San Diego is Good for the Soul.

We flew back on Sunday from San Diego, after a long weekend spent with my family and our friends celebrating the wedding of my dear sister and her sweet groom. If I could describe my emotional state on our flight out versus our flight back for you in quantifiable terms, the distance would be huge. I was seriously wound up on the way there, irritable and stressed, not at all how I'd imagined I'd spend the first hours of our "adults-only" vacation with Niall. We had a rental car mishap, which we discovered just as we landed, and I was anxious to get to my family, so the 45 minute delay we had before getting on the road felt utterly tragic. I was a mess and grumpy, a migraine forming in my right frontal lobe, generally out of sorts.

Thankfully, San Diego is this sort of unreal version of real life. My sister lives in Del Mar, north of the city, about 500 feet from the beach access. Insane. After our rental car fiasco, we met my mother for lunch and made our way down to the beach. As soon as I saw the Pacific Ocean, with it's vast and roaring waves, it's sandy beaches pushing up against craggily cliffs topped with palm trees, I started to breathe. I'm literally gobsmacked by the natural beauty of the Pacific coast every time I see it. 

Del Mar isn't a touristy area and on that Wednesday afternoon as the sun was just starting to make it's descent, groups of kids piled out of cars. While their sandy hair flopped in their eyes, and with their wet suits half-zipped, they scrambled down the beach towards the waves, surfboard leashes trailing behind. After-school surf lessons. For real.

As we walked along the beach that first afternoon, I totally decompressed. The stress of the journey, and leaving the kids, and the nervous excitement about the upcoming days slid away for a few moments. I've always sort of snickered at those "hippy California people", practicing their sun salutations at the crack of dawn down by the shore. But, I've changed my tune. Yogi on. San Diego is just good for the soul. 

The weekend was wonderful. The wedding was perfect and a day that will always hold a very, very special place in my heart. My brother and sister, their spouses, our parents, Niall and I; we made such good memories together last weekend. These are just a couple of photos, iPhone snaps, of our time. We were very busy just being last weekend and though I didn't capture it all on camera, I'm harnessing the power of the waves, the warmth of the sunshine, and the love of my family this week back at home. 

Is it Fall outside?

Christopher spent a lot of time over the summer asking if it was Fall yet. I didn't realize he knew what season was what, and I must have mentioned throughout the summer that school and soccer were both starting in the Fall. He knew that the leaves would change and drop to the ground, and many days during the start of September, he'd wake up and ask if it was Fall outside. The first leaves started to flutter to the ground in late September, and on one of those early days as he watched the backyard from the breakfast table, a few leaves blew across. He was so excited as he exclaimed "Mama, it's FALL outside today!"

We are seriously savoring Fall around here this year for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it's always been my favorite season. Crisp air, pumpkins everywhere, cozy blankets, football. Falling leaves are just about my favorite thing mother nature has to offer, and the Midwest has not disappointed this year. I've honestly never seen a Fall like this anywhere else that I've lived, and I'm feeling pretty grateful for the gorgeous scenery going on right now. Secondly, I know logically what's coming in terms of weather over the next several months, though I still can't really get my head around double digit snowfall predications and below 0 temperature readings. I'm certain that as the dark and cold days of January and February trudge on, I'll be thinking about all these mild autumn days and I feel like I'm going to need a reserve of memories to draw on. 

We've been getting outside as often as we can, and the guys are just as smitten with the falling leaves as I am. They've been begging to rake up a big giant pile to jump into, so I'm thinking we'll get going on that activity pretty soon. Pumpkin carving, leaf watching, costume wearing, and candy eating are the priorities this week. 

Starting Where I Am

If you knew how many drafts I've got saved in my blog workspace right now you'd probably laugh. I've been writing quite a bit, but they seem to be endless essays with lots run on sentences and not a lot of focus. They are also a little bit raw, and very honest, and frankly a bit scary. 

I've spent the last six months really thinking about where I want this to go, if it needs to go anywhere, and in the process I've sort of just shut it all down. I've been so conflicted about what to do with it, which has manifested itself in a giant case of self-doubt regarding it, which has pretty much just paralyzed it. I'm unsure about what I want to share, why I should even want to share it, who in the world will want to read it, why I'm concerned with who's reading it, and then frankly, not enough pictures. 

Which leads me to mention two blogs post I read today that clarified a few things for me, got me thinking about the whole situation in a new light, and urged me to get on here and actually hit the publish button on something, anything.

First. Social media, blogging, Instagramming, etc. is like my stay-at-home mom water-cooler. It's my way of connecting with people. And I'm sort of sick of feeling guilty about loving it so much. Yes, I actually "know" only a handful (less, even) of the bloggers and grammers I follow, but for whatever reason, I connect with these people. Whether it be through their gorgeous imagery, thoughtful words, yummy dinners, or funny kid pictures, social media is just that; a way for me to feel social in my stay-at-home mom world. Yes, I think I can get a little too involved, and just like I had to refrain from too much chatter with colleagues at the office, I have to refrain from too much screen time with my phone. But gosh darn it, if I want to share a whole bunch of nonsensical garbage on this blog or on my Instagram, I'm going to do it. 

Second. This space started off as, and then lost it's way as, a way to document our little life. Our families and friends are flung far and wide and though we talk with them regularly, I know that sharing pictures of the kids and our goings-on has brought so much joy to the grandparents and aunts and uncles and friends we miss so much. And the boys, don't get me started on how much they love to look at the photos of themselves on these pages. I don't know if they'll be very interested in looking back nostalgically (maybe their future spouses will), but when I'm 50 or 75 or 100, I'll want to have the years of memories somewhere, and this blog feels as good a place as any. This space has also given me such joy artistically. I love photography. I love taking pictures and capturing beauty and processing photos. I've learned and grown more than I thought I could (or needed to, HA!) in this hobby and it's brought me, for the most part, so much peace. And these are just such good things. 

So, I suppose I'm just going to start here, where I am, in the middle of all the conflicting feelings of self-doubt and unease and just get after it. I used to be able to write so freely here and with such ease, and I genuinely miss that. So here I am, back at it again. Go easy on me. 

A 3 year old.

A couple weeks ago, our little guy turned 3. I had intended to get his birthday shots on his actual birthday but after a long day at Legoland, way too much sugar, and no nap, neither of us was in top photo form. The two of us took a special trip down to the train park last night as the sun was winding down on a truly gorgeous early fall afternoon. He was delighted to be on a special adventure, just the two of us, and he was wild and inquisitive as always as we trekked through some weeds and dirt and then into an open field. 

Matthew's smile lights up my whole life. He's so quick to laugh, always eager to get into a little bit of trouble, and the most snuggliest of all my boys. At 3 years old he's ready to be 5, and has been such a pal for his big brother. Happy birthday (we're still singing it, 3 weeks later) little man. I love you!

My friend Ryan.

My oldest friend came to visit in June. This is Ryan. Loyal, genuine, funny. Stylish, handsome, sincere. Lover of books and running and dogs (his own), he's been someone who has seen me through some of my most favorite times and also made me laugh through some of my worst. He completed all of my art projects in high school, drove me home from college every year, helped me rescue a days old kitten, carried my ski boots, makes a mean mix tape, sends me funny cards, styled my living room, straightened my parents pictures, continued to call me when I went off the grid, consulted on my Abercrombie purchases, bought me my first fake ID, and was my best bridesman.

We realized this summer we've know each other 18 years, which is both shocking and quite remarkable. I've never known someone for as long as I've known Ryan; a situation I credit him with entirely. I'm not great at long distance communication and have had many, many relationships wane over the course of years apart. Ryan's loyalty is one best gifts he's given me. He's my only lifelong friend. And while he's got some seriously embarrassing stories about me, I'm so glad he's continued to be a part of my life. 

Happy Saturday Mom

Yesterday my Mom asked if I'd put down my camera.

The answer is yes, and no. I've been shooting about once a week, enough to keep up an active archive of kiddo pictures, but not so often that I'm constantly angling for the best shot. Niall can get, understandably, a little eye-rolly when I bust out my camera everywhere we go. I get it, and so I've been working on enjoying the moment a bit more this summer. I've consciously left the big camera at home more often than not and have relied on my iPhone and Instagram as a way to truly capture and share our everyday. 

We found ourselves with a morning free of activity a couple weeks ago and as I was tidying our bedroom, the boys barreled in, as they always do, to make a mess. The morning light in that room is my favorite in the house, so I decided I'd grab my camera and shoot some fun PJ portraits of the guys. 

Hope you enjoy these Mom!


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.


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 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!