September Recap

I'm loving the format of these monthly recaps. It's just enough to keep me shooting, but not so much that I dread the blogging of it. Win! October 1st is tomorrow, and I plan to pumpkin.

August Recap

It was a busy month with lots of traveling and friends and family and school preparations. Christopher started school on Monday. Matthew starts tomorrow. And Emily and I look forward to the most quietest nap in the land. 

Six Days

You guys. There are six days left of summer. Six days left of loosely formed schedules, ice cream cones at the drop of a hat, changing into PJs at 2:00 in the afternoon fresh from the pool, endless hours of coloring on the sidewalk, popsicles at 8:59 in the morning, languid walks to the playground, pulling over at small roadside fruit stands, mastering Clash Royale on the iPad and hours spent searching for Pokemon.  Six days of waking up wondering what adventures are in store for the day.

HA. HA. HA. HA. HA.

Six days left of summer also means I am literally mustering every last ounce of my being trying not to rear my ugly mommy monster head, the one with the horns and overly arched eyebrows and flaring nostrils, before breakfast.  It means I've just about mastered the art of ignoring the 7th request for a third lunch. It means my diaper bag is chock full of Chick-Fil-A receipts and crumbled graham crackers. It means I've developed a stellar system for un-smushing playdough from nooks and crannies all over the kitchen. Six days left of summer means I've refereed a thousand tiny arguments, wiped up sugary purple popsicle slime from every surface of the porch, designed elaborate forts, packed a million picnics, tightened the goggles, driven ALL around the land, learned every character on Paw Patrol, and answered a zillion questions about a zillion topics on zillion subjects I know nothing about. Like volcanos. And water snakes. And fire. By 3:00pm most days, my eyelids are heavy and I'm seriously contemplating a third cup of coffee.  

I feel like I'm in the homestretch of a hot sticky marathon; staying composed, focusing on my form, breathing deeply, desperately hanging on. Summer has felt like summer this year.  A true and needed break from the rigors of school schedules and extracurriculars and life events. It's felt like a long and endless stretch of genuine freedom to do whatever we want, whenever we want, and cruising along this road with kids this year has been a real and honest joy. But man, I'm exhausted and I'm just about out of gas. 

Tonight Christopher and I will head out for our annual school supply shopping / frozen yogurt date. Next week we'll wipe down the backpacks, meet the teachers, fill up our September calendar, and get pumped for the school bus. I'll get misty when they drive down the road, eager and excited for their first day. But I'll be eager and excited too, for the routine and structure of the academic year and a few peaceful moments to myself during the day to think and dream and create.

Or maybe nap. I think I'll start with a freaking nap.

I'll leave you with the mugshots, er headshots, of my childrens' current passports. Despite getting reacquainted with my real camera this summer, these shots taken by the worlds grumpiest US Postal Service employee a few weeks ago are perhaps the best photographic representation of our summer. Sometimes irritated, sometimes happy, sometimes apathetic...and if you could see my reaction on seeing these shots for the first time...sometimes pee in your pants laugh out loud hysterical. 

Peace my friends. And happy end of summer, start of school, we MADE it (!!!) to my awesome Mama tribe out there. 

Little Emily

The writing words aren't coming quite as easily as they have before but the urge to take photos has seriously returned! Lots of pictures of Emily Jane at just about 11 months below.

July Recap

Hot. That's the first thing that comes to mind when I think about July this year. And lazy. We've been very, very hot and really pretty lazy over the last few weeks. Our mornings have slowed down even further than they did in June and we're getting the majority of our outdoor time (other than our daily dips in the pool) in the very early mornings on our shady front porch. By 9am, the entire yard is in full sun, but we've been taking advantage of the shade and slightly cooler temps first thing. 

About the only other things July brought were lots and lots of popsicles, a couple of ice cream cones, a successful lemonade stand, some freak rainstorms, early morning wagon rides, lots of pool time, a new slip n slide, and only a few minor breakdowns on my part.  

Tomorrow is August first, and judging by my calendar it will fly by. I can't say I'm sad about it. I think we're all craving a little more structure at this point. I know I'll miss these lazy lavishly long days when the swing of school and sports starts so we'll soak up as much of the next few weeks as we can. We have a few road trips planned, visits with our fun family and some dear friends, and two kiddo birthdays to celebrate in the next 5 weeks. See you back here soon!

June Recap

Summer is in full swing and June didn't disappoint. We made ourselves busy with lots of pool time, bike riding, two trips to the Farmer's Market, driveway chalk art festivals, a million sugary popsicles, a trip to Seattle and the mountains with family, 7 entire watermelons, some reading practice, a little gardening, and a few playdates with new friends. 

Because I am an insane person I didn't sign anyone up for any camps or activities this summer and the number of weeks left until school begins starts to cause me panic attacks sometimes, but for the very most part we're enjoying our wide open days and lots of freedom to do whatever we want. And because Emily also has basically no schedule (still) you can just call me the queen of easy breezy these days. Ha. Life goals. 

Summer 2016: Day 1

We started out this morning with donuts as directed by our Summer Bucket List and a concerted effort on my part to create some traditions for these maniac kiddos. In true Sheedy Boy fashion, they sucked down a couple of chocolate milks in .2 seconds and were then too full to eat their artsy bakery (read: pricey) donuts. I should have hit up the good 'ole Dunkin. 

Then at home during Emily's morning nap, I forced Chris into letting me take a couple pictures of him because I wanted to try out some black and white editing. A few minutes into the very un-fun photoshoot he asked if this is what we were going to do every day this summer (meaning, was I going to stick my camera in his face all the time) and did I take pictures of Matthew every day while he was at school.  Yes. and Yes. To which he dramatically declared he "wiiiiiiiiiiishhhhed" he was still in school. 

And so our summer begins.

First and Last: Christopher Kindergarten

Chris has been a trooper this year. His Kindergarten year was a bit jumbled with his original teacher in Wheaton leaving partway through the year on maternity leave, a long-term sub taking her place, a couple weeks off of school altogether this spring, and then a brand new (much larger, and full day) school for the past 6 weeks here in Chapel Hill. He's taken it in stride though and has really, really flourished at his new school here. He's actually super bummed that today is the last day as he's recently decided his favorite subject is reading and he won't have access to all the awesome books in his classroom over the summer. (!!!)

I thought I'd snap a quick couple pictures this morning and I'm now so pleased I managed to grab a few on his first day back in August too. It's fun to see how much he's changed this year. I remember thinking he looked so old on his first day of Kindergarten. I also discovered the key to a natural smile from him this morning....fart jokes. He surely is becoming a big kid right in front of my eyes. 

Resdiscovery

We've been busy around here. Getting to know our new neighborhood, adjusting to a new school, finding out exactly which Target is closest to our house. While there's been an awful lot of adventure, it's also been surprisingly fun to rediscover some of our old favorite spots around town over the last few weeks. 

It's totally bizarre driving through a place we used to know so well, two years removed. It's kind of a weird mix of foreign and familiar, and we find ourselves saying "wait, is it this street, or that one" and then happening upon some old forgotten memory from years past. The boys remember very little about our life here, which is kind of refreshing as it's giving me a new perspective on the old familiar. They love listening to stories of those memories we happen across; "there's the yogurt shop I made Dad bring me to many times a week while pregnant with you Chris, and I always hoped the flavor the day was peanut butter", "hey, Matt, here's the Farmer's Market I used to bring you guys to weekly, and you'd eat blueberries by the pint on the way home", "Guys! Here's the spot where Dad ran over someones family cat (that jumped out their open car window), and into oncoming traffic". 

Last weekend, we visited one of our old favorite museums in town. They've added a new outdoor section with a giant play structure way up high in the trees. The boys (all of them) loved it and I did to. 

I'm working on bringing my camera around with us a bit more these days and increasing the number of family fun photos I take. I love me a good portrait session with my kids, but I know they'll appreciate these action shots much more when they're older. 

Emily Jane: 9 months old

Excuse me while I post a million pictures of my sweet, sweet baby girl at 9 months old. We love her more than we even thought possible and she continues to light up our whole family every single day with her giant gummy smiles and happy disposition. Emily Jane...we sure do love having you around!

A Resolution I'm Keeping

**Another one from the long neglected drafts file on this little old blog.

I made a bunch of resolutions this year. Goals and tasks and habits that needed meeting and completing and developing. I'm not typically one to make resolutions. I love the restart of January, the fresh blank slate and all the promise and possibility of a clear mind and new beginning. But I haven't typically made resolutions because in my case they don't often get kept, and I'm trying to let myself off the hook a little easier in this season of my life. 

However, this year I was feeling all kinds of inspired to try things a little bit differently. I got out my roll of white butcher paper in the last days of December and I sprawled out six categories around a big old 2016 in the center of the page. Under each category I wrote down several goals or items I wanted to work on. And then I quantified them, set dates on things, made calendar reminders and scheduled "check-in" times with Niall to discuss progress. I took that butcher paper and created a photoshop file to match it, saved it on my hard drive, and emailed it to myself. And then said a silent prayer that I'd have the strength and motivation to keep up with all the goals I'd set for myself.

For 17 days in January, I worked those goals. I made good on all my scheduled targets, I had resolve to stay strong when passing the warm chocolate chip cookies at the grocery store, I ran my first 4 post-partum miles. I killed a new book in less than 10 days. My grocery budget was under control and I was saying daily prayers. I was feeling good. And then Niall got very sick. Sick enough to be hospitalized overnight. Sick enough to have my mother fly in and bail me out for a few days. Sick enough that I had to make a frantic game plan about how I was going to manage the next several weeks and months as the primary parent to three little children around the clock. 

That game plan, first and foremost, involved a giant chocolate chip cookie. The first nail in the coffin that would soon house many of my 2016 goals. 

5 weeks later, Niall's health has improved dramatically. He's mostly resumed his place and duties as the leader of our little tribe, and we're so so so very thankful to have him upright again. Within the last few weeks though, life has thrown us another curveball. One that has me stressed and sometimes sad, and very anxious. A little nervous and a little excited, and an easy excuse to give myself some more grace on those resolutions. 

Bits and pieces of each category have stuck. I've not gone completely off the deep end. I making better choices in many areas of my life. Though I'm nowhere near on target with the vast majority of those bullet points, I am proud to say there is one category I'm totally rocking.  I'm reading like it's going out of style.

I set a goal to read 16 books this year. This may not seem like a lot to some, but as an avid reader in pre-kid life, I'm a little ashamed to admit that I'm not sure I've even read 16 books in the 5 years since I had my first baby. I'm in a book club, so I figured this would be a simple task since I'd be automatically given 12 titles to start the year and would only need to choose 4 additional to round out my list.  The girls do a book draft in January, and we decided to do a mix of books and articles this year, which I'm super excited about, but which reduced the book count to 6. After the draft, I realized we'd chosen 4 titles I've already read. So now we're down to 2 new titles for 2016. Phew. 

Seven
The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend
Love, Nina
Interrupted
Carry On Warrior
Present over Perfect
Just Mercy
Big Magic
The Sparrow
Abounding in Kindness
Traveling Mercies
 

**The above was written in, you guessed it, February 2016. Since then, we've up and moved from Wheaton, IL and my beloved book club back to North Carolina. I'm sad to say that the last resolution I'd been keeping as of then, my reading, has now gone down the tube as well. However! I've knocked 4 of those titles above off the list over the last 5 months which isn't that mortifying, considering. I'm picking this back up. Along with a few revisited resolutions. I'll try to add 5 more books to the above list and please, please, send your recommendations!

Baby Sister

***Catching up a bit on the blog here. This was written on February 2nd. Agh. Life!

One of the very best surprises about motherhood, round three, has been the active involvement of Emily's big brothers in her life. Every day, without fail, they are eager and willing to do literally anything I ask...so long as it revolves around Emily. Fetch some diapers, "sure Mom!", grab that play mat "yes, Mom!", can you babysit your sister for a second "MY turn, MY turn", open the back door for Barley "........". Seriously, if the job requires assisting their sister in any way, they're game. It's very sweet really, all the attention and love they give her. They may fight with each other hourly, over the silliest things, but when it comes to Emily they're both totally smitten. 
 

Christopher is especially googly-eyed over her. The "big brother hugs" are constant, he's eager to help feed her with a spoon, always the first to greet her after a nap, and remains the recipient of her biggest and gummiest smiles. Though there are 5 years between them (a reality I fretted over for months before she was born), they've got this special little bond. My big kindergartener and his baby sister. 

These shots were taken about a month ago, and man, I can't believe how much bigger Emily looks now...I so wish I'd posted this sooner, so it could be properly date-stamped.

Loose

A few of Christopher's friends have started to lose their first teeth. Mrs. Vesta, his Kindergarten teacher, has a tooth chart in the classroom on which I assume kids pin some sort of sticker or something when they've lost a tooth. I'm a little fuzzy on most of the goings on in his classroom. The kid isn't really into sharing details, unless we're talking about Minecraft or Snackeeze (don't ask). 

At the boys last dentist appointment Chris was given an oral x-ray. Upon review, the dentist noted that he didn't have any teeth looking anywhere near ready to fall out. This was no big deal to Christopher, but unfortunately Matthew, having not been gently briefed on the anatomical fact that baby teeth do in fact fall out and it's perfectly fine and normal, overheard the dentists' comments and FREAKED OUT.  He's kind of a sensitive kid, and the idea of his teeth falling out of his face had him in absolute shambles. So much so that even after lots of calm conversations about big boy teeth and the tooth fairy (freaked him out more) and growing up, he declared (in panicked tears) in early October that he never wanted to turn 5 years old (the age when teeth can start falling out) and that he wanted dress up as an actual tooth for Halloween. Because if a tooth can fall out of your face, dressing up as one for Halloween would be SUPER scary. Obviously. 

Fast forward several months, and several carefully worded conversations about teeth, to a couple of weeks ago. Chris complained of some pain in his front teeth when eating an apple. I asked him to let me look and jokingly said, "maybe you have a loose tooth". And wouldn't you know it, he does. Two in fact. The bottom ones. All wiggly and jiggly and weirdly moving around in there. He looked slightly panicked for a second when I screamed they were loose, but now he's mostly excited for them to come out.

Despite the face that Niall and I are totally freaked out by the thought of pulling them when they start hanging by a thread and are both actively making pleas not to be the parent in charge that hour, I can't help but be a little wistful about the whole thing. He's grown up so much this year, from 5 to almost 6. And when I see kids with mouths full of holes left by baby teeth sent off with the tooth fairy, I don't look at them as little guys and girls anymore. It's a childhood rite that sort of moves kids swiftly from little ones to big ones in my mind. And while he's always been the big kid in our family, he's not often been a big kid in his wider peer group. 

In order to mark the last few weeks of my little kid just as he is now and before his face turns into a gummy mess of toothless smiles, I thought I steal him away for as long as he'd let me (14 minutes), and try to snag a couple of shots of his sweet 5 year old baby-teeth-still-intact smile. Turns out he doesn't so much like to smile with his mouth open these days.

Even so, here's my little C-Man, teeter-tottering on the edge of big kid land.  He still holds my hand in the grocery store, but won't let me kiss him good-by before a birthday party. He wants to make his breakfast and lunch on his own every day, but insists on sleeping with his beloved stuffed dog every night. He blushes when I mention his "super pretty" school friend Mae yet he's still enamored with Curious George cartoons. Watching him move from here to there, sometimes in teeny tiny baby steps and other times in big giant leaps has been the very, very best. 

My Instagram Life

You know that thing that's always going around the internets about being REAL in our online lives? The stuff about being honest and open and not filtering the bad stuff out of our social media feeds? About not projecting an image of perfection that other people feel they have to live up to? Can we get over that?

It's no secret that I love Instagram. I'm intentional about what I post and am unashamed at the fact that my feed is a carefully curated collection of my life. I DO THAT ON PURPOSE. And here's why. I definitely struggle and have un-pretty moments every single day. Of course I do. Like every other parent out there, I spend my days teaching the same lessons over and over and over. I pick up cereal off the ground. I fold the blankets and rehang them every hour. I wipe bottoms and herd cattle into the car and answer a million questions about giraffes on the Serengeti. Somedays I don't yell, but lots of days I do. This is what my life looks like right now.  

But I triumph, too. After months and months of practice Christopher has mastered his peanut butter sandwich making. Matthew can buckle his own seat belt, when he feels like it, and climb into the car on his own. Both boys ask me serious and thoughtful questions about Jesus and talk about ways they can be kind to their friends at school. Emily smiles and giggles and blows spit bubbles at me when I change her diaper. We bake scones or decorate cookies and I don't freak out about the mess. These are little tiny moments, yes, but also big giant glimmers of love and light in my everyday.

So I'm always prepared and I readily snap the camera on my phone. When we're bored and have nothing to do and are feeling goofy, when we're working hard on a fun project, when we've mastered a new facial expression, when we're looking calm and cute and peaceful for a nanosecond. I snap the camera on my phone. I take pictures of these little moments, spend a couple seconds making them extra pretty, and I post them to my Instagram account.

So yes, my Instagram feed is filtered and polished and pretty. I make it that way because it helps me single out and remember the really, really good stuff. I don't want to look back at this time and see a running verbal and visual commentary of the hard parts. I hope that rather than dwell on them for years to come, I'll let them shape me today instead. I hope and know that they're already making more more patient and kind and accepting of grace. I hope that in 30 years, when I'm that grandma in the grocery store, I'll stop the young person with all the kids and say, "gosh, it goes so fast" because shoot I'm starting to realize that actually, IT DOES. I'll be the first to tell you that my day often feels about 52, not 24, hours long. But late at night, after I've hashed out the hard parts of the day with Niall and we've made a game plan for whatever trials tomorrow might bring, I'll sometimes grab my phone and scroll through my own Instagram feed. And that visual reminder of my pretty, beautiful, full-of-love life is the best reminder I've got right now of the stuff that really matters. 

From the cutting room floor...a few snaps saved on my phone, and to my Chatbooks account, but not shared on my Instagram feed. 

An Experiment

Niall and I spent months thinking about Christmas presents this year. Typically, the boys have gotten Legos, blocks, or vehicles of some description for every gift giving occasion. We have literally a million Lego pieces in the basement, and two boys who love them, but aren't quite ready to play with them independently for long periods of time yet. 

So we tried to be intentional and thoughtful about their gifts this year. We didn't want to get them junk, but we also knew they'd be bored easily with things not involving screens or batteries (our bad). Late one night in October, I found a list of the top "educational" toys for boys and we wound up picking most of their presents from that list. Lots of neat building stuff, this cool talking microscope for Christopher, and a Curious George matching game for Matthew. We wound up with some pretty cool stuff, I think, and a month after Christmas, they're still playing with most of it daily. Win!

Story Hour

Upon finding the baby Jesus at the end of this book...

This one has the imagination. A Mama can only read so many stories before she's positively out of high-pitched animal voices. When I'm done for the day, he takes over, "reading" to me in his own words. I'm not sure which version of the Christmas story has hot lava and aliens involved, but his face upon discovering the baby Jesus on the last page of this book just about made my December. 

On Early Mornings and Breakfast with Matthew

School starts at 9:15 for both boys right now. Since we're roused from our peaceful slumber hours (several) before then these days, we're left with ample time for lazy mornings every day of the week. I am absolutely a morning person, ready for action as soon as I open my eyes, so this late start and pajamas until 9am drives me crazy most days.

Yesterday though, I needed to make an emergency trip to Walgreens at 6:45am for some infant Tylenol (read, 4 month vaccination fever).  As we drove home, fashionably dressed in pajamas and snow coats, we saw a line of middle schoolers waiting for the bus on a snowy street corner. Christopher commented on how early the big kids have to go to school and it struck me that soon enough, both boys will be off to wait for the school bus and out of the house well before the Today Show starts. First thought: I can't wait for luxurious mornings sipping coffee with Matt and Savannah. Second thought: Man, that's going to get real quiet and lonely after a couple of months. 

This back and forth, willing time to both hurry up and slow down, keeps stopping me in my tracks. I think it has a lot to do with the arrival of Emily. I feel like I've got my left foot in one door, my right foot in a different door, and in the space between the two is a big giant magnification of how quickly time has started to pass.

Yesterday, an hour after breakfast was over, I found Matthew like this on the kitchen table. Inappropriate when the Grandparents are around? Probably. Something I'll miss like crazy in 10 years when he's already in second period by 9am and I'm home alone with my coffee and an elderly Matt Lauer? Without a doubt.

An Ordinary Monday

At around 2:30 this afternoon, Emily woke up from one of her afternoon naps. After having spent the previous hour scrolling through my usual photog inspiration blogs, and with absolutely nothing on our afternoon agenda, I decided I'd just pull out my camera and shoot a little around the house.

What's important to note is that I didn't pick up all the blankets littering the floor before I started. I didn't change any outfits. I didn't pose anyone. I just shot what was going on. It was kind of a radical change of pace for me.

If I'm being honest, it's taken me a minute to connect with these images. They don't tell the story of an event. They're not a lifestyle set of our family baking cookies or of our weekend trip to the zoo or of us reading stories in the middle of the afternoon (though that post is in the works). Instead they are a perfect portrait of a typical slice of an actual day in our life. They are the un-orchestrated documentation of 30 minutes on Monday afternoon.

There are words that belong with this set of photos. Words about my everyday life and how lately the days and hours and minutes and seconds, when I really pause to consider them, have begun to feel a lovely shade of perfectly ordinary. The words have been swimming around in my heart for the past several months and I hope that as I continue to write and shoot, our story, as it is just now, emerges on these pages.