Saturday, May 6, 2017

Picture Perfect

Much of the time these days I find myself marveling at my big kids.  When I realize that Carter's next birthday will officially move him out of toddlerhood.  When I think about Jacob going into fourth grade in the fall.  When I think about Carter being almost too big to pick up.  When I realize Jacob is less than a foot shorter than me.  I wonder how I, with this little body that has long been mistaken for much younger than it is, could have given birth to not just one, but TWO of these ever-bigger little people.  How am I the mom--not just to babies, but to big kids?  In the last four years of dealing with Jacob's behavior issues, these kids have grown up.  Time has flown by as we've spent our days trying to stay sane. 

I look back at pictures all the time.  Sometimes it's through Facebook's "On This Day" memories, or sometimes it's when I'm looking through old photo albums on my phone or iPod looking for something, and I just can't get over the plethora of memories we've had or just how much has changed over the years.  Craig and I are about six weeks away from anniversary #14.  I'm 17 years removed from college this month, and my prom was four years before that.  I passed the 25th anniversary of my confirmation a few weeks ago.  The book that Jacob and I just finished reading this week (the second in our bedtime series where I read to him in an effort to help him appreciate some classics--first was "The Indian in the Cupboard" and the most recent was "A Cricket in Times Square") has belonged to me since I was only two years older than Jacob is now.  In the immortal words of The Talking Heads, "How did I get here?" 

But the pictures are this concrete reminder of how much we've been through and how much has changed.  I can't believe the little kids in my pictures are the same ones that live in my house right now.  Being able to remember them like that is a precious gift, particularly on days when things aren't going so smoothly.  Of course, most of those pictures don't tell the full story.  Most of the time I know the context they were taken in, but usually what you see looks pretty pleasant and typical.  But I know the truth, and sometimes the picture was a rare shining moment, and sometimes it actually captures the mood perfectly.  Here are a couple examples where it goes both ways:

What you see: A cute picture of two-year-old Jacob at his favorite place, a baseball game.
What you don't see: That he was under the seats because he wouldn't sit still and was driving us nuts.  I think I took the picture just trying to make the best of a bad situation.

What you see: Three-year-old Jacob being absolutely adorable in a stack of hay bales.
Why this picture still makes me smile: I'm sure we had our share of difficult moments that day, too, but we had a blast at the pumpkin patch and this picture just captured the joy of the day.  It was 80 degrees in October, after all!

What you see: Carter and me taking a pretty successful selfie...and with a happy boy like that, how could we not?
What you don't see: I was completely stressing out as we were on our way to Pittsburgh--probably already running late--and I realized we forgot Carter's reflux medications.  We were sitting in the car outside a Wegmans in Erie, waiting for his prescriptions to be refilled. 

What you see: Carter being absolutely joyful while playing with a classic toy.
Why this picture still makes me smile: Those everyday moments were the best and I miss when I was guaranteed a smile just by looking at him.  He also couldn't talk back yet!

These are just two easy examples I could remember off the top of my head.  Our entire trip to Florida could have fallen into the "betraying their context" category, as we were completely stressed out that entire trip, between Jacob's behavior issues and his probable Celiac diagnosis while we were there.  That trip was exhausting and frustrating, but within those moments we had some great little micro-memories...ones that without the context would have been amazing, but within the context were little jewels in the rough.  Fortunately a lot of the context fades over time and on the surface they become precious memories...unless I really sit there and think about it.  I think most of the time I'm just so overwhelmed by the passage of time as I look at them that I don't think that deeply.  But if I try to take myself fully back to those moments, I remember--for better or for worse. 

But at the end of the day, these moments are important.  They're a part of our history.  I cherish the 10 second videos I have of each kid as a newborn, to hear their squeaky cries that I swore I'd never forget.  I love that I took pictures at random moments that were otherwise unremarkable, just because I knew I'd never remember that moment without it.  I sometimes need those moments to remember why we do what we do each day.  It's easy to get lost in the day-to-day drudgery when the kids aren't listening and we worked all day and I have to cook dinner and neither kid wants to go to bed.  But seeing them succeed, or seeing them be happy--and capturing those moments--is what it's all about.

Take tonight, for example.  We went to the mall to see this year's school district art show, because Jacob had a painting on display.
His is at the top, the one you can see in its entirety above his head

I was really pleased with the picture and so proud of him.  It's great when you get to legitimately praise your kid for something awesome.  Well, after I took the pictures above, Carter was trying to get in on the act and wanted his picture taken, too.  Obviously he didn't have anything to be "honored" for, but you know, he put such a sweet smile on his face that of course I took it!  And I'm so happy I have this picture to remember him so earnestly wanting to be a big kid just like his brother...

So many little moments frozen in time.  And even if we couldn't fully enjoy them in the moment, I'm so glad we have them to look back on now.

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