The Littlest

Two weeks! In just two weeks, she will be three.  And there will be no more babies in this house.

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I don’t feel any pangs of sadness that she is my last baby; in fact, this new stage, where they can all play together, stay up a little later, go to the bathroom without diapers, sleep without Binkies, and even (gasp!) swim together (with puddle jumpers!) without me actually IN the water…well, that’s like a breath of fresh air after almost eight years of hyper-vigilance.  Small steps of independence actually feel amazing, because even though I have tried to cherish these small stages, getting to take a step back myself feels pretty darn good.

But that doesn’t mean that I like the idea of my littlest about to be three.  How is that even possible.  Not a questions, just a statement.  It doesn’t even remotely feel possible.

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This little one is so full of contradictions–so very much a tomboy, with her Rescue Bots and Paw Patrol vehicles–and still can’t wait until it’s warm enough to wear her hand-me-down dresses from her sister.  She’s pink and blue and dolls and trucks and the perfect blend for the last kid because she is just so FUN.  The perfect companion.

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Her eyes are turning greener, her hair is getting longer, her sass is undeniable and she is full of shenanigans.  But no matter what, she’s pretty darn amazing, and I will take shenanigans every day of the week to just hear her say, “Will you tell me a story about school?” and “Where are you going?  You come back?”  Yes, baby girl, Mommy always comes back.

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Her smiles and laughs and yes, even whines, keep me going every day.  Thank God we had three.  Thank God for Little H and how she fills my soul and completes our family.

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The world, our world, my world is a better place because of that smile.

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A Whirlwind Winter Vacation

A funny thing happened on the way to Massachusetts to get my hair cut: a storm decided to unleash its icy fury on Vermont the morning the kids and I were supposed to leave, so my darling husband suggested we go down the night before and stay in a hotel.  Even with all the logistical hassle of staying in a hotel by myself with three kids (such as how to get all the kids and all the luggage in and out of the car during a storm), I knew that an extra night away would make our whirlwind visit to family and the city that much better.  So we found a great deal at an Embassy Suites outside of Boston and the four of us headed south for a February vacation adventure.

Of course, as luck would have it, the DVD player in the van went berserk halfway there, but the kids were so excited to go to a hotel that they took it in all in stride.  I pulled up to the hotel and found a luggage cart right by the front door, unpacked the van, left our belongings with the concierge, and went with the kids to park.  Once inside, the kids couldn’t believe how “fancy” the hotel was, including a glass elevator that we had to ride to the very top floor and all the way back down every time we got in, and a swimming pool and hot tub spa.  And who could forget all the luggage cart fun?

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Bad news was that once we unpacked, I realized I forgot Jax’s bathing suit!  With not even a pair of shorts I could substitute for them, we were off to the mall for a “quick” trip to find some.  It actually wasn’t that bad, since the mall had a Disney store and a Lego store and a thousand sets of escalators (which my kids are attracted to like magnets).  Jax picked out some God-awful Star Wars bathing suit that cost a million dollars at the Disney store, Em picked out some God-awful stuffed glittery princess cat, and Little H picked out a set of Mickey Mouse fork and spoon (thatta girl).  We bellied up to the bar at Johnny Rockets for some classic diner food and were back at the hotel before the snow got too bad.

Fast forward to a nice swim and a late movie and everyone got a great night sleep. The next morning Grampy met us for breakfast and the kids swam one more time before leaving.  We met Grammy for lunch and then the kids went back to her house while I got a much-needed hair cut, and then the big cousins and Auntie Jessie came over to play.  Phew! What a busy day, but so filled with laughs that I could never regret it, even with overtired meltdowns at the end of the day.

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The next morning was the biggest adventure of all! I packed up the car and we headed to the Alewife T Station, followed by Grammy, for an adventure into Boston to go to the Aquarium.  Teaching the kids how to use the subway system was great–they were super into it and loved every minute of being in the station and on the train!  The happiest commuters ever!

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After a short walk we finally arrived at the Aquarium, and even though half the state of Massachusetts had the same idea as us and Jax kept complaining that Boston is “too loud,” it was really worth all the effort.  Jax is learning about penguins at school and loved listening to the presentation, as well as the opportunity to touch sharks and rays.  Em loved the harbor seals and sea lions and Little H actually participated in a small education group about taking care of turtles!  My favorite part was the giant tank in the center of the aquarium, where the kids could watch the divers feed the fish and see all different species.  All different kinds of fun for everyone.

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And yes, maybe the kids whined on the walk back to the T station, and maybe we all caught colds and were squished in crowds, and maybe Em refused to be in a photo with me at the end of the day because I wouldn’t buy her something in the gift shop, but in the end, it was so worth the whirlwind to expose these kids to this incredible city and world.

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And I’ll always have this photo to remember the trip by.  Thanks random stranger for offering to take the picture and then confirming he got a good shot.  You nailed it!

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It’s all in the memories!

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Small Moments

Starting up my daily photo project has reinvigorated my appreciation of small moments in our everyday lives: the way Em looks in the window light, Jax’s big boy swagger on the playground, Little H’s continued obsession with sniffing her Blankie and the kids’ love of learning and art.  Taking time to notice the tiniest things that make them who they are–because they’ll never be this age, at this moment, on this day again–is what brings me back to lifestyle photography every time.

Loving window light and small smiles.

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Looking bigger every day.

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Not too much longer with that Binky!  Stopping to smell the roses…literally.

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Doing what she does best.

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Savoring these small people in their small moments, capturing it all before its gone.

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On The Clock

  Monday afternoons are a testament to this busy mom’s ability to juggle schedules and various after-school personalities, as we begin our foray into dragging siblings along to one child’s extracurricular activity without the other two losing their damn minds.  I know I am just dipping my toes into the sea of insanity, so I’m glad we’re taking baby steps, but the pressure (to remember all the gear, to bring food no one hates or already ate that day, to bring books, toys and my cell phone charger for all manner of distractions…) is real. On Mondays, Little H and I peel into the elementary school parking lot, grab the big kids and head south to make it to Em’s ballet class just in time.  Their school teachers and I barely make eye contact before the kids are dragged out the door by the handle of their backpacks and herded through the parking lot to the van I left running so we can get in and go (if I haven’t even just parked illegally in front of the school and left Little H in the car to shave precious seconds off our time).  There are updates on our days to share, Purell to be passed around and snacks to be desperately devoured (do these children eat at all during the day at school?), and various forms of entertainment to be doled out to the biggest and littlest once we arrive at the dance studio, all before my attention turns to my tiny dancer, because we are on the clock.  Costume change, bun in place, ballet shoes on and she scurries upstairs to take her place at the barre before I have even had a chance to take off my coat.  Half the time I am still stabbing bobby pins into her hair at random as she is halfway up the stairs, Jax’s voice already echoing behind me that he is bored.  The only thing that gets me through it all are glimpses of this through the classroom window, that make it worth the sweat and tears (mostly mine).

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Once back downstairs, the natives have already begun to grow restless, and beyond Little H’s willingness to play PJ Masks for hours on end (“To the Cat Car!”), I usually come to ballet armed with a bag full of new library books to appease Jax and all manner of distractions for Little H.  This past Monday I knew was going to be unseasonably warm, so Jax, Little H and I took a walk around the neighborhood to enjoy some February fresh air and earn me a breather from little people begging to use my cell phone.

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The sky was gray with no sunshine to be found, and even as the sun sunk lower to the horizon and the chill began to penetrate my wimpy bones, Jax and Little H were having a blast.  Could outside play be the key to my Monday afternoon survival?  Since the two of them have only finally begun to find a middle ground–mostly centered around a shared love for Transformers Rescue Bots–and it’s freaking winter and freezing dark outside before ballet is even over, I have not really attempted this tactic before.  I forced myself to man up and stay outside as long as they wanted to see how this experiment would play out.

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The playground was a soggy mess from all the rapidly melting snow, but to my kids, all the world’s a stage, with plenty of imagination at their fingertips, With Jax in rare Patient and Engaging Older Brother form, and Little H not telling him to take a hike as per usual, these two didn’t need me at all.  When they discovered an actual stage, just perfect for an elaborate performance of Rescue Bots: The Dance Party Variety Show, I was in for quite a treat.

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Jax was born to emcee.

Their play was so elaborate and Little H’s dance moves so comical, I actually was sorry for it to end, even if I was shivering.  Stupid winter.  Never fear, I assume I will be attending Part II of this epic saga next week at about the same time, and will keep you posted on the dramatic conclusion of Which Bot Is The Fastest and What Will Boulder Paint This Week?  Ah, the fleeting joys of motherhood.  Cue the nonstop whining that they are hungry for dinner in 3…2….1…

Such is life in this slushy part of the year, with three kids all on the threshold of big extracurricular things.  Mud season appears to have arrived early, and I will attempt to appreciate these wintery afternoons while I have them, while dreaming of green grass and picnic dinners after ballet (even if that would require one more thing for me to remember to pack!).  I’m glad to have found a bit of a key to surviving the Extracurricular Activity Chaos Black Hole, and will try to look on the bright side and appreciate the chance for Jax and Little H to carve out some time together…at least while they’re getting along!

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A Small Snowy Excursion

Little H and I took a walk to the end of our road yesterday, to look at the street sign and learn how to spell our street.  I know some of you not stay-at-home moms out there are like, Come again? That’s the crap you do all day?  Listen, pal.  These are big goings-ons for a two-year-old, when our driveway and street are oh-so-very long, and letters are impressive and exciting friends.  For the amount of effort it takes to wrangle a toddler into hats and mittens and boots, it better be a big deal, and talking a wintery walk for a little reading practice was a before-nap time-killing win for everyone.  Plus, she’s cute in her hat and mittens.

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But I digress.

So Little H, our pup Baxter and I made the trek down the driveway.  We hadn’t gone far before Baxter had totally freaked Little H out with his constant barking and leaping and nipping in encouragement of snowballs thrown for his amusement.  Halfway down the hill she wanted to put the dog back inside, but I knew if we went back to the warm house I would never get her back out again, and I wanted to take some photos, damnit!  A nice white background, cute pink accessories and softly falling snow were totally worth a grumpy two-year-old.  And to be honest, her glare is one of her more constant facial expressions right now–it must be preserved for posterity.

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She came around eventually, not because of anything I said or did, but because of the chance to catch falling snowflakes on her tongue.  Our snow accumulation this year has been pathetic, and she was ready for some frozen fun.

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Oh, be still my camera-wielding heart!

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Did we make it to the end of our street?  Nope.  We barely made it another few feet because once the snow stopped falling, Little H was officially over it.  Our winter wonderland is not so much magical as an expanse of dirty snow, and there was a nap calling. Plus, I got the photos I was hoping for so I was more than happy to go inside! I was pleased we explored a little bit of our local world, and even if we never looked at the letters on our street sign, we did write our names with a stick in the snow.  I’ll chalk it all up to a wintery win.  With an annoying dog.

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Stay cool.

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A Tale of Two Sisters

Once upon a time there was a very little girl who wanted so much to be like her big sister.  She wore her sister’s old nightgowns that had been outgrown, even when they came down to the very tips of her toes.  She wanted her own hair to grow long like her sister’s and tried to style it like hers during the day, regardless of how crazy her hair looked before bed.  She wanted to sleep in her sister’s bed every day for nap and every night while sister played in their brother’s room next door, hoping she could get a big sister cuddle before they fell asleep.  They were very best friends and Little Sister looked up to Big Sister ever so much.

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Their mommy loves having two girls and loves that the two sisters enjoy sharing a bedroom, whispering deep into the night and waking her up with their laughter early in the morning.  But Mommy wasn’t ready to let the little sister grow up too fast; after all, she was the last baby and dear to Mommy’s heart.  So Mommy kept her locked in her tower as long as she could, but the day arrived when even Mommy had to admit that her baby girl wasn’t a baby any longer.

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So Daddy broke the littlest girl out of her tower and she was free to come and go as she pleased.

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And of course, she was delighted.

Now big sister can tuck her little sister in every night, and they can pass books and stuffies and secrets back and forth across the room like big girls do.  And the baby only naps in her big sister’s bed during the day because she misses her, not because she has something little sister does not.

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And without a doubt, they all grew up to be lovely young ladies inside and out and they both lived happily ever after.

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Artists’ Perspectives

I so love an opportunity to let my kids engage in art, and one of my favorite spots to get elbow-deep is the local AVA Gallery. We’ve been to their children’s open studio many times, but it never fails to thrill my artistic (photographic) sensibilities–with its lovely light and pops of color–and my kids’ inner artists.  It’s an opportunity for them to express their artistic perspective, and for me to get various (photographic) perspectives of them.

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Little H, who had never been to AVA before, was very excited to have her very own easel, her very own palette, and choose whichever colors she likes no matter what her sister says.  She did ask Em to help her draw a picture of Daddy, but the artists’ rendition of said man of her life was all her own.

Having her sitting still, intent and focused, was a brilliant moment for the photographer in me, as it was with her brother and sister before her.  She put her perspective down on paper and I caught my various perspectives on film.

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Big sister, meanwhile, was incredibly focused (and wearing a crown).  In the car on the way to the gallery she informed me that she wanted to paint a picture of mermaids, and from the moment we arrived, she got to work.  First, she made an outline with a pencil.

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Then she got painting.  First fine details, then the deep blue sea.  From whether to include eyelashes to panic when her bellybuttons dripped, Em had her vision and worked incredibly diligently until it was realized.

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I was, and am, incredibly impressed and proud of her.  Her brother can sit and read for hours.  For her, art is her modus operandi; it’s how she sees the world, how she interprets it, and how she makes it more beautiful.

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Pretty damn good for a five-year-old!

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To get to know this little girl, to provide her an opportunity to share her perspective on the world, the key is and undoubtedly will be artistic expression.  She will color my life with her intent and wonder.  With potential like this, I’m counting on it.

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