In The Pictures

I did something different this past weekend.  I welcomed a photographer friend (who I was finally lucky enough to meet) into my home to do a photo session with my girls.  This was not your typical photography sesh.  No coordinated outfits, curled hair or heightened expectations.  No frustration because two busy little girls wouldn’t sit still or smile when they should. Nope.  It was just me and my girls doing what we typically do at home.  If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to have a mouse in the corner of your own chaos, I imagine this is similar. Because I had Kari there for a few hours to document it all.

I read about Kari’s documentary style photography through her blog a few months ago, and I was immediately intrigued.  She visits your home, and you carry on as though she isn’t there.  Meanwhile she captures what she sees–real life in action.  You know, the parts of daily routine that as parents we neglect to see.  And if we do see, we often struggle to see the beauty within the little moments.

So I booked a session for two reasons.  For one thing, I know I am blind to things that surround me; constantly convincing myself that the sink full of dirty dishes or laundry piled on the floor or messy, mismatched clothes are all signs of me not doing a good enough job; pressuring myself to keep up with all that needs to be done.  Second, I find myself in less and less pictures with the kids lately.  I am there in those moments I capture, just on the other side. One rare occasion I will snag a selfie with one of the girls but that’s about as good as it gets. If I am in one, I usually nit-pick myself to the point of deleting the photo.

What the hell, I figured.  In my quest for contentment, I have often wondered what I look like as “mom” in routine scenarios.  Do I smile enough at them?  Am I engaging enough? Am I focused?  Do I look as tired as I feel?  Can they feel my love for them when I am near them? I liked the idea of being unscripted.  I wanted a glimpse at real life bonding with my girls.  The boys were out doing boy things (because they need that as well), so it was a girls day.

Prior to Kari’s arrival, I began stressing out over the mess that was my house–like I do every time I know someone is on their way; rushing to pick up every last toy that was on the floor, folding up blankets, getting the girls dressed and, of course, stressing about those dirty dishes.  When on earth would I have time to get to them before she would knock on the door?  I hadn’t even dried my hair or put makeup on yet! There was also a hamper full of clean laundry in the living room just begging to be folded for the third day in a row. But it was not going to happen.  And I had accepted it.  In that moment, I felt free.  It is what it is, I told myself.  If I wanted to see what me being a mom really looked like from another perspective, then I would have to allow myself to let go of the little things that don’t really matter.  Like the dirty dishes.  They could wait.  I went back to my bathroom and dried my hair.  I threw on a little bit of mascara and wiped powder just below my fatigued eyes, hoping to at least appear bright eyed and ready.  I threw on a pair of faded leggings and a regular old shirt.  On any given day, that is me.

I got the girls a snack and sat down at the table as we waited for Kari.  Seconds later, she was knocking on the door.  The girls greeted her excitedly because they are absolutely charming like that.  We talked for a bit, then she got to work.  But really, it was as though she didn’t even have a camera there at all.  The girls and I began doing an alphabet floor puzzle.  We do this puzzle every day–like three to four times a day.  Kari and I chatted periodically, while the girls entertained us with silliness.

It was also Kendal’s second birthday and we needed to make a cake for her party later that day.  My girls love “helping” me in the kitchen.  This is about the only time a mess doesn’t make my eye twitch.  I love when they get their busy little hands into food and creativity in my kitchen.  The TV is off, and the only thing they fuss about while their chairs are pulled up to the counter is who gets to help me first.  I can live with that.

After the cakes were in the oven, we headed to the back yard.  It was a gorgeous day, and the only thing Kendal and Tessa love more than Dora the Explorer is playing outside.  Pretty standard stuff here. Swings…check.  Sandbox…check.  Slide…check.  Bubbles…check. We played outside for a while, then went in for lunch.  There was a very typical battle over who wants what to eat and what I make. Meh (shoulder shrug).  Kari finished up and checked out of the Carey house for the day.

The next day I received an email that our gallery was up and ready to be viewed.  Already?  She took like 300 pictures, how is that even possible?  I froze looking at each shot, admiring what I saw.  In each picture was beauty and love.  And you know what?  Not once did I see the dirty dishes or clutter on my counters.  I didn’t see the sippy cup laying on the floor or the dog toys haphazardly scattered in the doorway.  I didn’t see notice the laundry or disarray.  At first glance, even second and third glance, I didn’t see any of that.  You know what else?  I didn’t criticize my appearance at all.  I wasn’t ashamed that the “flaws” I obsess over were in plain view.  I felt flawless, actually, and proud to see that when my girls look at me they see and feel love.  In front of me was proof I could not deny.

Family Documentary Photography Family Documentary Photography

Family Documentary Photography

Family Documentary Photography

I am my biggest critic, and I know for a fact that others are guilty of this as well.  As parents, it is easy to be hard on ourselves.  We have a big job to do, don’t we?  We give into moments of self-doubt, questioning if what we are doing is enough.

Family Documentary Photography


Family Documentary Photography

What we are doing is enough.  As long as there is love in our hearts and happiness in our home, it will always be enough.

Family Documentary Photography


Family Documentary Photography


Family Documentary Photography

Live and breathe in these little moments because they are still moments, and eventually they will pass by without any return.


Kari, thank you so much for giving me the gift of memories.  You have such a unique gift, and I am glad you shared it with me.  I cannot wait to get my hands on some prints to put up in my house!

You guys, she rocks…look her up!

Check our Kari’s super sweet blog post from our session here!

And visit her website to view her amazing work!  She is also hanging out on Facebook, so go ahead and give her a big “Like.”

Dear Tessa: Stepping Stones

Dear Tessa,

We are accustomed to welcoming adversity into our lives; much on your behalf.  But you always do it with so much grace, as though you were expecting these moments in your life while the rest of are taken by surprise.  That’s just how you roll.

Today is the day.  One year ago today.  Do you remember?  I wish I knew if you did.  I think about that all of the time.  Does she recall any of it? 

One year ago today, we woke up in Room 4121 at the hospital–the room where you were first admitted many months before when we found out you had leukemia.  It was a beautiful Saturday morning. The sun was finally shining after a week of dreary overcast.  It was there on that very day when your inpatient fight against leukemia ended (full-circle) in that room when your doctor told us you were finally well enough to go home.

The bubbles and tears fell all over the hallway as you made your final walk to the door.  Joyful hugs and sentimental goodbyes followed you on the way out.  No longer would you be a prisoner to any machine. No more chemo.  No more pulse ox.  No more midnight labs.  No more painful cries from the neighboring hospital walls.  No more suffering. The time had come. It was over. You did it girlfriend.  You really, really did it.  We waited so long for that day.

Most of your life has been paralleled by statistics, starting from birth.  After a while I paid little attention to statistics regarding your extra chromosome.  Eventually in your cancer treatment, I had to do the same.  What good is it to worry about numbers that can change in an instant?  That was a process I learned in time.  Sure those numbers can build you up, but they can rip you down just as easy. If I could have had a glimpse of your life up until that point prior to you being born, what would have those odds looked like on paper? Probably not great.  But look at you.  You break the rules and push the limits, proving that you are far more than any statistic that tries to overshadow you. You are fearless and amazing.

And darling, the odds are ever in your favor.  (In my best Effie Trinket voice).

Tessa Carey 027.jpg

Because of you I know that anything is possible.  Together we can dream of dreams that others may shy away from.  We plant roots where we want them planted and make our own stepping stones for any path we travel.  Certainly we have no idea where we are going, hopefully miles from ordinary.  It all seems normal and adventurous. Because of you I see the world so differently. And I know that others do too.

When you were born, I remember wrapping you in my arms and holding you for days; terrified that I may fail you.  Scared because I knew nothing about Down syndrome.  Scared because I knew nothing about being a mom.  I let you take the lead and here we are now today, far from failing.


Last night we gathered our families and friends at home and celebrated the many facets of you and all that you have overcome in three years; toasting love, life and miracles.

Tessa mom

Today on World Down Syndrome Day, we celebrate the same.

Do me one favor–a huge favor.  Never, ever, ever, ever stop believing in yourself.  There is nothing in this world that you cannot do.

Love, Mom.