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Grief and Giving Myself Grace as Mother

This past weekend, this Mother’s Day, was pretty hard for me.

This Mother’s Day, we, I, made the final decision to help my Oden, my cat, my first baby, my constant companion for over 17 years pass on. It has been the hardest decision of my life so far.

I never thought I was a cat person. Over 17 years ago, I went with a friend to the humane society because she wanted to get a cat. I was looking with her and took a couple of kittens into the little room they provide to spend some time together to see if you like each other. I had no intention of getting a cat, but I was drawn to Oden. I had a dream sometime before that day that I had an orange kitten and here was Oden, an adorable orange kitten. When I took him into the room, he was the only cat who didn’t want to just run around and enjoy the freedom of that extra space after being in the cage the shelter keeps them in. He just kept climbing back into my lap and cuddling on me. When him and I left that little room my friend wanted to hold him for a minute. As she tried to hold him, he actually climbed over her shoulder and reached out to me with his big white paws for me to hold him again. Once I was holding him again, he was content to stay put. It took a few days to actually adopt him, but he has been with me everyday since. He has been a part of almost every part of my adult life, so many stages, so many ups and downs. He has lived in six houses with me and I honestly don’t know what it’s like to be in a house without his little face here. 

Oden was the kind of cat who people who didn’t like cats loved. Many, many people who have met him have told me that if they knew that a cat was going to be like Oden that they would want a cat. He was a lap cat and he was friendly to everyone. If someone came to work on something at our house, Oden was there right next to that person, watching whatever it was they were working on. He loved to be carried like a baby. I would walk around the house with him like that forever, sometimes dancing, sometimes him just relaxing in my arms looking around. He also liked to be help up over my shoulder watching everything that was going on. Basically if he was with me, he was happy. Towards the end, I slept on the couch every night so he could be with me and he would run up, jump up on me, and cuddle up on me, sticking his head under my chin like he did when he was a kitten. I believe in souls being connected and I know that he was and is my little soul mate.

It is weird to be in my house without him. I don’t like it and I honestly don’t know what do with myself. To put it mildly, I am heart broken. It physically hurts. I don’t want to ignore how I feel, but I am also trying to stay busy and I am back and forth between wanting to be around other people and feeling to agitated to talk to anyone. I am home alone right now, and it kinda sucks. Helping him end his life has been the hardest decision of my life. I still don’t know that I did the right thing. 

As I am dealing with all of these feelings, I am still a mom. I still need to be here for Milo. He is also having a hard time with Oden not being here. I want to make sure he knows it’s okay to feel sad and that it’s okay to express it. And of course, I also want him to know that we will be okay. 

As I am dealing with my grief, I am doing my best to allow myself some grace. There are moments where I feel okay, and there are moments where I really just want to curl up and do nothing. My stomach has been in constant knots. My first instinct is to make myself power through, to make myself continue as if nothing happened, but I’ve realized that’s not what I need. As moms we are so good at beating ourselves up for not doing everything perfectly. And I have not been a perfect mom these past two weeks. I have been overwhelmed with the impending ending of Odens life. With medicating him and helping him to stay comfortable. With my sadness thinking about the fact that he was soon not going to be here anymore, and with the torturous decision about whether or not euthanasia was the right choice and whether or not I even believed in it. I have not been as present for Milo as I usually am. I am easily agitated and I have needed to take time to myself. I have moments where I don’t even know what to do with myself. I have allowed Tim to do a lot more of the parenting alone. Don’t get me wrong, I haven’t checked out. I am still here, but I am allowing myself a little bit of forgiveness for moments that I am having a hard time. In the past, I think I would have felt more guilty. I would have beat myself up about it. I have always been someone who is better at taking care of others than I am at taking care of myself. This, however, has knocked me on my ass. So today after I dropped Milo off at school and came home, I allowed myself to watch some TV, something I never do, don’t even like to do in the middle of the day. But the distraction and background noise is helpful. I am also allowing him more TV time, we usually keep it very limited and it isn’t a regular part of our days. But right now, I’m okay with Milo getting a little bit more TV. I am making sure I snuggle him and read some books to him, but I am not beating myself up for knowing that I am not fully in each moment right now. That my head and my heart are preoccupied. 

If you aren’t a pet person, you might think that this is all a bit much, that he’s just an animal. And that’s okay. That’s what’s right for you. However, if you are mom, you can still take away from this that we all need to give ourselves a pass once in awhile, that we all need a little grace, especially from our toughest critics, ourselves. 

 

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Happy Mother's Day!

Happy Mother's Day to all of the hardworking, dedicated, beautiful mamas out there! Everything you are, all that you do, it is everything. It is why I do what I do. It is why I feel honored to be a mother a long side of you and honored to do what I do as a photographer. Thank you! You have all earned and deserve this day... 

for all the noses wiped

for all the noses wiped

for all the acrobatics you perform 

for all the acrobatics you perform 

for all the butts wiped

for all the butts wiped

for all the books read

for all the books read

for all the hair done

for all the hair done

for all feet in your face and babies nursed

for all feet in your face and babies nursed

May you have all the snuggles, laughter, and love today! 

May you have all the snuggles, laughter, and love today! 

So much love to you all!  xoxo, Shelley

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Mother's Day Special 2017

What do you buy a mom that will show her how much you appreciate what she does and how much her being a mother means to you. How do you show her how much you SEE her and appreciate her? Give her the gift of being able to cherish this time, right now and forever. Give her these moments with her children in photographs, in an album that will be an heirloom for your family for generations to come. Give her her Moments of Motherhood to have always.

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Day in the Life // Jenna, Adam, & Myka

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Day in the Life // Jenna, Adam, & Myka

A little preface before the introduction to this family: **This session is a little bit different than my usual session. My vision, my goal, my heart, what lights me up is showing mothers the beauty in their everyday. Sometimes it is so hard to see how important and how meaningful it all is when you are in the thick of diaper changes, growth spurts, spit up, and temper tantrums. I feel called to show mothers how valuable and important all of these little moments with their children are, to show them what a great job they are doing and how much it means to their children. In no way does that mean that I don't see and know the value that fathers bring to the family and to their children's life. My husband is my son's hero and nothing about his life would be nearly as good without him being a part of it. However, being a mother myself, having many mom friends, I know that in general we are harder on ourselves than the guys are on themselves. I'm not saying we should be, but if we're being honest with ourselves, we usually are.

While my main focus remains the relationship between mothers and their children, there are times when a family wants a A Day in the Life session, a session that includes everyone. I love Day in the Life sessions and I am totally open to doing them. I am honestly so happy and honored to document the moments of a day that are part of a family's life. This beautiful family below is one of those families.**

 

Immediately upon meeting Jenna at a Mompreneur meet up at Honey in Ferndale, I knew I liked her. Her energy was so genuine and positive and she was so easy to talk to. A moment later I was fortunate enough to experience that same energy coming from this adorable little blue eyed lady, Jenna's daughter Myka. As she started to interact with me I started to feel very special because this adorable little girl, who didn't know me, seemed to love me. After talking a bit more with Jenna I found out that this is how Myka always is, she is a HAPPY baby. (I still felt special, why ruin that;) ) After spending time with Jenna and Adam at their house, it is easy to see why Myka is so amazing. She is adored by both of her parents who have such an easy going and calm energy. And I mean look at these pictures, this is an adorable family!

Jenna and Adam, it was such a joy to come and spend time with you in your home and to witness and capture your moments. I can't wait til we do it again next year ;) Thank you, thank you!

xo, Shelley

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Our Family Moments // Personal

Lately, I have been posting mostly slideshows from sessions, but historically this blog has been both a mix of my personal photos and happenings and also what I'm doing professionally. I plan to continue sprinkling in personal posts a little more often, because I love having a place to record bits and pieces of our life and share them. As you can imagine, I have so many pictures of our little man. (SO MANY!) However, lately I haven't been getting my camera out as much at home or keeping up on editing the images when I do. One of the reasons that I include an album with every session is because I know that even I don't get things printed like I intend to. I'm looking at and working on photos all the time and have accounts at many professional labs and don't do it! I am vowing to work on my own families pictures a little more often and to share some of them with all of you. 

I am not often in these pictures because I am the one making them, but they still are important to me. AND, we have hired two different photographers this year to come and take our pictures, so I am taking care of the issue of me not being in the photos. I am so excited!

These are from a walk on one of the days recently when it was kind of decent outside for a Michigan winter day. People have always told me I have a lot of expression in my face. I think that maybe my kid takes after me. What do you think?

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Moments of Motherhood // Natalie & Shai

Let me tell you a little about Natalie and Shai, I am in love with the beauty and the twin-ness (yeah, I'm making up words) of these two, but even more so, I'm in love with their moments. Not that I didn't notice it while I was there, I did, but when I was sitting at my computer editing this session I couldn't get over how often they are gazing at each other and how they are making the same face while doing so! This mama and baby have such a connection you can feel it. And it isn't all beauty and no brains over there. Make sure while you are watching the slideshow that you keep an eye out for the hilarious faces and gestures Shai makes, I was actually laughing out loud while going through these images. It is obvious that Natalie is raising a strong and independent little lady who is going to make us all proud. She goes from expressing exactly what she wants in one photo and then in the next she's gazing at her mama with such love. It was such a pleasure to capture all of these moments.

Natalie, thank you for having me and welcoming me into your beautiful home. I look forward to watching your little lady grow up :)

xo

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Moments of Motherhood // Stacy, Connor, & Nora

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Moments of Motherhood // Stacy, Connor, & Nora

Instantly, I LOVED watching the relationship between Connor and Nora. Conner is so attentive and caring towards Nora and both of them are so loving towards each other. They already have such a great relationship at such young ages. I think this is a testament to the wonderful mama Stacy is and spending time with her, Connor, and Nora in their home was so easy and comfortable. Not to mention their wonderful fur babies, who I'm not afraid to admit, kinda loved me instantly ;) Being the mom of an only child, I am often in awe of moms who balance caring for more than one child and Stacy did so with such ease. Stacy, thank you for welcoming me into your home and allowing me to document your moments of motherhood. xoxo

I hope all you enjoy their slideshow as much as I enjoyed making their pictures!

 

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A quick Sneak Peek at Stacy's Moments of Motherhood

I am working on a session and I couldn't help but share this one right away. This first one is a very real Moment of Motherhood. I can imagine, especially for a mom of more than one, that this is a regular occurrence. Make sure you notice their hands. LOVE.  More to come soon!

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Moments of Motherhood // Jenny & Gabriel & Ian

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Moments of Motherhood // Jenny & Gabriel & Ian

This session is going to be a little bit different than the others I have shared with you so far. One of the most important things to me in doing these sessions is that what I capture is a true representation of what each mothers time is like with her child or children on a daily basis. That the beauty and worth of this time right now is captured and preserved, before it is gone. I want for mothers to see, right now, how amazing they are with their children, how funny some of the moments are, and how at every session there is at least one moment where the mom is making a face while looking at a child that says something like "are you serious?!" Seeing each others sessions shows us that we are all alike, we are all great mothers and we all, hilariously, have moments where we might roll our eyes or make an "are you kidding me face?!"  So what is different about this session? None of that. Jenny is gorgeous and Gabriel adores her and looks up at her with love and anticipation (I love that look!). I teared up at least once while photographing them, just like I have with every other session.

What's different here is that you are going to see Dad in some of the pictures. Jenny and Gabriel get to see and spend time with Ian throughout the day because he works from home. He takes breaks from his work to come out and spend time with and play with Gabriel and be with both of them. Their Moments of Motherhood involves Ian being a part of their daytime routine. My vision for my work comes from a place of being a mother, of feeling like sometimes what I do is monotonous and not that important, from knowing that it really is though, and realizing I see and notice all of this in other mothers with their children. It is still so important to me that I show that to other mothers, that I give them a slice of this time with their children and show them their worth. It was never because I don't think dads totally rock, because they do. My husband is proof of that. And it is obvious that Gabriel adores Ian and that he is proof of that. Mothers are still my primary focus. But, that doesn't mean that I don't ever want to capture the whole family or that I am going to leave out big parts of their day because Dad might be in the picture. Just like in motherhood, everything is a learning experience. You expand and grow and open your heart to new ideas, new understandings. It sometimes humbles you and makes you rethink how you approach something. That is true here too. For Jenny and Gabriel, this is their Moments of Motherhood. 

 xo to all three of you, thank you for having me. I truly loved my time with your family.

 

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Moments of Motherhood // Rebecca & Ebenezer

**Soo, facebook has temporarily locked me out of my account. I have no idea how I am going to get back in or how long it will be. Usually, I would share this post on facebook also, but since I can't, if you have it in you, do me a favor if you see this here and leave me a comment. Let me know you've seen the beautiful Rebecca and adorable Ebi. Thanks!!**

These sessions, this documenting of moments between mother and child are not just for stay at home moms, or moms who work part time. Moms who work full time outside of the home need to be reminded just as much that they are doing a great job. To be shown in pictures how valued and important they are as a mom. To show them how their children look at them. All moms deserve to have these memories preserved forever. Working moms who are juggling it all, you are rocking it, You amaze me.

Rebecca is a perfect example of a working mom whose kid adores her. Rebecca works full time, but she is also so present with Ebi. He ADORES her and I love to watch how intently he watches her face to see what she's about to say or do. It's the best. It's a testament to the amazing job that she is doing being his mama.

Every Saturday morning they have the same routine for a couple of hours when it's just the two of them, before her husband wakes up. It is such a simple but special routine and Rebecca recognized that this MOMENT of her motherhood wasn't going to be the same forever, she wanted to capture it, to record it happening to have forever. I'm so glad she did. She recently told me that some of this routine has already changed. Already!

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My Personal Moments of Motherhood

Last night while I was putting Milo to sleep, he did what he almost always does and he put his arms around my neck and said "I want to hold you mama!" I swear he is the best hugger, holder of any three year old I've ever seen. He really holds on and it almost feels like he's trying to take care of you. He often puts your head on his shoulder. All of a sudden last night, it hit me so hard, like a punch to the gut, that he wasn't going to do this forever. That someday, nothing like this would be happening with him. That he'd be too big, or too cool, or it'd be inappropriate because of his age. (as a mom, I now think that's totally DUMB! :) )

This seriously hit me in a way that crushed me. But because of that crushing realization, I enjoyed the moment that much more. Let's be honest, I cried a little, but I also enjoyed staying in his embrace that much longer and relished in the moment. It also made me think once again about how important it is to have all of these little moments that I love so much captured. We have booked a photographer to document us, but she isn't coming until the spring. Last night it was too dark to take a photo, but I am going to share this one with you of a little less sleepy, but similar embrace.

This is one of my selfie Moments of Motherhood.

xo, Shelley

xo, Shelley

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Moments of Motherhood // Eve, Ayla, & Asher

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Moments of Motherhood // Eve, Ayla, & Asher

I'm super excited to share another Moments of Motherhood session with you today! Eve wowed me with her ease at caring for two small children at once. It was so natural and beautiful to watch. I could see the true enjoyment she has in her everyday with Ayla and Asher. It was eye opening to me, to try and remember to be better myself at enjoying each moment. My whole goal of these sessions is to show mothers the beauty in the seemingly small parts of their day. But with Eve, she unknowingly reminded me to notice those moments in my own days as much, if not more, than I was going to be showing them to her. 

Eve, thank you for having me and, as the Torgerson's say, thank you for being you. I enjoyed my time with you all so much. xo

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Moments of Motherhood // Brooke, Gisele, & Pearl

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Moments of Motherhood // Brooke, Gisele, & Pearl

The first thing I want to tell you about this mama and her babies is what Tim (my hubs) said to me as he was watching me edit Brooke and the girls session. He was walking by and what I was doing caught his attention because of what he noticed in the photos. He stopped for a moment and said "She really likes her kids huh? You can really tell when people like their kids, it's nice”  And it’s true. You can see it in these images and it was evident in person. She adores them and they adore her.

When Brooke contacted me about doing a session of her and the girls, and told me she was loving my work, I was so excited and so honored. Being a mom is obviously super important to her, it's not only what she does at home with the girls, but she has based her business around it. This is a family that enjoys life and enjoys each other, they had so much fun together the day I was there, just being home with each other. I am so happy that I was able to capture and document these moments.  I was laughing and crying and grinning , and saying to myself, "OMG, I love this one!" all through the editing. That makes for an awesome job. Thank you Brooke and thank you for having me Brooke, xo

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Moments of Motherhood // Kelly, Seity, & Ronan

Moments of Motherhood // Kelly, Seity, & Ronan

I am so excited to share with you a session of another amazing mama, Kelly, and her two adorable little guys. This mama is so natural in her parenting. There is a constant calm and ease that I could tell wasn't put on for me, but is who she is as a mama. I am honored to have been able to witness part of their day and to have been able to freeze these moments for them. Thank you Kelly, xo mama.

Moments of Motherhood // Lauri, Felix, & Eliza

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Moments of Motherhood // Lauri, Felix, & Eliza

Today I am sharing a session that is special not only because it is of yet another beautiful mama and her babies, but this mama is also my sister. Lauri recently accepted a new full time job, a job that is her dream job. It is very exciting for her and her family, but this meant transitioning from being a full time, stay at home mom to being a full time working mom. Even with all the excitement there was still a little bit of sadness about closing this chapter of her life to begin another one. We both felt it was super important document one of her days at home with Felix and Eliza before they embarked on this new exciting beginning. I love these three so much! xo

 

 

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366 / 2016/ Part Two

While I haven't been as diligent as I would have liked so far with my 366 project, I do still plan to continue and aim for daily photos. I'm sure I could have made it happen, but my excuses lately are many. Milo has been sick, we haven't been leaving the house much, and also at the same time Milo has starting to give up his nap sometimes. He has also been waking up between 5:00 and 5:30 am everyday. My time to myself has been limited and to be honest, I'm exhausted and many days flat out forgot to take any pictures. So are the joys of mothering a toddler. Considering I don't have pictures from everyday, some of these are from the same day. This project is about personal growth and capturing our memories, so I am being flexible with myself on the rules and the format. 6I9A68666I9A68696I9A69466I9A69886I9A69956I9A70006I9A70096I9A70396I9A70456I9A70526I9A70606I9A70656I9A7081 1 & 2.  Two from "Superhero's need Daddy's too"

3.  An after dinner walk around the block. I remembered last minute that I hadn't taken any pictures this day and grabbed my camera when we got back home.

4. Sick guy, eating toast and watching Netflix.

5 & 6. More sick guy. He was suffering a bit this day.

7. But he was still able to find a little of his silly.

8. Lots of love for Thomas the blue Train, as Milo calls him, in this house. Also, there are always animals everywhere.

9 & 10. The ever regal Murphs, he truly believes that this is his furniture.

11. Bat shit crazy Mugsy. But we love her.

12. As crazy as she is, she is so tolerant with Milo and he seems to be the nicest to her of all the animals.

13. Decorating the new "house" Daddy brought home from work.

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366/ 2016/ january

a photo a day. everyday. for a year. IMG_6345IMG_6355IMG_6406IMG_6413IMG_6441IMG_6513IMG_65106I9A65616I9A65656I9A65976I9A66006I9A66306I9A67256I9A67446I9A6804

1 & 2. Playing football with Daddy.

3 & 4. We have a very serious rockstar on our hands.

5. A moments reprieve from a very serious wrestling match.

6. Very early morning climbing on the couch.

7. 5am tv watching.

8. Tired guy, my first day with my new Mark III, messing around, testing it out, loving it.

9. Serious crafting session.

10. My baby. Perfectly out of focus.

12. A Mr Potato head birthday party.

12. Proud looking dinosaur. There's been a lot of lining up of toys all over the house lately. Found these guys chillin next to the record player

13. Brothers from another mother. Good times, Saturday morning, getting coffee at Pinwheel/Redhook, our favorite local spot.

14. Falling asleep waiting to be pet.

15. Attacking Daddy, overtired before bed.

 

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My little buddy

Milo, looking up at Val, our neighbor, who is also our friend, our family, and one of his favorite people ever. IMG_6381IMG_6389IMG_6390IMG_6392IMG_6393IMG_6395  

and because I loved them in black and white too and thought, hey it's my blog, I'll post both :) IMG_6381-2IMG_6389-2IMG_6390-2IMG_6392-2IMG_6393-2IMG_6395-2

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