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Another Year of Sham of the Perfect

It’s hard to believe there’s another year tucked away and a fresh new chapter sitting in front of us.

I don’t like to make any photography-related lofty goals so you can imagine how over-the-moon happy I am about successfully completing TWO full years of documenting and sharing my family life on Sham of the Perfect. As one of the faithful contributors, this project continues to push me to take photos of my family when truthfully I don’t always feel like picking up my camera. I’m not kidding. At least half of these photos would never exist if it wasn’t for the weekly deadline. And many of these photos about to appear before you are some of my absolute favourite personal images of all time. All because I’m a Shammer.

Keeping the commitment to myself, and the rest of the team, not to let any week slide by without something from Robil-land has become a habit. Knowing I get to look back at the full collection at the end of the year like this makes it a very hard habit to break.

What started out as a simple project to grow our skills as documentary photographers has grown to so much more. For me, it shines a bright light on what is most important to remember as a mom of three boys – it’s a wild ride full of bumps, turns and unexpected adventures (and a whole bunch of laughs!).

ottawa photographer, family photography, storytelling, child reading bookSometimes, navigating my way through the craziness of raising energetic guys requires a headlamp (or helmet!) and other times, I want to cozy up with my favourite people and enjoy a quiet moment together – or a cup of tea during a round of Monopoly.ottawa photographer, family photography, storytellingLike most families, this trio of mine can be insanely silly or sneaky (trying to ambush with snowballs!) but they do have their quiet moments.ottawa photographer, family photography, storytelling, kids I really appreciate how the mission of our project connects us all as parents first and foremost – and our photography intertwines every stage of family life and embraces all moods (even the pre-teen ones!). ottawa photographer, family photography, storytellingAs it turns out, our goal to share more reality and less ‘perfect photos’ is something that strikes a chord with many other families. If you missed my posts on social media over the spring and summer, we had some HUGE recognition for our little project. Actually, Sham has somewhat exploded in the photography world and was picked up by a few popular blogs and featured in a magazine. (Yay, team!!) ottawa photographer, family photography, storytelling, driving, sunsetottawa photographer, family photography, storytellingLike I mentioned last year, the weekly photo opportunities aren’t always easy to execute. For some reason, boys at this age will have many, many, many days where they they don’t want to be photographed whatsoever. I always put my camera down and respect their wishes when that happens. Or there will be times when I wait, thinking this is the shot, and for whatever reason, the photo just doesn’t come together. ottawa photographer, family photography, storytelling, renfrew countyHowever, opportunities abound in summer months because we tend to go to more places and do different activities on the regular. They actually want mom to take cool photos with her big camera in those situations. 😉 ottawa photographer, family photography, storytellingottawa photographer, family photography, storytellingottawa photographer, family photography, storytelling, kids swimmmingottawa photographer, family photography, storytellingottawa photographer, family photography, storytellingottawa photographer, family photography, storytelling, kids at the beachI’m one of the few in our international collective that experiences all four seasons (it’s -30 degrees Celcius as I write this, so I’m not sure if that’s a perk or not). But in each weekly post, it’s always interesting to see others on the team are stepping into their flip flops when I’m starting to layer up with big sweaters and boots. ottawa photographer, family photography, storytelling, fall photos, children playing, basketballottawa photographer, family photography, storytellingottawa photographer, family photography, storytellingottawa photographer, family photography, storytellingFrom birthdays to road trips, and all of the mundane moments in between, looking back through these 52 images from the past year show that I no longer have little boys. It’s bittersweet to say goodbye to that stage of mothering, yet I’m ready as ever to see what kind of stories are awaiting behind the next door. (And it makes my heart incredibly happy to have this amazing collection of moments from 2016 of our family.)ottawa photographer, family photography, storytelling, winter, boy, Another Year Sham of the Perfect Documentary Family Photography

The project continues to be going strong for 2017 and I’m beyond excited to be part of the team again. It’s going to be another great year; we have a pile of new features coming on our project blog and new members of the collective. We have such a great group!! Make sure to check out our beautiful re-vamped website, and follow the Instagram feed (we recently hit the 10K follower mark!!) and on Facebook.

Some of my fellow Sham team members are also sharing their look back on the year with their own compilation posts — be sure to wander over and pay a visit to my friends:
Elisa Elliot
Robin Stephenson
 


FAMILY DOCUMENTARY PHOTOGRAPHER

If you live in Renfrew, Arnprior, Ottawa or surrounding areas and are interested in having a relaxed, documentary-style session with your own children, we need to chat. Please visit the Session Information page or send me a note to learn more.


 

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A year of Sham of the Perfect

There’s a bright, shiny new year ahead of us. A blank page full of stories waiting to be told.

As a photographer there are many photo challenges or projects that pop up in the photography world to preserve our stories (especially with the start of a new year) … it can be inspiring or overwhelming to jump on the bandwagon. I’ve always fallen somewhere in between. I admire anyone who completes a 365 project (taking a photo a day for an entire year). For ages I had been telling myself I will complete at least a 52 week project of some sort, but by March it would start feeling like more of a task than anything else.

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That was until last year when a talented group of amazing moms/photographers from a Facebook group wanted to take our personal photography to the next level by sharing it on a weekly basis. We are all alumni of Molly Flanagan’s Visual Storytelling course at The Define School and despite being from all corners of the globe, we connected as mothers and storytellers. Sham of the Perfect is all about documenting the reality of motherhood and family life — not the perfectly posed, polished images that bombard our social media feeds or seen on the pages of magazines.

The truth is that there is always beauty in the mundane and so many moments in our ordinary lives that deserve to be photographed (especially as we are raising our families). That is the backbone of the SOTP project. We made it our mission to tear down the sham of perfection.

It hasn’t been easy. Some weeks I really struggled to make images that jumped off the screen at me and sparked a little something in my heart. My boys are all getting older, most of the group have adorable littles who do all kinds of sham-worthy activity on a daily basis. I remember those days well and when you’re a mother who is also a photographer, those types of moments with small children appear before you lens more times in any given day than you can count. With a pair of pre-teens in the mix, I knew it would be a challenge to keep it fresh and interesting (especially when my kids are in school all week). The truth is that some weeks were less than interesting. Without this project, I would have just kept the camera on my desk. I need that little push of the SOTP to embrace the flaws and be patient. Be patient with myself. Be patient with my kids. Isn’t that what motherhood is all about?

There is no hiding that my perspective of motherhood is much different than the moms with preschoolers. You won’t see little people in diapers here. Kids don’t crawl in our bed in the middle of the night anymore. Sippy cups are long gone. Bathtub time has evolved to quick showers (by themselves). Little People toys have been replaced with Lego (hundreds and hundreds of tiny pieces of Lego).

Here you will see that we spend a lot of time outdoors with these dudes (most of it is in our yard or their grandfather’s property behind our house).

In the snow or in the muck, these kids love to play and they play hard. They do their homework at the dinner table. Our family can travel easily and we love to go on adventures. We enjoy spending time with our family and friends. And my youngest seems to eat a lot of treats!

Above all, you see brothers just simply being brothers. That’s what I see every day. And that’s the part that makes me excited and honoured to be involved with the project for another year.

Now that I look back at this collection, my 52 weeks of sham-ing, my version of motherhood is pretty cool. And the weeks when I thought “there’s nothing to document because I have older kids,” the truth was that I just wasn’t looking hard enough. There’s always something unexpected and wonderful happening as my little boys quickly turn into young men.

None of this would have happened without the dedication of our Sham matriarchs — Lacey Monroe, Natasha Kelly and Erika Roa have kept the group ticking along like a well-oiled machine all year. They’re the gals behind the scenes creating the posts and organizing everything for all of us. They all have little people (of the short, super cute variety) in their lives to take care of, photography businesses to manage and this project was a huge undertaking. It all started with a little idea to put our skills to work and the community has grown larger than anyone ever expected. Congratulations, girls!

The Sham of the Perfect is an international collective that can be followed on our Website, Facebook and Instagram. I will be moderating the Instagram feed later on this year, so please be sure to follow us and participate with your own Family Documentary photos!

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welcoming a new family member | Bradford birth photography

This one is a long one. Like all birth stories, this was a much-anticipated, exhausting, emotional journey. In this case, it was especially emotional on a personal level because this is my brother and his wonderful wife.

Let me preface the story by saying that my younger sister, younger brother and I are pretty tight. We’re typical siblings – we do squabble (as mom says) but deep down we sincerely love each other to pieces. I realize that not many people can say that, and feel fortunate to have been stuck through life’s ups and downs with those two. Our spouses all get along famously, the kids all adore each other and when we’re all together, you can bet on two things – an abundance of delicious food (our mom taught us well!) and hearing nothing but non-stop laughs. We’re always there for each other and can count the other two to be there and celebrate each other’s milestones: especially weddings and the birth of our first child (or children in my case!).

When my sister gave birth to my nephew more than 13 years ago, she and her husband waited until his safe arrival to rally the troops, so to speak. I lived in Ottawa at the time and drove to pick up my mom and dad en route so we could all drive together into the hospital in Belleville to be introduced to their new grandson, my nephew. I will never forget that day. I got to hold and love on that boy when he was just hours old. Now that he’s bigger than me, it’s hard to believe he was ever that small.

For my brother and my sister-in-law, they wanted to have the grandparents to there with them for the whole ride. Her parents would become grandparents for the first time and my mom was anxious to see if she would have another boy or girl to add to our family. We had all been waiting and placing our bets about the gender. (I love that they choose not to find out the baby’s gender – it truly is the best surprise in the world!)

Since they live more than four hours away in Bradford, I knew it would be tricky to meet the little one on the same day, like I did when my older nephew was born. I offered to take our mom and not miss out on being part of the Baby C Welcoming Committee (my husband deserves a big shout out for holding down the fort for the three days I was away – he’s the best!).

Since my brother’s wife was diagnosed with gestational diabetes, the baby was growing bigger and bigger by the minute and they were advised to get their son or daughter out sooner than later. She knew she had to head to the birthing centre to be induced on the 21st. So by mid-afternoon, mom and I were on the way to the hospital in Alliston. However, the baby had no intentions of being born on that date. In fact, her labour didn’t progress at all and they scheduled a c-section for the evening of the 22nd. In the meantime we kept them company, brought food, told funny stories… tried to do whatever we could to pass the time.

Throughout it all, my mom did what she does best. She prayed. She worried. And knitted. (I think she made two pairs of socks in our little trip.)

Just after 7 p.m. that evening, Alton Robert came not-so-quietly into the world. He let everyone know he was not impressed about being taken out of his safe, cozy, warm home.

This handsome dude is named after his grandpas. I definitely teared up – our dad’s middle name was Elton and that’s what my mom and close family always called him instead of his first name, William. Dad was everywhere that day and we all knew it. He was born on the 22nd and their hospital room was #222 (dad’s lucky number was 22) and another sign was when we looked out the window. Just before Alton arrived, the sky was all aglow (my dad always loved a show-stopping sunset). Alton is undoubtedly their gift from him.

Even now, I can’t begin to express how moved I was to be a part of experience. I was elated for them to finally meet and hold their first child (we had all been saying for years how gorgeous their babies would be!). However, I did not expect it to be as special as when my own children were born. Even though I (selfishly) wanted to be there with my camera to record their new beginning together as a family, it was humbling to be reminded how miraculous it is to bring a tiny human into the world.  My brother and sister-in-law are total rockstars; Alton is in very capable, loving hands.

All of the waiting was worth it for this kid. Meet the most sweetest treasure who instantly captivated all of our hearts.

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Alton was born very strong and healthy with a unilateral cleft lip – sometimes this is seen on ultrasound examination, but in his case went completely undetected. Fortunately, this hungry man had no issues nursing or any other complications related to his cleft.

Update: If he wasn’t already enough of a lady killer, at 3 1/2 months old Alton underwent corrective cleft lip surgery and rhinoplasty. Mom and dad are thrilled with the results. Huge thank you to the team at Toronto Sick Kids for their phenomenal expertise and care with our boy.
 


NEWBORN DOCUMENTARY PHOTOGRAPHER

If you are expecting a baby and interested in documenting this exciting time with a newborn (in-hospital or at home), we need to chat. Please visit the Session Information page or send me a note to learn more.


 

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thankful

When you have a large family spread out in different provinces, celebrating Thanksgiving, or any holiday for that matter, doesn’t happen on the date specified on a calendar.  It is whenever you are together.

We took a little trip to Montreal a few weekends ago to check out my sister-in-laws’ new home (I now have a serious case of kitchen envy!) and hang out with some cutie pies. I was in the middle of a Visual Storytelling course and inspired to document the visit in an organic way, without directing the kids on what to do or where to be.

These images tell the real story of our time with some of the people we are thankful to have in our lives. Snuggling on the couch, eating breakfast, my country boys riding bikes and scooters (it’s a dead end street – such a change from our dirt trails!), a treat of hot chocolate spilled on the front of a polka dot dress, and watching my brother-in-law play soccer (and then the kids all running on the field after to play too!).


This Thanksgiving weekend I’m humbled and thankful to the many friends and supporters of my work.  I wish you and your loved ones a wonderful Thanksgiving.

 

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there’s the bus!

Backpacks all loaded up, new lunch kits all packed with their favourite foods and a few (or six) pairs of shoes ready for action. Summer wants to linger a little longer but the calendar says it’s time to get back to routines and wait for the bus each morning. It has been a very nice break, and now a very welcome return of another school year.

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Wishing all families and teachers a smooth transition Back to School!

 

 

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