I’ve been quiet on the blog this year (something about keeping two babies alive and running a business full-time – ha!), but I couldn’t let the year pass by without my year in review post!! I went back and read our past years ( 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2015)because they are such good reminders of what we’ve gone through and how far we’ve come. In reading our 2015 post, I was reminded of what a difficult year it was, though we were grateful for both the peaks and valleys in retrospect. In the post I said, “I know both of us are incredibly grateful for all the beauty and joy 2015 brought for us, as well as the lessons we learned from the losses and pain… but we are hoping for a much more steady year in 2016. Please oh please. We hope for some constants, smooth sailing, and are praying for no more losses. We are anxiously awaiting the arrival of our boys, while trying our best to soak in the remainder of our time as just the two of us (and Chloe, of course!). We are hopeful that all goes well and they are born healthy & strong. All we can do is pray that 2016 shows us some grace.”
And oh did it ever.
I remember being so cautious coming into 2016. I was HUGE and pretty much all consumed with the two baby boys growing in my stretched-to-the-max belly. I was worried about how the year might look – how my labor & delivery would go (praying so very hard that we would bring two healthy boys home with us), and how we’d get through with newborn twins and run a business together full-time – but I also oddly felt really at peace with it. I knew that we would make it, though at times it might not be pretty! haha. Now looking back on the year (that flew by faster than any before) – I am overwhelmed with gratitude that it was in fact a year full of grace. Blessings we never could have imagined… grace we showed each other as we navigated the world of being new parents (and specifically, TWIN parents, which those who are parents of multiples know it is NO JOKE! haha)… grace our family & friends showed us as they so kindly understood the shift in our lives that occurred that meant we may not be as readily available as we were in the past… and most importantly, perhaps – the grace we showed ourselves as we figured out our new roles as parents – what that meant for our sense of self, our marriage, our business, and our lives in general.
I’m not going to sugar coat it and say it was an easy year – but the undercurrent of the year was complete and utter joy, happiness, and gratitude – so anything that happened on top of that (like barely any sleep, some frustrations between James & I – especially in the boys’ early months here, and battling what felt like lots of colds and sickness this fall/winter) felt oddly manageable! Because, my gosh, we had our miracle boys and everything else was water under the bridge!
While we had a normal (i.e. super busy) year workload-wise… I did scale back a bit on sessions and workshops (we didn’t host any for the first time in years) as we wanted to make sure we had time to serve our current clients well and keep up with our normal turnaround times and customer service (which I’m so happy to say WE DID)! We also knew these baby days would fly by and that with so many changes constantly happening with the boys – we wouldn’t know what to expect with their schedules and everything else – so it was easier to not plan a whole lot of stuff on top of an already full year.
In a change from recent years – we did not get on a plane once in 2016, which seems kind of crazy now that I think about it – considering we were constantly traveling previously. But I’m so glad we got all that in (and momentarily out of our system) so we could be at peace with a much more quiet home life in 2016. (Well, not necessarily QUIET, but you get what I’m saying! ;))
Our word for 2016 was grace, and I am so thankful that it came to fruition. As I reflected back on this year – I knew immediately what I wanted my word for 2017 to be.
I have felt overwhelmed lately by social media and have struggled to find a balance between documenting the boys growing and also being here in the moment with them. I don’t want them to grow up remembering mommy always with her nose in her phone or sitting at her computer. I want them to remember me on my hands and knees – playing with them, interacting, laughing, singing, dancing, and reading. I don’t want these days to fly by in a blur of Instagram comments and Snapchat videos. I want to be here with them. Right now.
I also want to feel more present in each moment elsewhere too. I know as a parent it can be easy to feel pulled in many directions. When you’re working you may feel guilty about not being with your kids. When you’re with your kids you may feel guilty about the inbox full of emails waiting for replies. Instead of feeling like that is the norm for me, I want to enjoy and be fully present in whatever moment I’m in. I’ve found that the guilt only slows me down and makes me less productive, which in turn takes more time away from my family. So I’ve chosen to be grateful for our business and the life it has afforded us rather than feel it is ever taking away from our family. My gosh – we get to raise our boys together EVERY DAY and do what we love!! So I want to be fully present when I’m out shooting, emailing clients, or even crunching numbers for our monthly budget… because not only do our clients deserve that – but so do I! We busted our butts to get our business to where it is and I want to cherish and be grateful for that growth, not frustrated or overwhelmed.
I’m so thankful for what we get to do for a living – to be inspired by the love around us and to be witnesses to love stories every single weekend is truly an honor I cannot even begin to explain!! This year we got to document 28 amazing couples’ weddings and shot 60 other sessions throughout the year. I feel SO blessed for each and every one of those connections with our clients and beautiful stories we got to tell!!
So – here we are… a new year!! So many people are “over” 2016 and ready to run full speed out of here… but I wish I could rewind a bit and go back to enjoy and savor each moment just once more – because we had more reasons to feel joyful and happy than ever before!! Welcoming our two healthy boys into the world in March and watching them grow into the oh-so-happy and active little 9-month-olds they currently are has been the experience of a lifetime. We are so grateful and already nostalgic for this year… so let’s take a look back! xoxo
- We started the year by sitting down to write our Goals out (as we always do). Looking back on them – shockingly – we did a pretty good job!! I’ll need to do a check-in post on this one to elaborate more – but hey – the most important goal of the year we definitely crossed off the list – Survive!!
- We also crossed a lot of big things off our “do before babies” list early in the year: got a new (bigger) car, did our best to finish decorating our house, celebrated the boys at my baby shower, took an infant CPR class, and finally bought nursery decor and the boys’ cribs!
- We shot our final big commercial shoot before going on leave. I was almost 31 weeks pregnant for that shoot and definitely ready to take a breather before the boys’ arrival!!
- We got on the other side of the camera as we had the amazingly talented, Britta Marie, shoot our maternity photos! You can see the full post HERE.
- We finally finished the boys’ nursery!!! You can see the full post of photos HERE.
- I wrote a letter to James as we were in the home stretch waiting for our boys’ arrival. Looking back on this letter again just brought me to tears because I see everyday now what an amazing father he is to Micah and Gabriel!
- We made it to 9 MONTHS pregnant with our little dudes! My word, I was humongous and super uncomfortable, but what a blessing to not go into early term labor with twins!
- Chloe decided to keep things interesting and sliced a tendon in her leg on who knows what in our backyard when she was hunting for stray cats! lol. Seriously though – this was pretty traumatic (for me at least)! haha
- I did my best to stay somewhat active and busy in those final weeks – cooking frozen meals for once the boys were here, attempting to workout (for 5 minutes at least -lol), and we were at the hospital numerous times a week for NST’s which usually turned them into “date days” because we’d grab lunch or dinner after (since we knew our spontaneous date days were numbered)!
- I got so big by the end – all I could really fit into was James’ sweats and jacket! haha
- The boys were so cozy in there I ended up needing to be induced, so on the day before the induction we did a little self timer photo shoot of our family of 3 on last time (with my belly as big as it was going to be). Chloe had no idea what was coming!!
- I went a little cleaning crazy before we left for the hospital and good thing because the house hasn’t been that clean since!! haha
- Then off to the hospital we went where our lives would change forever!!!
- We welcomed Gabriel Edward Tyler and Micah David Tyler into our family on March 10, 2016 at 12:27am and 12:28am at just over 7lbs each!! Ah! You can read the whole birth story HERE!
- We were in the hospital for 5 nights all together (2 nights in labor and 3 nights after they were born). We came home Sunday the 13th and wow were we just winging it! haha! Looking back on it all it is amazing we managed it. I just remember our first night home with the boys trying to get them to sleep in bassinets in our room and they were not having it! I finally ended up falling asleep with them on my chest (which is a big no no), but they did not want to be put down because this new world was scary to them! Anyway – we made it – so I can look back on it now and know it was okay! We did what we had to do to get through for the boys and for us!
- Simply by Suzy did our newborn session (and the birth photos above!) and just blew us away with the beautiful moments she captured. We love her so!! See some of our favorites from the session HERE.
- We had 8 weeks of maternity/paternity leave we allowed ourselves, but did head back 3 weeks postpartum for a day to shoot an intimate vow renewal we had booked before I was pregnant. The whole time James and I just kept looking at each other and saying – “We have babies at home!!! ???!” It was such a weird feeling to be out working like we always had, but to remember we had babies! I was supposed to pump on the way to the wedding but was so not used to our new reality yet that I totally forgot to do it on the way! Needless to say – I never forgot again! haha
- Then we continued on with our leave, shooting just one session in early May in Iowa City – which was our first big trip with the boys. They were so little then still that they were great in the car and slept a majority of the drive. James even managed to get them to sleep by himself while I was out doing the engagement session (which was a miracle at the time because they were sooooo fussy in the evenings at that time – witching hour… err mannnnny hours, in our case)!
- That same weekend we celebrated my first Mother’s Day and James’ birthday. I had mixed feelings about the day because I just could not shake the knowledge that there are so many women out there still fighting to get their chance to be moms and it honestly broke my heart.
- Then we headed back to work full-time when we kicked off our wedding season officially on May 14th! (In retrospect that was a bit early, but honestly – we had to pay the bills and it worked out! In an ideal world we’d have paid maternity/paternity leave for like 6 months (right?!) – but that’s not reality – so we made it work with our unpaid leave for as long as we could manage! ha!) We joked that the boys always knew when we had a wedding because they’d be up ALL NIGHT the night before and we’d get like 3 hours of sleep on a good night! haha. Little punks!
- Along with going back to work meant buying a new dress to shoot in that fit my new postpartum curves! It wasn’t easy but I found something that did the job thanks to a nice roomy skirt and pockets!
- In May we also celebrated our 7th wedding anniversary – lucky number 7!!! We did absolutely nothing out of the ordinary other than attempt to actually make breakfast for a change. We soaked in our day with our little family and enjoyed every minute.
- In the June we made our first trip back to Wisconsin for my cousin’s after-wedding celebration. It was a crazy busy weekend for us in Chicago (we had a wedding that Sunday) but we wanted to make the trip and so it was a tight squeeze. I ended up being so exhausted and a bit stressed that I had a pretty severe anxiety attack at the reception for the hour we stopped in before we had to head back to Chicago for our wedding the next day. In retrospect I put way too much on my plate and wasn’t the best at showing myself grace when I planned that trip – but we made it, and lesson was definitely learned!
- James celebrated his first Father’s Day by doing absolutely nothing special! haha. We had a brunch wedding that day and according to James “everyday is Father’s Day” now – so he was happy just to get home that afternoon and be with his boys!
- Also in June Micah learned to roll and from that point on the boy has been non-stop! He went right from rolling to sitting to crawling to standing and is now already walking at 9 months!! Didn’t someone give this boy the memo to slow down?! He’s just A BABY!
- Then we had a much more relaxing trip back to Wisconsin over the 4th of July for the boys’ first small town Fourth! It was just what we needed to refresh and reboot before our wedding season literally went non-stop for the next 16 weeks. Ah!
- We also celebrated one year since our embryo transfer on 7/7 last year. I still cannot believe what a difference a year makes!!!
- We had our first print feature!! J & B’s wedding was featured for the fall/winter issue of the The Knot Chicago!
- The next 16 weeks consisted of 18 weddings and no weekends off. Crazy? Maybe! We had taken the spring off for our leave with the boys though, so we had to make up that yearly income somewhere! As things were just insane work-wise from July through Thanksgiving – we were literally in survival mode around here. We ate waaaaaay too much frozen pizza and take-out… .and we slept not nearly enough. (Forget nap when the babies nap – you work every spare moment you get!) But you know what we did do?! We soaked in the time with our boys every day. We ran a business that we love and worked with couples that truly inspire us to be better human beings – and that is gold right there.
- In September the boys hit 6 months old and it was a huge turning point/shift for us. They started scooting more and more and were on their way to crawling. We started solid foods, they started getting their teeth in, and life got waaaay messier! haha This was also the point (at about 6.5 months) when we FINALLY had a synchronized schedule with two naps a day and an early bedtime for the boys! Before that it was really just a crap shoot with who knows what happening every day and the boys certainly not alway in sync, but now life felt much more predictable and manageable and the boys were thriving so it was amazing!
- I celebrated my 35 birthday with a quiet day at home with my crew and then went to a Brewers/Cubs game at Wrigley that night with James (and the Brewers won for a change)!!! It was the perfect mix of family time and a date night with James (which we haven’t gotten around to much this year).
- We finally had our backyard landscaped! We needed it SO badly, but for some reason thought we’d actually have time to do it ourselves! haha. Not so much. Cityscape came and handled the whole thing in ONE DAY! It was amazing! We should have done this so much sooner!
- We had our family photos taken by my dear friend, Caili, and realized just how stressful getting your whole family in order for photos is!! haha! Especially when you have sleep schedules, nursing schedules and sunset times to iron out/hopefully match-up! I plan to actually blog my favorites this winter – but here’s a peek for now!
- Gabe got diagnosed with HIB, which was super scary! I thought he was just teething and not feeling so good – but it turned out it was much more serious! Thankfully we took him in at the advice of some friends and ended up having to get our whole family on some pretty strong antibiotics to contain any possible outbreak to others. Poor guy was miserable for a while there!
- In late October we had our first wedding-free weekend since early July and we took advantage by heading up to Wisconsin to see my family (and let’s be honest – the whole trip was really about getting the boys out to The Little Farmer – my favorite fall destination)!! I also shot a day full of mini-sessions while there, so it wasn’t really a weekend off, but I certainly enjoyed the day we spent with my mom at the pumpkin patch!
- We celebrated our first Halloween, which basically consisted of dressing the boys up and attempting to get a photo of them before they crawled away!! haha! I even tried to include Chloe – but that was madness trying to get all 3 in order!! They were the characters from the Pixar movie, Up, including one of the doberman pinchers with the voice changing collar on! 😉
- November was another busy month for us with weddings every weekend, but it was unseasonably warm – which was amazing! I didn’t even need gloves or a winter coat for any of our weddings that month which is really unheard of!! We did our best to get outside as much as possible because we knew it wouldn’t last for long!
- We wrapped our 2nd to last wedding of the year the weekend before Thanksgiving and so we got to enjoy the holiday up in Wisconsin with family! It was a really nice low-key weekend and the boys seemed to love all the action and cousin time, of course!
- December was spent wrapping up all the editing I had left from the fall, and scrambling to get everything done so I could feel good just relaxing and enjoying the boys’ first Christmas! I managed to get the house decorated and somehow the boys weren’t even interested in the tree for the most part!! They’d occasionally crawl up to it and stare at it – then slowly reach their arm out to touch a branch or a light, but that’s it! It was so nice!
- We shot our last wedding of the season on the 18th, hosted on first annual Tyler/Chicago Family Christmas on the 19th, had James’ mom here visiting for the first time since the boys were born that week, and then on the 23rd headed up to Wisconsin to be with my family for Christmas Eve & Day. You could say it was a little crazy having all that stuff in a row – but it was so nice for the boys to get so much time with family!! (I hope to get a full Christmas post up soon, but for now here’s a quick look!)
- Needless to say – once the season wrapped and the holiday rush was over – we spent the next week hibernating and relaxing just our little family for a few days. Our NYE was spent watching This Is Us (we just started it!) and we only realized it was midnight because we heard fireworks going off outside! haha! I did make a nice steamed snow crab legs dinner, but the boys both woke up from sleeping upstairs and screamed bloody murder right as we were sitting down to eat! Ha! I swear they know when we are about to sit down and eat dinner every time – especially if I put a lot of work into it – then they really make sure to wake up out of no where! haha We did eventually get them back down to sleep and enjoyed our (slightly cold) dinner.
It is safe to say it has been a truly beautiful year. Messy, crazy, and exhausting… yes. But also oh so joyful, fulfilling, and full of purpose!! Here’s to hoping 2017 is even better!! Sending love and prayers to you all for a blessed and healthy New Year! xoxo