waking up before my kids is an elusive ideal. i know the day will go better when i can manage it; i will be alert, caffeinated, showered, dressed, and filled with the Words of Truth. but when the baby wakes me 4 times in one night for a week straight, and then wakes me once a night and fusses for an hour before falling back asleep... well, i turn off the alarm. i've been feeling so worn down by the sleeplessness, and so scattered from the lack of morning time to center myself for the day.
this morning as my husband left for his weekly early tuesday morning meeting, i was sitting in bed in the dark, listening to the children's voices coming from down the hall. they were already awake, the sun still below the horizon. i nearly cried. but while they were playing relatively happily, i snuck in a quick shower and while in the shower i had the idea to use my camera as therapy. so much for perfect, i thought. why even try today? i'm putting on the baggy, fraying blue jeans and crappy fitting t-shirts. i'm saying yes to the mess today. and i'm going to capture that mess. i'm going to capture it with a sense of humor, and perhaps even with some affection.
so what lies below is the result of me doing that from about 9 am to 2:30 pm. this is our perfect imperfection. i'm offering it up as a little gift to say to you, mamas, that though my house cleans up nicely it rarely cleans up at all. i may make photographs that look idyllic, but sometimes that's because i know how to leave things out of the frame in such a way that you can't guess at the mess surrounding a spot of beauty or harmony. you can see my mess.
first, a note about the cast of characters, so that these photos can speak without you getting confused along the way. the characters are my three kids, Hazel (4.5), Gus (2.5) and Walt (8 months), my husband Tim, my housemate (Mark), and my friend Bethany and her two little ones (ages 2.5 and 14 months) who came over for a playdate this morning and just fell right into the chaos with grace and humor. there's also a cameo appearance from one of our ministry's interns (our interns live in our ministry house across the ally), who had stopped by with Tim for a minute.
as i did this, my mood shifted from exhausted and defeated, to patient and wondering (because i was trying to document everything, even/especially the naughtiness, i had to wait and observe non-judgmentally before i reactively jumped in to stop anything), and eventually to gratitude and affection. it truly did. by the time we had seen hazel off to school and gotten the boys down for naps, i remembered again how much i love them, and love this crazy life we're living.
this is family photojournalism in it's purest form. there was no wardrobe premeditation, no house-sprucing, not attempts at good behavior. and you know what? that felt SO RIGHT, so freeing... and so stinking beautiful in the end.
can i do this for you?
geeky photographer notes for those who are interested: i shot with my 24mm lens all day. the wide angle made it nearly impossible to leave out all the messy contexts, which is what i was shooting for today. a wide lens tells a bigger story oftentimes, though i'm often too shy to use it much in shoots for clients; it's a risky lens. i also shot in aperture-priority mode with the aperture wide open (f/2.8 for this lens), as well as auto-ISO mode (capped at 5000). i made this choice because by refusing to engage in the perfectionistic detail work of shooting in manual, i was more able to just roll with the punches, picking up my camera to take a shot when a moment was happening, while still participating in my family life fully. i needed that flexibility today.