a picture is worth thousand words.

IMG_0036-1.jpg

Something really magical is starting to happen between these two. I mean they've always been fond of each other. We never had issues with Christopher harming Matthew when he was born. He was never jealous or rough or angry. And thankfully, we've had nothing beyond minor squabbles since then.  A stolen toy, an annoying foot that creeps into the other's space, a disagreement between Mickey Mouse or Thomas the Train. Kid stuff. 

But something is starting to change. Matthew has been looking up to Christopher for some months now. Watching him intently in new situations, always a half step behind eager to keep up and aware of his big brother's reaction. I'm not sure Christopher really noticed until a few weeks ago, but he's quickly becoming the "big" brother.  More and more often I catch him explaining things to Matthew, narrating what's going on, or grabbing his hand instinctively at the edge of sidewalk. He's watching out for him. Making sure he knows what's going on. Eager to help him learn new things.

And Matthew, bless his goofy little soul, is so happy to be growing up. He's talking all the time now. Yelling out the names (in a very, very strange dialect of the English language) of everything we pass by, and cheering on the "Haw Hawks (Seahawks)" with such gusto and pride. He's so delighted to be Christopher's friend and is constantly bringing him long-forgotten toys and showing him his favorite games on the iPad. 

It's heartwarming and sweet and sentimental but it's also taken parenthood to an entirely new level. They are best friends. They're forming a connection I'll never truly understand. And while my overwhelming feeling is pride in their relationship, I'm also acutely aware that we are responsible for teaching them how to nurture and protect their bond. They'll grow up to be different people, with different goals and dreams and traits, but their brotherhood will always tie them to one another. I hope I'll learn, with time, how to step back and watch them when it's time to, jump in and rescue them when I have to, and learn from their interactions when I need to.