on day 341

I’m hearing the word adulting all the time lately. We’ve somehow turned “adult” into a verb, it seems. Like other trendy words (literally, random, totally) it will have its moment in our modern lexicon and then fade. It’s starting to wear on me a bit, and it’s mildly annoying to hear my students using it all the time. But I see the value in having a word that captures the essence of all those practical, not-fun tasks we have to check off the list.

I’m writing this as I recover from periodontal surgery. Which was every bit as unpleasant as it sounds. But it was necessary, and though I could have perhaps put it off one more year, I decided I might as well bite the bullet and do it. Fork over the $700 (gulp) that I would much rather spend on something else or save. But sometimes life demands that you put on your big girl panties, as some people say, and tackle the unpleasant mess in front of you.

I have done a lot of that this year. Countless unpleasant tasks: meeting with attorneys, paying said attorney, selling a house and dealing with the hassle of showing it with 2 little kids and a full-time job, buying another house, changing my name on a million legal documents, trading in a car, dealing with insurance hassle when an inattentive driver hit the car I bought only 9 months earlier. … The list goes on and on and on and includes managing a thousand tiny details to make my life run smoothly on a daily basis. …. Kids, house, work, all of it….  At the risk of using that trendy word one too many times, I have been doing nothing but adulting for the vast majority of 2015. Frankly, I’m growing weary from it.

One of the biggest lessons of growing up – especially in America in our puritanically based, capitalistic, work harder to do better kind of society – is to learn that you don’t always get a prize. This is life. It can be full of stuff you don’t want to do, and you don’t check a bunch of things off the list and then never have to struggle again. You aren’t doing something wrong if you have difficult tasks in front of you. You don’t somehow arrive at a place where everything is magic and sunshine and roses. Perfection is an unattainable quest. The beauty lies in those tiny seconds in between, and it’s our job to find it among the mess.

I think I like it better here in real life anyway.


Family Pics 2015   Family Pics 2015


Family Pics 2015

We worked with Andrew Thomas Lee again for photos a couple of weeks ago. I’ve known him for years, and I have his images of my growing kids all over my walls. His work has grown a different direction recently, and he doesn’t do family photo sessions any longer. But he was kind enough to meet up with the kids and me at a green space in Atlanta a few days before Thanksgiving and get some images I will cherish for a long time.

Family Pics 2015

Family Pics 2015   Family Pics 2015

The kids were far from cooperative in the traditional sense. It took a lot of coaxing for Norah to get down from my arms, and at one point they ran off to play with someone’s dog on the other side of the park. By the end of the session, Norah’s hair bow was ripped out, and her shoes were off. Andrew is incredibly patient and such a talent though. He always manages to get some really authentic images that convey the real us.


I live with these two kids everyday, and it’s sometimes a blur. But I look at these photos, and I can see it how I feel it in those still moments, those tiny spaces in between the chaos.

Family Pics 2015


Family Pics 2015


Family Pics 2015

Family Pics 2015

So here I am on the 341st day of 2015. My mouth is swollen. I’m a little fuzzy from post-surgery meds. My house is usually messy, and my plate is always too full. But there will never be another December 7, 2015 again.

I am really thankful to see 2015 make its way out as it’s been so full of hard things. But I can’t bring myself to see it as a terrible year. More than any other year in my life, it has been a year when I know I’m really alive. The pain and growth and change – all of it for the better. I see that now.

Jen Pastiloff posted something this morning urging readers to “Take a picture of your face. Remember that in ten years’ time, you will be amazed at how gorgeous you WERE. Be amazed NOW.” This is so true, not just about what we look like, but about all the other details in our lives that seem overwhelmingly difficult in the moment. Sometimes we miss the forest for the trees. So just for today, I’m seeing it.

I’m looking past all the challenges to see my beautiful little family – all three of us. To see the life we’ve created this year.

Family Pics 2015

I’m still standing. And the view from here is pretty spectacular. Bring it, 2016. I’m ready.

Dog Days

I remember when I was a teacher, and June was such a glorious page on the calendar.  The last week of May had its place for decompressing from the haze of exam grading, and then June followed with its warm weather and stretch of days lacking in any structure or responsibilities at all.  Ironically, instead of basking in my opportunity for laziness, I was usually outrageously productive in June.  That house project I’d wanted to tackle since January?  It was done by the tenth.  Those appointments I needed make and cross of the list?  They were completed by the fifteenth.  That stack of books I’d been eyeing all school year?  Read by the end of the month.

Then July rolled around and I essentially became a lazy slob who couldn’t muster the energy to accomplish much of anything at all.  Then came August when I cursed myself for being lazy and crammed my summer reading in the last few remaining days, furiously typing my tests the weekend before students arrived.  And I always thought this was because I craved structure and that July’s coming on the heels of June’s lack of schedule meant that I lost my groove.  I’m starting to think my teacher schedule was not the reason at all because here I am again with a bad case of the July do-nothings.  We are in the midst of the dog days again, and I am in need of some serious motivation.  My house and my life in general have plenty of projects – large and small – that need attention, and I just can’t stay focused or energized long enough to get anything done.

There’s something about this muggy weather that drains me.  My hair is large. Our windows are fogged.  I break a sweat walking from the car to the entrance of the grocery store.  I’m lazy and unproductive, and then I feel guilty and overwhelmed about unfinished tasks resulting from my laziness and lack of productivity.  (I’d like to add, as a side note, that I don’t know how I survived a Georgia summer pregnant.)

So I’ve generally just been feeling lazy and blah and like I am not the mother or housekeeper or general person that I could be / should be, and I haven’t written much here either because that sentence would pretty much sum it up.  Blah.  The End.

I stumbled across this inspirational post this week though, and it made me miss taking photos.  I haven’t in a while, and I’m thinking the camera could cheer me up considerably.  What she says is so true – that there is beauty in the everyday life, and you see it more clearly when you are looking to document it.  I need a break from structured photo projects, but sometimes I do miss my 365.  I love that I can look back and see exactly what I was doing exactly one year ago today.  Which incidentally, it was this.

Tree Canopy - Woodland Park Zoo

Looking at tree canopies at Seattle’s Woodland Park Zoo.  Where temperatures were comfortably in the 70s.  Sigh.  But really, if I think about it long enough, the trip to the zoo had a couple of challenges as well.  I walked around alone with a nine-month-old and got lost a couple of times, and we never did end up finding the penguins.  But of course when I look at photos from that day, I am just left thinking about how perfect the weather was or what a great day we had in a city I love.

Photographs highlight things we miss in real life it seems. And speaking of photographs, I got something beautiful in the mail yesterday.

thehallfamily_color (29 of 120)

We worked with Andrew Thomas Lee again for Jude’s photos this year, and as expected, we are so happy with the results. (If you are in Atlanta and looking for someone who takes extraordinary photos of families or weddings, he’s your man.)  We intended for this to be an 18-month-old session, so we originally met in April.

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The shoot began really well, but it went bad fast as toddlers sometimes do, and as the clock crept closer to evening, Jude became pretty uncooperative. And since Andrew is awesome, he suggested that we give it another shot. So we met again a couple of weeks ago – this time with a 21-month-old, and the results definitely captured someone’s active and curious little personality.

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And much like what I see when I look back on my 365 project, I forget a few pesky details when I look at these photos. I forget that the April date had Jude recovering from a cold with me following him with a tissue the whole time and his becoming absolutely cranky and uncooperative after only a few minutes. I see the later pictures and forget that we chased him around trying to get him to settle long enough for a photo and that the humidity had my hair swelling. I forget all of that and only see that I am so lucky to be in the midst of these happy years with a beautiful boy.  It’s rose-colored glasses, but I love it. And I think we need it sometimes.

thehallfamily_color (92 of 120)

thehallfamily_color (93 of 120)

So today I’m working to get myself back in a groove of optimism and productivity, and I’m using every trick in the book.  Maybe playing with my camera a little.  Maybe turning up a favorite album during the naptime cleaning shakedown today.  Perhaps calling a friend I haven’t talked to in far too long.  Or making something fun for dinner this weekend.

What are your favorite tricks to motivate and inspire?

May – Finished Projects

Thanks for the kind emails and thoughts on family business, you guys.  I’m just going day by day and doing what I can to focus on bright spots as well.  ….Which is why I’m posting on some crafting even though I guess the month isn’t quite over yet.

I’m really happy with the way this little car cozy turned out.

I used this tutorial at Homemade by Jill to make this for Jude.  We already used it the other day at the pediatrician’s office as we waited for our well-check appointment, and I know it’ll be useful in all kinds of waiting situations like restaurants or appointments.  It rolls up compactly to be thrown in a purse or diaper bag.

Halfway through the project I discovered I was out of black thread, but I wanted to press on so I just continued with what I have since it’s made from an old cut-up pair of Scott’s jeans and contains a few mistakes anyhow.  It definitely looks homemade, but I love it, and Jude adores his tiny Hot Wheels cars, so it’s nice to make a cozy little home for them.  On a side note, I think it would make a perfect birthday gift for boys of all ages, so it will be tempting not to make this for every little boy I know!

I also worked on Jude’s second year album, and I decided to focus on his increasing interest in all things “boy” – bugs, dirt, tractors, motors, wheels……

I can’t deny that I loved the opportunity to use a favorite Mark Twain quote, and Jude has been obsessed with tractors and basically any moving vehicles lately, so I included some photos of him with my uncle’s four wheeler and my grandad’s tractor.  The Gender Studies minor in me hates to say things like this, but he really is “all boy” in the traditional sense.  It’s so funny to watch in contrast to all my frilly nieces.


Lastly, there’s also another BIG project that I finished this month.  A long time ago, I told you about the year-long photo project I was in the midst of, and May 18 marked the date I began.  Unfortunately, my Project 365 morphed in to a Project 313 since I left out a few days, but I essentially took a simple photo almost everyday to document my first year home with Jude.  I’m happy I did it, but I’m also happy it’s over. I found that taking the photo was the easy part, but remembering to upload it, label it, etc. was a pain at times and didn’t always happen.  Nevertheless, we began one year ago with this shot


And finished with an attempted replication that went a little differently with a wiggly toddler, so this was all I got

365 ??  Full Circle!

Even though this was tedious at times, I’m really happy to have one year documented like this.  Most importantly, I think it inspired me to experiment with my camera and get snapshots of everyday life.  And of course just to keep taking pictures and know that every once in a while, something good pops up if you keep snapping the camera.  The traditional “rules” of the project were to include yourself in the photos, set the camera on your own, and upload to a Flickr group.  In the beginning, I tried to follow the those rules, but as usual, I threw out the rules eventually and just focused on finishing – hopefully with some creativity every now and then.  I’m not kidding that one year ago, I didn’t even know where the self-timer button was on my camera, and I always just shot in “auto” mode!  I’m not a perfect photographer, but I can surely say I learned a lot by doing this.  Here are a few of my favorites from the project.

365.3 - Sleepy Head
6:00 am wake-up for a 7 month old baby. My old working routine.
365.1.11  Making Baby Food
making baby food last summer
365.1.32  library day
trip to the library with my then 8-month-old and my niece
365.49  tofu success
the first time I attempted tofu!
365.57   nap time
a rare still moment in Seattle last summer
365.123  stuffing diapers
mundane chores. stuffing cloth diapers as I watch a curious kid.
365.156  early, quiet breakfast
early breakfast.
365 ???  Saturday morning lounging
Saturday morning lounging with the dog
playing with a Viewmaster as we waited for an oil change. Taken with my phone.

I think I’ll take a break from an organized photo project, but I might start a photo-a-day attempt again for next year in January of 2012. We’ll see. Either way, I’ll be snapping pictures even if I never upload.  So that’s my crafting round-up for the month.  Somehow stress makes me craft and cook more.  Does that happen to anyone else?  It feels good to be busy.  June will bring more knitting (almost complete on a secret project!) and more sewing and some scrapbooking.

Happy weekend!

Easter Recap

I hope you had a lovely Easter weekend.  We’re pretty tired from the egg hunting around here, but it’s been so much fun.  I can’t believe last year, I had one of these.

Easter2010 007

And this year, everything was so different.  I love that spring is about new life and growth, and I crave those things always but especially this time of year.  What’s even better is that I get to watch one sweet little life discovering so many new things.

examining the goods

Easter 2011

Easter 2011

Easter 2011

found one!

trying to open it


Shakespeare says, “April hath put a spirit of youth in everything.”  But I’d argue that motherhood does that even better.  And April + motherhood?  It’s almost too much.  Happy spring, reader.

Costa Rica: The Photo Recap

We’re home.  As are the mountains of laundry and loads of unanswered emails and jet-lagged toddler.  Being home always feels good, but I do hate this few days of catch up after a trip.

So of course instead of working on all of those tasks, I am spending time uploading photos from my camera.  And y’all, this place is BEAUTIFUL. If Costa Rica is not on your bucket list, I suggest you revise.

We only traveled with the Canon S90 rather than our Nikon DSLR which I know is a crime when there was so much to capture on film.  The thought of a daunting camera in addition to all the gear that comes with a third little traveler seemed frightening and near impossible though.  Even with the small camera, we managed to capture a lot of it.

I have a lot to say, and I really want to string together the details of the trip before they get lost in my mind.  I hope to sit down sometime this week and do that.  For now, I’ll say that as far as celebrations of 30 years of life go, it was pretty close to perfect.  I’m so grateful to experience this world with my little family. More later, friends.


** And on a completely unrelated note, you’ll see an adorable new header designed by Jenna of QA Designs.  LOVE it, Jenna… a huge thank you. ***

Accepting and Excepting

Jude has this book, called “All in a Day,” and it’s my absolute favorite one to read to him. It was actually the first thing I bought when I found out I was pregnant. I was no more than about 7 weeks along, and I fell in love with the book while browsing at Barnes & Noble one Saturday. I have it memorized by now because we read it all the time, and it reads like poetry. Rylant explains, “A day is a perfect piece of time. To live a life to plant a seed. To watch the sun go by. The day starts early, work to do, beneath a brand new sky.” She goes on to explain the sense of possibility that lies in every day, and our responsibility to live up to that. I love the simple message, and truth be told, I typically remember that feeling throughout my day. But some days are so much harder than others, and it’s so easy to watch the clock or the calendar sometimes. How long till naptime? How long till bedtime? How long till my husband gets home tomorrow? How long till Jude can eat without making such a huge mess? Having a vision for the day and seeing things fall in to place is the easy part, but when things go astray it’s so hard to get back on track.

Wednesday brings library storytime around here, and Jude typically enjoys that sort of thing. Other kids are present, and there are props like stuffed animals or puppets of some kind. I’ll fast forward to the punchline here and tell you that we had a major toddler meltdown in the library this morning. Kicking. Crying. Writhing. Exposed belly as I tried to wrangle him and get him to focus on the pictures and stuffed giraffes that were today’s props. Not our most charming moment.

It was so easy to blame him. We slipped out the door when it became obvious to me that this was a no-go. As I left, I switched out our library books as quickly as possible, stuffing the two new ones in my bag and racing for the door. Walking to the car, I told him he was bad and his behavior was unacceptable, and why can’t you listen like all the other kids? He looked straight ahead. Offered no gesture or grunt or word of any kind. Then he hugged me as I put him in his carseat. It was so easy to blame him.

But here’s the thing. Looking back, he told me it was going to happen. It was the perfect storm. I’m battling a sore throat that’s worsening by the hour and on a short fuse. He is getting over sickness as well. We have a family member undergoing a serious surgery today, and it’s on my mind constantly. There were so many signs I ignored because it wasn’t fitting with my plan of the day. He was up twice last night when he’s been sleeping all night for a while now. He’s better than last week, but the bark of a cough is still hanging on a bit. He woke up for the day crying and whining instead of chattering and smiling as he usually does. On the way to storytime, we stopped at the drugstore for a second and he whined instead of happily going along as he normally would. But did I listen? No. I had my own ideas and expectations.

So after the incident, we returned home, and I tried to feed him lunch, but he wasn’t interested. I plopped him in bed an hour and a half earlier than the usual naptime, and he was asleep in seconds. When he woke up, we went for a walk in the woods near our house. We’re lucky enough to be adjacent to this massive empty space that we never really visit, but I figured why not since he seemed too busy to sit still today.

And he was so content.

He was completely happy to play with sticks or stare at trees or point at birds. Things were so quiet and far, far away from the moment of minor public humiliation that began our day. And if I’d listened from the beginning? I wouldn’t have been angry and annoyed and exhausted. I wouldn’t have been disappointed with my failed plan for the day if I’d realized that sometimes there’s a different way.

The rest of the day was better than it started, but it was not perfect to say the least. I broke my no television rule and let him watch “Barney” of all things and then half an episode of “Sesame Street” before dinner. An issue that is so small, I know, yet it leaves me feeling guilty and disappointed in my mothering and teaching. Again, having these expectations for ourselves and not hitting the mark.

If I could accept that my son has moods and feelings and, even at this moment, sicknesses that can guide the day…if I could offer myself an exception, a free pass for a day or a moment, on the mom role, think about how much more pleasant things could be – without fighting the expectations and assumptions. And yet we’re always doing this, and not only with motherhood. Refusing to accept that maybe today’s teaching will be a little sub-par because of some interruption or another. Refusing to grant ourselves an exception to the billion rules we have in place.

New mantra: I’m going to accept the fact that I am a good mother except when I’m not.

Vague enough? As long as the good days continue to outweigh the bad, I’m okay for now. And the great thing about this little journal? Without it, I have a feeling I’d only remember my sore throat, my worry over the health of a family member, and my public humiliation at the local library. In many ways, those were the forces guiding my day today, but beneath the surface, there were brighter things.

I finished an entire mug of coffee in solace this morning before Jude woke up. I managed to complete two loads of laundry despite the whiny chaos today. Jude lounged on me as he watched “Sesame Street” and cupped his little hand on my cheek in that way that he always does. We painted cookies.

We headed out for some late afternoon sidewalk chalk.

And the capstone to my day, as I read him “Pajama Time” for the gazillionth time in our lives, I saw a smirk and one little pointed finger heading to my lips as I forgot the gesture on the shhhhhhhhhh on the last page.

And all this I would have missed, see, if I didn’t write things down here for you. Mostly for me. So all in all, I’m a lucky girl. It’s been a full day. And tomorrow is a new one.


“Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; begin it well and serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.” – Emerson

Daily Photos

So the summer is winding down, and I will soon be writing about my progress and, ahem, lack of progress on my massive summer to do list. One of the things I said I wanted to work on was taking more photos and hopefully better photos.  I started a 365 project on Flickr where I take a self-portrait everyday – some of which are very boring and some are not, but the point is that my daily activities are recorded in all their glory.  (Sarcasm intended.)  I like storing them on Flickr because you can choose the level of privacy, and I have a very small number of Flickr contacts so I can be held accountable and stay on track with this project without sharing my photos with the whole world.

There are a million “Project 365” groups out there, and there are some fabulous photographers who really have beautiful pieces in their 365 collections.  Let me explain that I am an amateur photographer at best. I didn’t even know where the self-timer button on my camera was until fairly recently!  The purpose of this, for me, is to appreciate the small things and maybe, just maybe, make life slow down a tiny bit.  I’m only 102 days in, but so far I’ve captured so many moments – the last days of teaching and moving out of my classroom, hanging out with Jude at home, various tasks in the kitchen, crafting here and there, reading a book on the porch, getting together with girlfriends, seeing Seattle for the first time with my little family……

Yes, there are some nights when I realize I am going to bed and I have yet to take my daily photo.  That’s when I come up with beauties like this one.

And half of my photos are of food….because when in doubt, I take a picture of what we are eating for dinner.

But despite the occasional boredom, this project has been a really great reflective exercise for me. I am already astonished at how much Jude has changed, and I can only imagine how I’ll feel at the end of the year as I look back at my photographs.  Plus I know I sometimes get in a funk wondering what I DO with my time.  I love that this makes me see that spending a cozy night on the sofa or doing a small task here or there to improve my home or family is, in fact, something.  The small things make our days count.  A quick photo a day has helped me see that, if nothing else.

May 30, 2010 - early sleepy morning cuddles

So I encourage you to capture little parts of your life. Whether it’s a day, or a week, or a year, photograph the little things that you think are boring.  They’re more charming and sentimental than you think.


“Teach us… that we may feel the importance of every day, of every hour, as it passes.” – Jane Austen