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What I've Learned by Taking a Photo Every Day in 2016

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As a family photographer, my job is to capture beautiful moments for my clients but being a mom has inspired me to embrace the real life moments of their lives as well. Capturing siblings dancing together, a toddler picking her nose, Mom brushing the dirt off her son's knees because of course he crawled around in dirt with his brand new khakis on right before they got in him the car — these are my favorite moments and the ones my clients always thank me for adding into the mix.

Last year I sat down to unload thousands of client pictures and organize my own families photos on my hard drive. As I finished up my client folders and opened my family's images my heart sank. I realized I had a very small fraction of moments captured of my own children compared to the amount of work I did for my clients. Shame, shame, shame. There are weeks and even a few months were I never picked up my camera to photograph my own children. Sometimes blurry iPhone pictures just don't cut it, and there were so many important moments that I know existed but I don't have any photographic evidence.

I have never made a New Years Resolution because I know in my heart I'll do well in whatever I set my mind to for about 3 days and then I'll move on to something that feels more productive or fun. But at the end of 2015 I made my first New Year's resolution: every day in 2016 I would take a picture with my "real" camera and document a moment. Easy, right? Especially for a photographer. I could do this!

For the same reasons listed above I never told anyone about my resolution and on Jan. 2, 2016 I sat at my computer only to realize I missed my first photo of the day. I literally failed before I even started. Cool. No one knew about my plans anyway so I technically didn't have to do this challenge. Apparently it wasn't enough that that I failed before I started, but now I was contemplating quitting all together. However, this challenge wasn't just for me — it was for my kids too. And my far away family who loves to see what they are up to. And for my fellow moms that find grace in another mother's vulnerability. So, although I had the perfect excuse not to, I started my photo challenge a day late and with the realist of real life moments. A broken dryer.

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That photo had nothing to do with my kids, but everything to do with our family situation at the moment. Every time I look at that picture I remember what it took to get my camera out and tell myself "It's just one picture, everyday. You'll thank yourself later."

And I do. Because I look at that photo and, although they aren't in it, I remember my kids at that moment. My son sitting on my back as I lay on the floor to get this shot. My daughter frantically asking why the dryer was in "one million pieces" and how our clothes would "never be clean again." I hear her worried voice so clearly in my head and I'm so thankful for this stupid picture.

By doing this challenge I wanted my kids to remember that things never (and I do mean NEVER) go as planned in our house. And I share these moments in hopes that other parents know they aren't alone. My house isn't clean, my daughter's hair is a mess 99 percent of the time and my son's mouth is open in half of the photos because he constantly has to make noise.

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I want my kids to remember when it was OK I that couldn’t sew a play costume this year.

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And that splinters are best removed by the "doctor" in the house, even if that doctorate degree is in Chemistry.

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I want them to remember as many imperfect moments as they do the good ones. Because this is life right now. And it's a mess.

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And then there are the sweet moments. So many sweet moments. If it wasn't for my little New Year's Resolution I would have never intentionally picked up my camera to get their impromptu dance in the playroom at the end of summer.

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Or the time they stalled bedtime by getting married.

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Or been able to remember the looks on their faces as they watch Star Wars for the first time.

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Doing this challenge has taught me to let go a bit. Like the time we broke all the HOA rules and adopted two pink flamingos by the names Feta and Rainbow.

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These photos are so precious to me. I'm so thankful that I not only witnessed them but I have the photographs to enjoy for years to come. This challenge has pushed me to be a better photographer, a better story teller and in many ways, a better mother. I did not intentionally set up a single shot this year. I didn't worry about how the house looked when I took a photo and in many cases I ignored all the rules of photography. There was no "smile for the camera" or "I'll give you a piece of candy if you let me take this photo" — just my kids being themselves. This challenge has taught me to let go, let them be and to just savor it.

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A neighbor told me earlier in the year that seeing my daily posts has inspired her to take more photos of her own kids. I haven't always been super thrilled to lug my camera out and get a shot, and there have been many nights where I just took a picture of one of the kids in bed because that was what I had the energy to do that day. But hearing that someone was inspired to capture more memories of their children makes me smile.

I haven't decided if I'll continue this challenge into 2017. But I do know that I’ll keep my camera close even if the light isn’t perfect and my house is a mess. They are only here for so long and I want to soak in what I can, and capture the rest.

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View all of Ashley’s 2016 Photo Challenge in its entirety HERE.

This post was originally published at www.NaptimeTales.com.

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