24 Hours of Brothers : 2018 Edition

As often as I’ve recognized the ever-accelerating rate of time and the astonishingly rapid passage of years, I think I’m finally starting to grow accustomed to it. It’s not quite as shocking to me that I’m already done with another edition of documenting everyday life with my boys. Another two years have very quickly come and gone, because that’s what years do. Time always fades faster. But these days, I know it and I feel it. I know it deeply, like a new part of my soul that speaks to me constantly. I am more grateful for my time than I ever have been because I know today will pass a little faster than yesterday did. Always. Time just keeps moving at a faster pace, but I am determined to keep up with it. To make the most of it.

The part of me that has a reverential fear of the passing of time was a driving factor in the changes I made to this round of the project. A couple weeks before the chosen day of documentation, our friends asked my husband and I to join them for a kid-free bike ride through the Christmas lights display at Longview. I was hesitant to accept the invitation because I was dedicated to making this project what it had been in each prior version: a full day of documenting my son(s) on the third Tuesday of November. I can’t be apart from my children on this day. …Right?

After a good conversation and some thoughtful challenges to my set ways (some of which will completely shift the course of this project in the future), I eased into the idea that this tradition didn’t have to be so rigid. I realized I could be flexible with my plans in order to spend some quality time with my husband and our friends. Maybe this time I’d start the project Monday evening. Shift the 24-hour block a bit. Cheat just a tad. I decided I could still capture my little dudes as planned, and even include a few frames of Nathan’s Monday night basketball practice. So that’s where we begin.

But first… video games. And whatever quick dinner I can throw together before we have to leave for practice.

Back at home, we have couch snuggles that quickly escalate to couch tickles, and a bit of time to watch a portion of a pretty epic Chiefs game before heading off to bed in masterfully messy rooms.

As with earlier editions of this project (2016, 2014, and 2012), the challenges quickly presented themselves: Nathan and Sam are no longer at ages that allow them to ignore my camera and act naturally. They want to make silly faces into the camera, or show off in some way while pretending they aren’t acting differently because of the camera. It’s disappointing to me that I couldn’t capture more natural moments with them as I had done in the past, but I realize that this behavior is just who they are right now. And that’s all I really care to capture.

Scene II: Tuesday.

The last time I did this documenting day, they were both using step stools in the bathroom. And Sam ate at the table in a high chair. Now Nathan is tall enough and capable enough to reach things in the kitchen and make breakfast for both of them. It’s a huge help for me, for sure, but it’s one of those signs of my kiddo spreading his wings. One of those things that gets him closer to flying.

Below is Nathan in his natural habitat: glued to a book. I am amazed at his love for reading. He didn’t get that from me or from his father, that’s for sure. This kid blasted through the entire Harry Potter series in three months. His father and I, however, have never read a single one of those books. We hear they’re pretty good, though.

Another part of spreading those proverbial wings and seeking more independence means Nathan no longer needs me at the bus stop. I watch from the porch as he makes his way up the street, and off on his own.

And then Sam is off to preschool. Wearing his brother’s hand-me-down clothes. Enjoying a Thanksgiving feast, as is the tradition for this particular day.

Back at home, we hunt for zombies together. They. Are. EVERYWHERE.

After the zombies have been eradicated, it’s off the park to burn off the extra fuel that a half-day of school leaves in the tank.

And when Nathan gets home, there’s just enough time for a few LEGO bricks to be snapped into place before the boys are off to hang with their aunt, uncle, and cousin so Kyle and I can enjoy a night out with our friends.

And this exact moment, dropping off the boys with their excited cousin, was supposed to be the official end of the 24 Hours of Brothers project for 2018.

But the next few hours, in my mind, are the most important part of this particular day.

I was fortunate enough to be able to spend the evening with the person who made these precious boys with me. The person who is helping to form them into the wonderful young men they are becoming. The person who makes my life what it is. The person who loves me daily with his words and his actions. The person who I loved for years before these precious boys were even a thought in our minds.

This person. My person.

And our people.

I didn’t spend every moment with my children on this day that was initially reserved for them. An earlier version of myself would have probably felt some guilt about that. But now I know better. Now I know how important it is to spend time with my incredible husband and the people we love outside of our family. It’s important that we say “yes” to opportunities to do something memorable. To make adventures a priority. To get outside the house where we can say hilarious and often offensive things that we can’t say around young children. I truly believe we are better parents than we would be otherwise because we take some time to focus on ourselves and who we are apart from being parents.

We are still a team.

We are still a couple who loves each other madly after 15 years together and recognizes what we have requires focus to keep it strong, celebration to keep it exciting, and effort to keep it healthy. There have been times when we chose not to do those things. But now we know better.

I am still an individual. 

I realize that I need time away from my children (some days more than others) in order to reset myself mentally. Furthermore, I know know it’s more than OK to need time away from them. No guilt there either. I need time alone to remind myself of my individuality. They need time away from me so they can begin to do the same. Being a mother is the biggest part of who I am, no doubt. For nearly a decade, being a mom has been the thing that has consumed the vast majority of my focus, my time, and my energy. And I certainly wouldn’t change that. I am blessed to wild degrees that I have these boys, and I’m overflowing with gratitude for every rapidly-lost second that I can be near them watching them grow. 

Being their mom is the thing I’m most grateful to be. But it’s not the only thing I am. And I believe I’m a better mom when I can be all my non-mom things too.

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24 Hours of Brothers: 2016 Edition

There are some things that simply can’t be understood without experiencing them. When someone tells a new mother “It goes by quickly” or “The days are long, but the years are short,” chances are good that she won’t be able to fully comprehend it. She may just think those are the lines that every experienced parent passes along to new parents to try to help them through the struggles. She may actually imagine with great anticipation the day that she no longer has to change diapers. She may simply nod her exhausted head while secretly hoping that the sleepless nights indeed go by quickly.

Until the day she wakes up and realizes that her babies are no longer babies.

And she wonders how it happened.

And she can remember moments and milestones, but the sizes and the sounds and the specifics seem so far out of reach. There are surely memories between her fingertips of silky soft strands of hair curled in perfect arcs, and somewhere on her lips are warm kisses on the baby-fat bellies, and there must be an echo in her ears of squeaky voices that can’t say their Rs. Recalling those single traits alone can be fairly easy, but when they grow and change so rapidly, remembering those little babies as a whole person feels nearly impossible. It’s like memories are segmented, categorized, and rendered incomplete as they’re stored in every corner of the mind. It takes something powerful and nearly magical to pull them back together.

Something like a photograph.

Although images are only a representation of a moment, they hold a certain magic in retelling what memory can’t always convey. They record beauty, chaos, and emotions we often forget existed in that fraction of a second (and just HOW did those fractions of seconds so quickly became passing years?). The messy rooms and piles of laundry in hallways, the fits and tears, and the tiny smiles with varying numbers of teeth are the details a mind can lose along the way. And those are exactly the things I know I’ll want to keep.

When I started this project four years ago, I knew it would be important to me at the time, but I had no idea how much more meaningful the recollection of that ordinary day would become as the years passed. When I attempted it again two years ago, I noted how unimpressed I was with the images I created that day, but now I love each and every one of the photos dearly. Those are days full of details I didn’t realize I’d miss, and miss so desperately.

These will be the days I so desperately miss years from now.

So here are my beloved boys on an ordinary Tuesday in November of 2016. Here’s to appreciating fractions of seconds, and finally realizing how quickly they become years.

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24 Hours of Nathan

My job is to create photographs. And I absolutely love it. But I often try to separate my job from my family by leaving my camera in my backpack and letting life happen without documenting it. Sometimes I let that go on too long. When I realized that for the past several weeks the only tool I had used to photograph my son was my phone, I was disheartened. It’s my job to document my clients’ lives. Their expressions. Their moments. Their once-in-a-lifetime days. I should focus on doing the same for my beloved family as well. Not every day, of course. But some days. The big days, obviously: holidays, birthdays, events. But what about the insignificant days–if there is such a thing as an insignificant day? What about a random Tuesday in November? A day much like most other weekdays. It seemed like a perfect day to keep a camera by my side. To take it with me to the library, the grocery store, and even in the shower. All to document the awesomeness of the everyday.

Now, I understand that the habits and routines of a two-year-old are probably not worthy of a photography project. This is nothing deep or earth-shattering. This is nothing new or noteworthy. But I have been spending so much time creating photographs for others that it was time to take some for myself. From the trivial to the… well… still trivial, but somewhat more interesting, I wanted to make sure that I always have proof of these moments that Nathan and I share almost daily, because days like this won’t last much longer. And I’m terrified of that fact.

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As the day progressed, I realized that though this project was intended to be solely about Nathan, it’s also about me. This is what I see. This is what I experience. The day is just as much mine as it is his, even though I appear in only one of the images I took. The whole day was a great reminder that although photographers primarily document moments, we live them as well. We share a unique bond with our subjects as equal creators of an image. And the observer adds the dimension of eternity to the image and, therefore, to the moment. And these are the reasons why I love my job. And my life. And every seemingly insignificant moment captured along the way.

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