I Was There Too | Self-Portraits of August

My first born is in kindergarten and ever since school started, it just flipped our lives upside down. It’s only been a month into the school year, yet we have been busy with homework, volunteer work, soccer, kung fu, more homework, fundraising… it’s only been a month!

sacramento photographer, family photographer

During these busy days of shuffling the kids from here to there, and tiring myself out with the daily grind of motherhood, I try to think of the future and how different it will be then. How, in the future, I’ll look back on these days and actually want it again.

That doesn’t even make sense to write down.

How can I possibly want to be exhausted, tired, sleep deprived, and fatigued all over again?

sacramento photographer, family photographer

Then I think the thoughts most of us parents think when we’re not appreciating our present chaos: that one day, every one of my kids will be independent enough to do everything on their own, including homework. One day, they’ll want to hang out with friends after school instead of sit down and talk my ear off about what they did all day. One day, they won’t really need me as much.

sacramento photographer, family photographer

But it’s not just about them needing me to fulfill tasks and take them from point A to point B. When I look back on these days, I’ll be looking back at the funny, happy, cute, silly and intimate moments that made suffering from sleep deprivation worth it.

sacramento photographer, family photographer

It’s not easy to imagine the future and suddenly be okay with 3 hours of sleep and the rest of the annoying things about motherhood. This work is hard work, but it’s important work, it’s purposeful work, and it’s the work that my kids will want to see when they’re adults.

So, I continue to make an effort to document these moments with ME in it, despite the fact that I wish, in these images, I was more fit, had brushed my hair, looked more rested, and put on some make up. That’s not the work that matters anyway.

sacramento photographer, family photographer


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I Was There Too | Self-Portraits of July

July was fun. We spent some days at the pool, park or having a barbecue; your typical summer activities. But the days I look back on the most, are the ones where we did something simple in each other’s company. Like, staying home; with not much activity going on except the usual chore of breaking up fights between my toddlers, and actual chores like laundry. The simple, everyday life, is my favorite thing to document.

self portrait laundry pile family

Why? Because its the simple activities, that leave room for deeper bonding. For example, we went to the state fair, but I hardly connected with my kids or family members that came. We were all so distracted with rides, food, and exhibits. While this event is something more exciting and stimulating, there wasn’t as much meaningful connection.

On the other hand, going to see a movie with my two oldest kids, a very simple activity, helped me reconnect with them in a way that’s been lacking since having my two younger babies. Not needing to worry about diapers and puke and breastfeeding, freed up time for me to get to know them better. To learn more about who they are now, who they are becoming, and being more attentive despite their growing independence.

I can’t do that while we’re spinning inside of a large purple dragon.

movie theater self portrait

Life at home may seem boring to many, but it’s filled with beautiful subtle connections within a family that deepens our bond to each other on a spiritual level. These connections, or moments, feel like normal everyday life. But one day, as we’re reminiscing on this present life, we’ll wish we had a way to come back and FEEL what it was like again.

My solution to that problem, is of course photography.

self portrait new born baby

And that’s why I document this everyday life that some call “boring”. Because the everyday life is what matters most. It’s what you hope to never forget.

breastfeeding newborn toddlers

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I Was There Too | Self-Portraits of June

My life has been completely overtaken by these four children. It all seems pretty chaotic right now, trying to juggle the unique personalities and needs of each child, while taking care of a household, while trying to recover from carrying and delivering babies into this world for years now. I’m not the same person I was before this baby-making journey began; and it’s been challenging to hold on to an identity other than “mom”, when that is my primary purpose in life.

self-portrait of family and baby

I’ve heard stories of parents “losing themselves” amidst the chaos of parenting and I’m weary of becoming a victim myself. I look forward to the very brief moments throughout the day where I can pause and just think… of nothing in particular. It seems silly, but when my mind is having to think of everything that everyone else needs ALL the time, it’s alleviating to just put all of that on pause for a second; like literally one second.

self portrait night black and white

During these pauses I’m reminded of who I used to be. I would go out a lot, travel, discover new restaurants, dance, read a book, dress up, wear make up, sleep in. All very simple pleasures in life that I miss.

self portrait late night newborn black and whiteI haven’t exactly figured out how to hold on to an identity apart from “mom” yet. Maybe because without being “mom” my identity would be incomplete. Or maybe its because its really hard to let go of what once was. But as those brief pauses throughout the day accumulate, I remember that who I was, who I used to be, isn’t as important as who I am today.

nap time sleepy newborn

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I Was There Too | Self-Portraits of May

Making pictures has always been about documenting what I don’t want to forget; the moments that really matter to me. It’s the reason I make tons of pictures, because almost every moment matters to me. I remember a long time ago before we had kids, my husband asked me, “why do you always have to take pictures of everything?” with a tone that told me it clearly annoyed him. I took pictures of everything you could think of; the sky, the ground, trees, the grass, people, us… everything. I just wanted to remember all of it because I knew my brain couldn’t hold on to everything forever.

Me taking pictures of everything hasn’t gone away; it’s actually gotten worse now that I have four fast-growing babies that morph into new people every couple of months.

mother holding newborn baby

Life changes moment by moment with children. Just two months ago, my little 4lb newborn was quiet, sleepy, and generally a pretty easy going baby. Now she’s doubled in weight, eats more, sleeps less, is more alert, has found her voice, and so many other changes. She’s become a totally different baby in such a short amount of time. And that’s what makes me pick up my camera when I’m so exhausted and tired and would rather sleep. I push through it to make sure I store away these fleeting memories, in case my brain runs out of room.

mom and newborn baby portrait

I’ve thought a lot about why I continue making pictures of everything. It has to do with my childhood. At a young age, I was in a car accident in which my older cousin died. When I was 11, my dad died from cancer, 6 months later my grandma passed away from a sudden heart attack. There were more deaths than I’ll mention, and I’m not sure why I had to experience all this in my youth. But it has shaped my point of view in life: that nothing is certain. I think we humans are all pretty well aware of that and so we find ways to extend the things that matter to us; those things we know will not last. Photography is my way of doing that.

motherhood newborn toddler family

toddler sleeping mother newbornSo, yes, making a picture of the way my daughter looked at me when she was trying to be sneaky, matters; making a picture of me not being able to get off the couch because my kids loved falling asleep on me, matters; even spit bubbles matter. It’s so important to document our lives, exactly as it is and more importantly how it feels. My children, my family, myself; we are constantly growing and shifting, and these photos will help us remember who we used to be and how we existed. That’s not just what matters to me. It will matter to my children too.

family mom and newborn laughing

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I Was There Too | Self-Portraits of April

I like to plan as much of my life out as possible, which is pretty contradictory since life has a mind of its own and often pays little attention to what I want. Nonetheless, I plan. I plan things via whiteboard calendar, iCal calendar, planning apps, and even a notebook planner. I definitely need to plan a day to consolidate and pick just one planning tool to use.

As I look back on April, I had quite a busy month planned out. I was 8 months pregnant and charted out all the baby prep stuff I needed to get done before she arrived: wash baby clothes and blankets, install the car seat, setup the crib, clean baby bottles, buy diapers and throw a baby BBQ party. I even created a Pinterest board to collect all the ideas I had for this party.

Well, as life would have it, my plans meant nothing. It’s as if all my planning was just a way for me to pass time, because with three toddlers and a pregnancy there is so much free time. Perhaps my plans were too boring and life said, “let’s shake things up” and threw my April blueprint out the window. On April 4th, two months before my due date, my little girl made her grand entrance into the world.

mother holding sleeping newborn

It happened unexpectedly, and very quickly. After major blood loss I was rushed to the operating room where they performed major abdominal surgery to deliver my little preemie and whisk her off to the ICU. The experience was emotional, shocking, painful, and very foreign to me. My previous children were all full term with an uneventful pregnancy and a very typical labor and delivery. So this was new.

Consequently, my self portraits of April are made up of visits to the ICU. It was pretty depressing at first. A room full of tiny little newborns hooked up to machines, wires, and feeding tubes. Some with little hope of making it home, a much more critical position than my preemie was in. But each time I went to see her, it got easier. Each day she showed improvement, and each goal achieved meant one less machine to be connected to and a day closer to coming home. Some of the ICU nurses called her a rockstar, and nurse Peggy called her a “champ”. Thank God for this medical staff that remained so encouraging through it all.

The three weeks my little girl spent in the ICU felt like forever. I feel bad saying that since some of her former roommates are still back there. But it just makes me realize how much more grateful I need to be that my little girl is home and thriving.

I didn’t make any plans for May.


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  • Cheryl

    Welcome home dear sweet Isla.  The world of adventure awaits you.  Thank you Father of lights for looking after mother and daughter and bringing them home safely.  We pray the other babies will go home to their families as well.ReplyCancel