on blogging and mothering and just doing the best we can.

Last week Brent and I ended up with an unexpected evening of visiting with friends over wine and snickerdoodles in our backyard. The twinkle lights were glowing and the breeze was blowing. It was the perfect way to spend a Thursday night and was such a diamond in the rough of, well, a rough week. Coming home from Dayton has been hard. The entire family was hit with a stomach bug and then the kiddos were hit with it again. There were sessions to edit from before I left, sessions to edit from my time in OH and then sessions still coming once we got home. Oh, and did I mention school is over? And the kids are home?

It was a rough week.

This week is shaping up to be more of the same although now that we’re all healthy and I’m back in my routine I’m feeling a little more in control (a place of comfort for me). And ever since our diamond in the rough evening last week something has been on my mind. The subject of blogs and blogging came up. And one of our dear friends made mention of what my readers must think of what may appear to be my “pottery barn life.” I asked him to elaborate. “Well, just that there’s the perception that everything looks beautiful all the time.” And we all laughed. Because if there’s one thing those who know me know about me it’s that everything is most definitely NOT always beautiful.

But that’s the thing about blogs. It’s easy to lose sight of the fact that perception very much does not equal reality. And I wrestle with the balance between sharing the entirety of my heart and struggle, with wanting to leave a beautiful, soul-filled legacy for my children. When I started this blog in January of 2006 I had about five readers and I was writing for an audience of one – Sarah. I wanted to record our life together so one day she could look back and know how much we loved her and how much thought and care went into our time with her. These days I have a few more than five readers (twenty five?) and a primary audience of two – Sarah and Ephraim. I hope that one day they’ll read these words and know how loved they’ve always been. I certainly hope I’ll be there to tell them but what if I’m not? I comfort my fears about having motherless children by telling myself these words and stories will fill the void.

So, no, we don’t lead a “pottery barn life.” It’s not always beautiful. In fact, lots and lots of times it’s riddled with shouting and frustration and worry and and all the typical things that come tied up in the hastily wrapped package known as parenting young children. And sometimes I blog about that. But most of the time I don’t. It’s just not the legacy I want to leave for them. Sure, when they’re young parents themselves I want them to see that sometimes they didn’t behave. Sometimes they threw fits. Sometimes they landed themselves in the emergency room. Sometimes I made bad decisions. And sometimes I felt out of control and sad. When they find themselves up against those same struggles I don’t want them to feel like failures. We all have them. And as a dear friend encouraged me with last week as I struggled to get one of my children under control, “parenting is miserable.” And, yes, sometimes it is.

But on the whole there is beauty here. It may not be “pottery barn beautiful” but the messy, worn, crazy beauty of everyday life is so much better. It’s solid. And sturdier in the long run. And that’s the story I want them to read.

So here’s what I want you to know:  if you find something here that is encouraging or helpful to you, I hope you’ll take it. But if you find yourself wondering why my life always looks so beautiful please promise you’ll roll your eyes and laugh it off. Afterall, that’s what my friends do. And I consider you all as such.

LaurenJune 7, 2010 - 1:02 pm

How true. You said it very nicely. And, I totally agree with you. Life is not always peachy, but I want to show as much peachiness in blogging for my child to look back at one day too. Sure, we all have ups and downs, good times and bad. But you’re right, it makes our lives much more solid and real….and beautiful!

SallyJune 7, 2010 - 1:21 pm

Oh, I love this post. I’ve had suspicions that you were a very regular mommy, just doing the best you can, but I’ve always appreciated that the memories and events you hold on to are the beautiful ones. To me, that’s a lesson for your kiddos too. Sure, some days are pretty yucky or off-kilter, but the whole of it is totally, totally beautiful. Your honesty is wonderful…I’ll keep reading to see it all. 🙂

Daisy ReyesJune 7, 2010 - 1:38 pm

Beautiful post, Erin. Again, you have a gift with words right along with your photography. Here’s the thing though . . . no matter how terrible a day. You have a gift to make it beautiful through your photography. I’ve been “questioned or put on the spot” about my blogging the good stuff too. And honestly, my blog is my haven to focus on the good and my lens lets me capture that. I’ve thought about it often and I just keep coming back to the fact that I don’t really blog for other people. I’m happy if they read and enjoy, but my blog is for me and my posterity.

I thought I was the only one out there that actually worried about leaving their kids motherless. The thought has even crossed my mind to pass my blurb password on to my dear sister in case something happened, she could finish the final book. Terrible, I know. But it’s crossed my mind more than once.

Here’s to many more years of blogging!

Ellen PattonJune 7, 2010 - 1:50 pm

keep keepin’ it real. 🙂

LisaJune 7, 2010 - 1:58 pm

Personally, I really like it, because I think there is a trend lately of mom bloggers mostly complaining about their kids. It’s like it has become hot to primarily talk about what a headache parenting is, with an explanation of “keeping it real.” As someone that is currently pregnant with my first, these blogs TERRIFY ME. I like to read about the good times! I know that the good can’t be a 24/7 thing, but it’s nice to see that it is in there somewhere!

Lorena MoraJune 7, 2010 - 2:07 pm

As a mom, I totally get why you would blog mostly the fun times and specialness of having kids. As moms we tend to remember bad stuff and forget in detail the good times and fun times. My mom can always remember when I threw a tantrum and what it was over but she can’t remember when we would do picnics at the beach in as great detail. So I applaud you for blogging all the good and I especially love the blogs where you tell us a little conversation you had with one of the kids. Your style of blogging is wonderful and your words you are so great at telling the story. You are still super mom to me even on the days where it may be a little stressful. I really need to start a blog so I can tell the stories of my little ones and believe me I have some stories to tell :-).

Carrie DavisJune 7, 2010 - 3:14 pm

You just wrote the post that I have been trying to come up with for weeks. One of my best friends and I had this same conversation about blogging – it just happened to be last Thursday night! (She was able to drink a margarita, but I was not, unfortunately – preggo and all) Very, very well said. Thank you so much!

Colleen SheehyJune 7, 2010 - 3:15 pm

I love your honesty. Thank you!

KimJune 7, 2010 - 3:18 pm

Hi. I’ve read your blog for over a few years now, although I’ve never left a comment. But today I couldn’t resist 🙂 For the record, I have never gotten the impression that you live a pottery barn life…I feel that you are totally real without dwelling on the negative. Of course there is plenty of negative we could all dwell on if we chose to, but I think it’s way more important both for ourselves and for our children if we choose to focus on the positive – finding the small moments worth remembering amidst the craziness and mess that as moms we often find ourselves in! So keep it up! I love your blog and the way you express yourself and the wonderful memories you are recording for your kiddos!

Melissa MJune 7, 2010 - 3:52 pm

Erin, I absolutely LOVE every.single.thing you write. Your words are so beautiful. When I become a mom some day, I certainly hope to be able to portray to my own kids all the love I have for them even half as well as you do for Sarah and Ephraim. You certainly have a way with words. Your posts about the not so perfect days (ex. Sarah’s fit) are just as lovingly written as any other post. I love them all!

LaceyJune 7, 2010 - 4:21 pm

Your blog has so many readers because we feel like we can relate to you! Your posts are always interesting. While the tone is usually upbeat, I also feel like you keep it real an even poke fun at yourself from time to time. I’ll never forget the post about the time Sarah was doing some major button-pushing and, like any mom, you finally just blew up—only to discover a client waiting at your doorstep. Honestly, we (your hordes of readers) know you are a real Mom just like us–but you put a positive spin on (or poke fun at) the ups and downs of parenting. And that is so much more refreshing. There are PLENTY of blogs out there where it seems like all the writers do is moan and complain– and frankly, that’s a turnoff! Keep up the great posts, Erin! It’s obviously been working out for you just fine!

Olivia CJune 7, 2010 - 4:24 pm

I just came across your blog a few weeks ago (from Karen Russell’s blog) and was instantly in love with your photography. However, as I have followed along, I have come to enjoy your view about your family. As a fellow mother of young ones, I am continually struggling with the balance of being a great mom, a great housekeeper, our family’s chef and somewhere in there finding a minute for myself. 🙂 Thanks for the encouraging confession, it is so easy to feel like a slacker compared to the beautiful pictures of other bloggers’ lives. We all just have to remember that we don’t post all of our ugly stuff, so why would be expect others to? Here’s to relishing ALL the aspects of motherhood!

Shannon K.June 7, 2010 - 4:33 pm

I feel you. I blog all the good things….now Facebook is reality. That’s where I status update the real time/real life stuff 🙂

DebbieJune 7, 2010 - 5:20 pm

Thank you for that Erin. I think you do a very good job of not portraying your lives to be “Pottery Barn Perfect” in your every day blogging. I think you come across as very “real” and that’s one reason why people are drawn to you/your blog. We need to know that there are other people out there that struggle with the every day stuff. It also helps to see someone document the joys of every day life even through the hard stuff. Struggles and joys go hand in hand. For all of it, thank you for sharing. You are a blessing to me Erin. I know that sounds weird, but you are. And your blog, as seen through the eyes of your children years down the road will be a blessing and a treasure to them. I truly believe it will be one of the greatest gifts that you leave them.

AngelaJune 7, 2010 - 5:29 pm

Nicely said Erin. My best friend and I often comment about how bloggers, especially well known photographers/scrapbookers, can make their life look just perfect. You and Karen Russell do a great job at keeping it realistically beautiful.

JaimieJune 7, 2010 - 6:17 pm

I totally agree about blogs. The fun moments are more fun to blog about.

AmyJune 7, 2010 - 7:54 pm

“Parenting is miserable” about sums up my afternoon, then came the huge chunk of guilt for feeling that way! And the thought crossed my mind, would I want to blog about it? Would I really want my kids to read it when they are 10 or 20 or 40?

Great post!

LisaJune 7, 2010 - 8:12 pm

Thanks for keeping it real! I am sooo looking forward to your upcoming Photoshop workshop/handout…that Karen Russel has mentioned.

LaceyJune 7, 2010 - 8:32 pm

Hi Erin,

Thank you for this post and your honesty! I started my blog to share the ups and downs on parenting, and to gain perspective about the harder times… I often think they are hard until I write about them and then am able to find the humor in them! Like recently finding my 3 year old playing in the mud at our friend’s house, in his undies… bit stressful at the time, but SO funny now that I read about it and see my pictures of it!

Anyway, I LOVE your writing and LOVELOVE your photography… I visit you every day! And find TONS of inspiration from you. Please keep doing what you’re doing… just as you have been. 🙂

Thank you!

amy rJune 7, 2010 - 9:37 pm

Nicely said.

JackiJune 7, 2010 - 10:17 pm

Thanks for blogging- I love reading every bit of it.

LoriJune 8, 2010 - 5:19 am

I love reading your blog! I love your honesty, the fun stories about your kiddos and all of the photography inspiration your provide for me. I guessing you have more than 25 readers 🙂 and I know most of us are daily regulars.

nickiJune 8, 2010 - 6:14 am

Erin, you are one of the most REAL people I know! On your blog and in real life. That is one of the qualities I love the most about you. You do not try to be something or someone you are not. You are proud of what you are. Personally, I love it when I see or read about other peoples child crying or misbehaving…it makes me feel normal! We all yell and have bad parenting days. You have shown on your blog many times that your life is not all “pottery barn”.
I’m sorry last week was so tough. I can’t believe the tummy issues came back again. yuck!

KarenJune 8, 2010 - 7:10 am

I really enjoy your blog. You seem to have such a positive spirit and attitude. I find your sense of humor refreshing and much like my own. We all have bad days and with your blog intended as a memoir to your children, it is important, in my opinion, to document all parts of the journey, but they don’t have to be negative. We all have bad moments, stupid parenting choices and just rough days, weeks and months. To me, it is all in the way you document your truth. Let the kids know what life is really like, but also let them know that they are so loved that it is worth every moment.
Keep your blog true to you.

I hope this week is much better too 🙂

DanaJune 8, 2010 - 7:32 am

As I read your blog and the blogs of other wonderful successful women, I’ve often wondered, why, why, WHY can’t I get my act together like that. Not that I thought your lives were picture perfect but rather your attitudes were. So that’s what I take from your blog…and Karen Russell’s…and PW’s. Today’s post was wonderful, sincere, and very much appreciated. As I read your blog I am always filled with a sense of how sincere you are!

Stephanie @ La Dolce VitaJune 8, 2010 - 8:44 am

So beautifully said. Moms do so much. We love, we cuddle, we swoon over our beautiful babies. And we yell, fuss, worry and cry too. But in every day, there is so much more good than bad. Why remember the spat, or frustrations of a moment, or the day(s) someone didn’t pick up after themselves? I’d rather remember the sweet smiles, the happy days, the good times. Because really, being a mom is to me a lot more good than bad. Enjoy the good, and love them up. These days go too fast.

TanyaJune 8, 2010 - 10:32 am

I could have written a very similar post on my blog. I often write it in my head in fact. Thank you for saying “out loud” for us. You really are a rock star.

mandyJune 8, 2010 - 11:03 am

well said. do you read Darby? Such a beautiful blog & family that I have been reading from her beginning post. Her disclaimer is, “this is a blog, not a full real life account…we don’t sit around and craft, bake, and smile for pictures all day….”
Keep up the good work for you kiddos.

JenniferJune 8, 2010 - 11:39 am

I think that you’re doing a wonderful job of showing just the right amount of honesty, love, beauty, and LIFE – which sometimes contains hissy fits and dirty countertops! The fact that you’re willing to share so much of yourself and your family is very generous of you. Even though these blogs are meant as a legacy for your kids, I think we all really appreciate that you’re willing to share it with the rest of us also. Not only do you make us smile – and sometimes cry – but you make us think and inspire us to be better people. 🙂

SarahJune 8, 2010 - 11:44 am

Well said! I also thought that you were just a normal everyday mommy. One can’t help but see your beautiful home and family, all the fun trips you take, and whisper to oneself that you have it made! Everything is so perfect! It’s nice to hear that it isn’t, as bad as that may sound. I adore you all the more for being honest! And really, who wants to blog about all the bad days, fights and hair pulling out moments that we have as mommy’s? So much better to remember the good times and all the laughs. Thank you for your honesty!

tara pollard pakostaJune 8, 2010 - 12:18 pm

Life if never perfect.
I tend to want to record only the good things for them on my blog also. But I do keep pen written journals for each daughter and boy do I let them know the truth of who they are in those jorunals LOL!~

JenJune 8, 2010 - 4:47 pm

Love your post Erin! You have been an inspiration to me in so many aspects of my own life. I think you are so talented and so brave for all of your blogging and I appreciate it – like I can imagine so many other moms do!

mollyJune 8, 2010 - 6:46 pm

I’ve never thought that you lead ‘a pottery barn’ sort of life. I sense your integrity and genuineness (not to mention amazing love for your kiddos and husband and all those you know) and that’s why I love coming here. Thanks for opening up your life (however much you want) to the blogosphere. It’s a priviledge to come here. 🙂

Beth P.June 9, 2010 - 7:04 am

You probably already know this, but just wanted to tell you about http://www.blurb.com. It’s a program that allows you to download and convert your blog into a hardbound book. Like you, I started my blog to document the lives of my children. And when I can finally find the time, I plan to convert the blog into several volumes: Volume 1 beginning right before my 2 1/2 yr. old was born and ending right before my 1 yr. old was born, and Volume 2 picking up with the birth of my 2nd son a year ago and cutting off at the end of 2010. Then I hope to cut off and do a book every 12 months. Those are going to be their baby books.

Love your blog and love your photography!

Jennifer L.June 9, 2010 - 5:23 pm

A friend called me out on my blog a few months ago, saying that she had scoured it for a hint of despair, of frustration, of anxiety, and could find none, despite my telling her the tale of my son’s first year, which involved severe acid reflux and colic and postpartum depression.

I told her that the bad stuff is easy to remember and that it is the good stuff that I don’t want to forget.

A mom here in my city died in a car wreck in April. She was only 33 and had two young children. The youngest is my daughter’s age, 18 months at the time of the crash. The oldest is just a year younger than my four-year-old son. The wreck haunted me for weeks. I couldn’t shake the thought that the children are without their mom, that the husband must be devastated, that the little 18-month-old, especially, must be so confused, wondering where his mom is.

What will he remember about his mom, if anything, when he is older?

That’s why I write my blog. (And why I use Blurb to preserve it.) Not that I am expecting to die soon or anything gruesome like that. I write for my children. I just want them to have distinct memories of their childhood, and I want them to have it in writing, so they can hold evidence of it all in their hands. I write about the good times, the funny things they say and do, and I’m sure to toss in the occasional post about naptime battles and mealtime struggles and my moments of utter humiliation, just so when they are older, they don’t think they were completely angelic. 😉

Excellent post. Keep writing.

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