Several mornings this week Niall has been up just before sunrise, shoveling snow. We haven't gotten a ton of the white stuff. Just a couple of inches over the course of the last week. But unlike the snow we've dealt with in other places, warmer places, this snow sticks around. The problem with this, according to a new neighbor Niall met while clearing our driveway, is that the top layer warms just enough to melt slightly, but because the temperature hasn't risen much (we haven't even hit 15 degrees this week), it turns to ice. And that, isn't any fun. So he shovels, almost daily, so we can semi safely get into and out of the driveway. 

The boys are desperate, I mean absolutely dying, to get out there in the mornings with their dump trucks and bulldozers and help him clear the way for the cars. I considered bundling them and letting them get all their energy out before breakfast, but dang, it's just too cold out there. 

A couple of mornings ago, because he was so disappointed at the thought of staying inside while his Dad worked away, I propped Christopher up on the counter in some pretty light and let him eat his oatmeal while watching Niall work. 

I like how these quick shots turned out. Our house has these strange little pockets of unexpected and oddly placed light. It's not terribly open and bright in this little old place. I'm challenging myself to learn how to shoot the kids in here this winter, with my 50mm. Window light and getting creative with my positioning are my priorities!

Katherine & Chris - Chicago Engagment Session

I can't tell you how much I enjoyed this session with Katherine and Chris. I've been eager to get my camera on a couple of non-squirming subjects with our new city as a backdrop since we touched down in April. A few weeks before Christmas, I got my chance and shot this sweet little engagement shoot on a foggy day at North Avenue beach and in the Lincoln Park Zoo. As I drove in towards the city that morning, I prayed the fog would hang around. Prayers answered...foggy engagement session below.


Earlier this week, I shared a little session I did with sweet 6 month old Lou in our upstairs guest bedroom. When we moved into this house, that room was immediately a space I'd knew love. It's window faces east, towards our backyard and the room gets beautiful morning night. When I started decorating the room, I knew I wanted to keep it very simple and bright, so I choose to keep the walls white and added a white dresser, white floor lamp, white shelves, white mirror, and a white bedspread. It's pretty much devoid of any color whatsoever...and I love it. 

I'd been wanting to capture some images of the boys in the room and I've been thinking about grabbing my camera almost daily after shooting Lou in there a few weeks ago.  After their epic Lego session this morning with Niall, I figured they'd be calm and eager to have a little down time snuggled up in bed. I was wrong. 

These images turned out nothing like I'd imagined they would. The boys were wild, as they typically are, and I quickly realized I wasn't going to get any sweet shots of them snuggling up together or relaxing calmly among the blankets. I yelled out direction to them as I clicked and got way too sweaty and irritated during the whole thing.  I culled through all 400 of the photos I took, flagging all the blurry images with limbs flying into and out of the frame, and I narrowed down the lot to about 20 images . As I began editing them, I smiled and shook my head at my sweaty irritated self. The emotion the guys show in these pictures is 100% accurate. It's perhaps the most authentic session I've ever done with them.

They ignored every single thing that came out of my mouth up in that bedroom this morning, wildly flinging themselves all over each other and that bed they're never allowed to jump on. And as I scroll through this set, I'm so glad they did. I learned a great lesson with them today. Sometimes I just need to let them be.

Louisa: 6 months old

This sweet girl makes an appearance again! Lou and her Mama stopped by for coffee, chats, a nap (Lou), and some photographs a couple weeks ago. You might remember her sweet newborn session I posted exceedingly late, just a few weeks ago. Well she's just over 6 months old now, and is just as cute as ever. She's maybe the quietest, calmest, smiliest baby I've ever spent time with and my face just lights up every time she smiles. It's seriously the best. 

Big thanks to Lousia and her mama Colleen for hanging out and letting me get a little click happy. 

A couple minutes at the Nature Reserve

A couple weeks ago I wound my way though a part of town I'm not too familiar with in search of an open field I'd spotted back in our first weeks in Illinois. At that time the field was tall with dried out wheat and it opened to the west, which I noted would be great for afternoon or evening light. I never made it back during the spring or summer, but we found ourselves with a half an hour to kill a few weeks ago, and I decided we'd head back and check it out. 

I found out it's actually a nature preserve for Lincoln Marsh and had a trail of sorts winding though tall fields and across marshy dams. Looking back, this may have been the last warmish week we had this year.  The temperature was mild that day, and as the boys and I walked and walked, further and further away from the car without another person in sight, the sun started it's quick late fall descent. I was conscious of being out there alone with the kids, so we didn't wander as far as we'd have liked, but I've got the spot bookmarked now and I can't wait to head back for a snowy walk in the coming months (actually, probably more like weeks) with Niall and crazy Barley too. 

Amelia + Nathan

A few weeks ago I spent a morning with Amelia and Nathan hanging out in the West Loop, their old neighborhood, and snapping some pictures of them. I'd never shot a couple before, having spent the majority of time behind my lens chasing small kids around, and I have to say I found the exercise so refreshing! 

I had a great time hanging with these guys and scoping out the neighborhood. We kept passing restaurants I've read about and Nathan and Amelia, both architects, answered all my silly questions about building facades and sloping rooflines. It felt like part architecture tour, part photo walk, part hanging out with good friends. Good times, for sure. 

Four Frames with Christopher

I'm still slowly learning about the light in our house. I'm figuring out how it changes, which rooms look the best at which times of day, where little pockets fall. It's been really fun, and photographically challenging. Our old (new) house was very open and full of natural sunlight. Our new (old) house is boxy has small little windows and lots of shadows. Shooting with my 50mm in our old house posed no problems at all as there was lots of room to move about. Here, something shorter would probably be a bit better, because we don't have as much space.  As the weather gets more frigid by the day, I expect a lot of my shooting to happen indoors this winter, which will be totally different for me. YAY!

Here are a couple frames with Christopher. I noticed he stepped into some pretty window light just behind my workspace last week, and since the camera was handy, I took a few frames. I'm sharing both the color and black and white of a couple as b&w processing is totally outside of my comfort zone. With all the moody light and shadows in our house though, I'm feeling like now may be a good time to work on it!

Sweet Baby Louisa

A few weeks before the kids and I flew from Seattle to Illinois, I got a call from Niall excited about the results of the home inspection on our house. It had "passed", news we'd be holding our breaths for, crossing fingers and toes and arms that we'd be able to check just one more box on the long list of boxes that need to be checked when you buy and sell houses.

Though I was thrilled with the results of the inspection, I was much MUCH more interested in the news that Niall had spotted a girl, "who looks about your age, with two little kids, who look about C&M's ages, getting into a car in the driveway next door". That my friends was music my "Mom moving into a new neighborhood's ears." Within a few days of arriving, we'd met these neighbors, confirmed the kids ages (their oldest is just a couple weeks younger than C, their daughter about six months younger than M), and learned they were expecting their 3rd in a few weeks. 

By the time Louisa arrived, in rather spectacular fashion, the kids had become fast friends, running back and forth between the back yards and finding all the hiding places in our old house. Colleen and I learned we have lots of experiences in common, from travel to loved books, and I'm so thankful for her friendship.

Sweet Lou is almost 6 months old now, and I'm so so behind on sharing these images I captured of her during her first week of life. We have been so thankful for this family since we've moved here. Many times over the summer, the 4 big kids would barrel in through our back door, and up the stairs to the boys bedroom for a game of hide and seek. Hiding under blankets and in secret closets, their laugher and joyful noise came pouring down the stairs. 

Powell's; we feel so lucky to have gotten you as psuedo neighbors! We're thankful we get to call you guys friends. Thank you for welcoming us so well to the neighborhood. 

Getting Dressed

My kids can't dress themselves. Not even a little bit. There, I said it. Not even the 4 year old. Which is entirely my fault as a mother. Because I never let them try. 

I'm pretty uptight about time. I get it from my Mom's side of the family. She jokes it's from her Germanic roots. It's awful to admit, but being even 1 minute late, sends me into a grumpy anxious sweaty rage. Our family always did things really efficiently growing up, like not even a second was wasted. My siblings and I joke now with our spouses, who have learned that when in the presence of Patterson's, it's best to be prompt. To this day I take silly pride in figuring out a logistical dilemma in the most efficient and effective way.

Which is why my kids can't dress themselves. If we have to leave the house at 8:30am, we begin getting dressed at 8:15. And, we all know 15 minutes isn't nearly enough time for a 4 year old to get dressed and get out of the house. So I dress them myself. Frantically, and impatiently, I tug on jeans and sweatshirts and socks and shoes so we can make our departure time. We typically arrive to wherever we're going with at least 5 minutes to spare, and then we drive around aimlessly, or just simply sit and wait. I promise I understand how silly this is.

Matthew came downstairs the other day like this, and I had to laugh. Turns out the poor kid, the THREE year old, could probably dress himself with just a smidge of "help" from me, if I'd just let him.

Most often when I pray, I pray for peace, patience, and positivity. These three things, my personal little mantra, encompass most of my struggles. Thankfully, there are so many ways to practice patience as a mother. I know I've gotten better, but there's still a ways to go. Allowing the kids to dress themselves has quickly shot to top of my "ways to practice patience" list. Progress report to follow. 

Mama's Chicken Pot Pie

Gosh it's been a while since I shared a recipe here. I think the last one may have been these Pumpkin Scones, which I posted over a year ago. Yikes. For as much time as I spend in the kitchen, that's disgraceful.

Let's fix that with an all-star recipe that's a favorite (seriously, top 5) in our house. My Mama's Chicken Pot Pie. This isn't your typical double-crust gooey, mostly gravy, pot pie. It's literally bursting with delicious wholesome vegetables and a heaping helping of rotisserie chicken. Topped with a flakey pastry crust, this comes out of the oven beautifully, and just tastes like home.

I make this at least a couple times a month because it reheats well and the kids devour it. As the weather gets cooler by the day, home cooked cozy meals always sound perfect and I promise this Chicken Pot Pie won't disappoint.

Mama's Chicken Pot Pie 
Serves 2 adults + 2 kids, for 2 nights

1 roasted or rotisserie chicken, skin removed and meat shredded
5 tablespoons butter
12 small red skinned potatoes, quartered
1.5 cups pearl onions, peeled (I just use the prepared frozen ones from Trader Joe's)
2 carrots, sliced
2 celery stalks, sliced
6 ounces button mushrooms, sliced
5 tablespoons flour
2 cups chicken stock
1 cup milk
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
1 teaspoon ground thyme, or a 5-6 sprigs of fresh thyme (leaves only)
Zest of one lemon
Salt & Pepper
1 ready made pie crust (2 if you're ready to party)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, melt the butter. Add potatoes and onions and cook 4-5 minutes until lightly golden. Add carrots, celery, and mushrooms and cook 4-5 minutes more. Add 5 tablespoons of flour and stir to coat the vegetables. Continue stirring for about a minute. Don't let the flour burn! Add chicken stock and milk, and stir constantly until thick and bubbly, about 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat. Add shredded chicken, parsley, thyme, lemon zest and salt and pepper to taste. 

Transfer to a large casserole dish and cover completely with a ready made pie crust, or 2 if you're like us, cutting slits to allow ventilation. Place on baking sheet and bake for 35-40 minutes till crust is golden.

*We usually serve this as is, dished straight onto the plate. I think it would be lovely with a side salad as well. I use this as a base recipe, and typically make it as directed above but have also added/substituted vegetables like leeks, peas, and even green beans. I've even made this totally vegetarian.  Use what you have!

Harvest Scenes

I've been shooting like crazy over the last couple weeks. It's like some sort of switch flipped in my head or something. I've also been listening to more music, reading inspiring memoirs, burning my beloved pumpkin candles, writing, knitting (poorly), and yesterday picked up a couple of pretty pens and made some pretty letters. Inspiration and creativity showed up for me this fall. And thank goodness for that. 

Here's hoping this creativity continues to flow. I'm off to bake some pumpkin bread (Trader Joe's Pumpkin Bread Mix - WINNING) for those goblins you see above. Happy Halloween! 

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.