Sunday Stepback: Prepping for Child #2

About a month after Sarah and I moved into the city of Chicago we experienced an unexpected life change. Sarah got pregnant again.

This was not planned. This was not anticipated (although I had suspected it for a couple weeks before Sarah officially found out). And now I have spent the last 7 months trying to wrap my head around the reality that we are going to have another baby. Our days of being able to sleep through the night are coming quickly to a close. We have been very blessed by the fact that our first son, Micah, almost always sleeps 12 hours straight without waking up at night. We constantly try to remind ourselves how much of a blessing this is and we try not to take it for granted.

When we found out it was almost humorous. We had given so much of Micah’s old clothes away because we were sure we were not going to have another baby for quite a while. When we moved into our neighborhood we noticed that nearly every woman was pushing a double stroller, or if it happened to be a single stroller she was pushing it while being very pregnant. Because of this, I told Sarah that her pregnancy must have been due to something that is in the water where we live.

We’re having another boy, which in many respects is a great thing. For one, Micah will have a brother very close to him in age, only 18 months apart. Hopefully, they’ll become great friends. Two, we’ll be able to use a lot of Micah’s old clothes and things for the new baby. Three, we know what a boy is like already, so at least we’re working from something familiar.

But there are major differences between prepping for your first child and prepping for your second child. With Sarah’s first pregnancy everyone was so incredibly excited for us. Sarah had multiple baby showers. Everything we needed for Micah was given to us by friends, relatives, and our church family. Even the expensive items, like Micah’s bed, carseat, and stroller. We had so many baby outfits, we barely ever had to do laundry for the kid.

Child number two — not the same story. Instead of statements of congratulations, Sarah has received comments like, “You’re pregnant, again?” We’ve received gifts for this baby from only one person. (Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t EXPECT people to get us gifts for the second baby, it’s just interesting to note how everyone seems to treat it so differently that the first pregnancy).

But before I am too critical of other people, I probably should point the finger back at ourselves. My wife’s and my feelings and reactions have been so mixed with this pregnancy. Of course, a part of us is so incredibly grateful that we are healthy and have the ability to create healthy babies. It’s an amazing miracle. It really is. And knowing so many people who have stories where they either struggle to get pregnant or suffer through miscarriages, we realize the blessing it is to be able to have children like we are. So we are thankful. At the same time, this is terrifying. It’s hard enough keeping up with the one kid that we have. He’s a non-stop ball of energy. What’s that going to look like when we have the responsibility of taking care of another baby at the same time? At the same time my wife and I wonder how we can even afford a second child. My wife is a nurse, and I am a stay-at-home dad. I barely bring in any kind of income. I recently started a web design company with a friend, but that is very minimally financially beneficial at the moment. Here in the States, maternity leave is kind of a bad situation. We’ve set it up so that she will get 50% of her paycheck for a total of six weeks. That’s just not going to cut it. When we moved into the city we took an apartment that was more expensive than we had planned with the thought that we wouldn’t have any major additional expenses coming up. Then we found out about the pregnancy. So now I have to be on the lookout for a job that can bring me some kind of money flow.

Carseat Shopping
Mommy and Micah picking out a new carseat in preparation for lil’ bother.

So here we are now, about a month and a half away from child number two (if everything goes as planned). Time to enter into our new stage of life: Seaman family, party of four.

Sunday Stepback: My Journey as a Photographer

Maybe you’ve seen that Vimeo video where Ira Glass describes the persistence needed as an artist to move past the doubts and into one’s own unique style. It made me think about my journey as a photographer.

Growing up my mother took and developed rolls and rolls of film. Nothing specifically artistic, but she was always documenting anything that could be seen as significant. Of course we had the standard first day of school picture. We always had the birthday photos, the ones where I show my age each year by holding up the correct number of fingers. But also pictures of me and my friends, of vacations, of activities at school and at cub scouts, and ones where I’m just playing in the backyard with my sister. There were always photos being taken. Other than always being frustrated that my mom seemed to have to take at least three pictures at each major milestone (a landscape, a vertical, and a Polaroid), I loved photography. After my mom’s pictures were developed and we had picked them up from the store I remember the excitement just to go through them to see how they turned out.

I remember the first time I started taking pictures was in fifth grade. I was given a simple Minolta 35mm battery powered camera. I brought it with me to Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama. I remember taking pictures of the rockets and boosters and other machines. When I got home I was excited to get them developed and see how they turned out. When I got them back I was overall pleased with what I had taken. When my dad saw them, he praised me for the cool perspectives and angles that I had taken the pictures from. I hadn’t really thought about it at the time. I just took pictures from the angles and perspectives that I thought were neat. It turned out that the shots I took at Space Camp were decently creative and artistic for a kid who had never really taken pictures on his own before.

I remember the encouragement that I got from taking those pictures meant a lot to me, and later on when I would go on trips I would always try and think about being creative and artistic with the shots that I would take. I didn’t really consider myself an artist or a photographer. I was just a kid enjoying taking pictures. Later on I would go to the Grand Canyon and to Tokyo, Japan and take pictures still thriving off the encouragement that I was given after I got back from Space Camp. It’s because my dad allowed me to see that I had TASTE as a photographer, as Ira Glass puts it.

I always have had a taste for photography. That taste led to a passion for photography – both in the taking of pictures and in the enjoyment of other photographer’s work. If I had not been so involved in music when I was in high school I probably would have really concentrated on photography. But I took Japanese and band instead. So I never really got to explore the world of photography as I would have liked. I never really got to apply my taste.

In 2002, when I was a sophomore in high school, I got my very first digital camera. It was a Canon point and shoot. It was really nice at the time. It was 5 megapixels, it recorded video with audio, and I even had a 512mb compact flash card for it. That was a big deal back then. And it was my camera. I didn’t have to get film developed any more. I could take as many pictures as I wanted and see them instantly. It was great. I took this camera with me everywhere I went. I also took it with me to Japan and captured some shots that I am still proud of to this day.

It wasn’t until 2009 during my senior year of college that I got a DSLR camera. It was my roommate’s camera, and he had no need for it, really. He already had a nice Canon DSLR, and so this Pentax K100D was not very useful to him. Plus, he only had the kit 18-55mm lens for it. I happened to have a few microphones that I was no longer needing or using at the time, and so we made a trade: my mics for his camera. He needed mics. I wanted a DSLR camera. It was a good deal for both of us. (Isn’t that how things work in the world of the arts?)

That Pentax K100D was the first of my now four Pentax cameras. (I don’t even want to count how many lenses I have now.) That camera is what allowed me to finally dive into the world of photography — to explore my taste. I slowly taught myself what the different settings on the camera did. I learned how to balance the ISO, shutter speed, and aperture, and eventually how to use my camera in manual mode with confidence.

Since 2009 my journey as a photographer has been one of growing my confidence and living into what makes my photography unique. It has been a journey. There have been two hard aspects in this journey that I am still working through:

1) Living into who I am as a photographer. Every photographer has a unique style. Every photographer wants to tell a story through their photos. I have had to learn that photography is indeed art. It isn’t simply having a good camera and being at the right place at the right time. Yes, that does make up a lot of what photography is — but a photographer is someone who can not only take pictures, but puts a part of themselves into the pictures they take. And I have had to learn what that means for me. I have understood my photographic taste almost instinctually for a long time. I have had to learn what the process is like to live into that taste and allow others to experience it with me.

2) Being confident in my taste. These days anyone can take a picture. Sites like Tumblr, Flickr, 500px, and other social media sites that host great photography leaves me always comparing my photography to that of others. I compare someone else’s taste with mine. It is ok to be inspired or appreciate others’ photography, but I cannot let the photography of others chip away at my style or my confidence. I know what I want to take and what I believe to be good photography and I am still growing in confidence in this area. I’m always afraid that if I don’ t live into others’ expectations of what my photography should be, into other people’s tastes, then I won’t ever be taken seriously as an artist or photographer. But that holds me back from truly loving the art of photography and hurts my confidence that I do have something to offer.

Being busy raising a kid makes it hard and get out to take pictures like I would like, but I still try to regularly grow myself as a photographer. I have tried to take a picture every day, and usually by the end of a month (at least during this winter) I have failed pretty miserably. But that doesn’t mean I should give up altogether. Every month gives me a new opportunity to start again, and so I do.

I have a photography website: http://andrewseamanphotography.com 

I try and update it regularly. I have a section where I post the pictures I take every day called “A Pic a Day.” Check it out if you’re interested.

Sunday Stepback: Anxious, Tired, and Messy

My family has experienced a lot of change in the past year and a half or so. To help you understand, let me summarize just a few things that have occurred: my wife and I had our first son 16 months ago, my wife has had three different jobs in the past year, I graduated with my first master’s degree while continuing with a second degree in counseling, I became and elder at my church, I went from being incredibly involved in student government at my grad school to barely visiting the campus, my family moved from an apartment on campus into an apartment in Chicago, I traveled to Israel for two weeks during a time when my wife had just lost her job, one of my best friends moved to Japan to work for a Japanese company, in August we found out that my wife was pregnant unexpectedly, I started a web design company with one of my best friends, my parents have separated and are finalizing a divorce this week most likely, my family has traveled to visit extended family for holidays and special occasions numerous times, my grandma’s health is rather shaky at the moment, I’ve made zero new friends since moving into the city, and the one friend I have is moving away next week.

When I pause and reflect about what my day to day life actually looks like right now, it doesn’t seem that bad on paper. I am a stay-at-home dad. All I do all day is watch my son. I read with him. I play with him. I laugh with him. And as it turns out, most of my day is spent just keeping him alive, or to put it another way, keeping him from killing himself by accident. It doesn’t really seem like it should be that hard. But there is something about doing that day in and day out that takes its toll on me. The simple things can become incredibly tedious. And right when I think I feel comfortable with the stage of development that my son is at, he’s moved on to the next stage.

Moving into the city last June was exciting. I’ve always wanted to live in the city. To be able to walk out my front door and not have to rely on driving everywhere was a dream of mine. And that dream has become a reality for the most part. But soon after moving into our new apartment we found out that my wife was pregnant again. That was something that was definitely NOT in the plans. That zapped all the energy from my wife physically (and emotionally). And because she works so hard as a nurse, when she is home she needs to rest as much as she possibly can. This makes taking care of the household chores that much more difficult. So most of the time the inside of my apartment looks very much how I feel.  Messy. Disorganized. We still haven’t even unpacked all the boxes from our move. And we have barely put things up on the walls to decorate to make it feel more like “home.”

Our second son is due in two months. Just two months from now we will have added on the (incredible) responsibility of taking care of and keeping a second child alive. Believe me, both my wife and I are excited about the arrival of our second son. We are. But it’s a lot of work. And at the moment I already feel exhausted. I feel tapped out. For the first time since I got an F on my report card my junior year in high school, I feel anxious. Not nervous or worried, really. It’s more like a deep anxiety has seeped into my marrow. I can feel it in my bones, in my gut. For the first time in my life I have found myself tossing and turning in my sleep. I’ve never had an issue with sleep before. Not even before my big Spanish presentation in college, or my Hebrew exegesis final in seminary. (And yes, I just noticed that all my comparisons are to school related, performance oriented anxieties. If I had a therapist, they’d probably want to talk about that…)

I have absolutely no point I am trying to make in this post. I am purely just getting things off my chest I think. Life is busy, and its hard sometimes (oftentimes?). I am a firm believer in simply being willing to admit that with others, even if it is on a blog. As much as I’d like to be on top of everything in my life, right now I really don’t feel like I am. I have always been the person who has been able to juggle about five things at once in my life. The more responsibility, the better. But right now I barely feel like I can juggle a couple things, and it has been so disorienting for me.

That’s where I am at right now. </rambling>

A Sunday Step Back

As the title of my blog indicates, I believe we oftentimes need to take a step back from our busy day-to-day lives in order to gain perspective and wisdom. We live in a busy society, and when we fail to reflect upon what we are experiencing we lose out on life lessons, insights, and other precious moments. So, in light of this, I am planning to have a weekly “Sunday Step Back” in which I post a picture (or maybe more) that I have taken along with a simple reflection from my own life.

Micah's Stare

This is my son. I’ve talked about him quite a bit on my blog, especially the anticipation of his coming into this world. I am studying for a MA in Counseling right now. I spend many hours reading about psychological issues, theories in counseling therapy, and all kinds of mental health issues. I must say, it’s a fascinating field of study. You can gain a lot of insight just from reading books about theories within counseling, but at the same time it’s absolutely horrifying. It’s not like it was in high school psychology class when everyone read about all the various mental and personality disorders and then self-diagnosed themselves with all kinds of rare mental disorders. It’s not like that. It’s more of reflecting on the dysfunction of various relationships in our lives, especially within our families. That’s where things get scary.

What’s horrifying about psychoanalytic psychology is that you begin to realize how much influence you have over your children’s development. And how much influence our parent’s had over our own development. It’s quite incredible. Sometimes I think that some of the things I read about are a bit farfetched, but generally speaking there is some solid empirical data to back up much of psychology’s claims to the various stages of development in children (and adults for that matter). How I interact with Micah (my son) is incredibly important. The more I read, the more I realize that.

So my goal is simply to be as consistently loving and caring for Micah as possible and to be as honest and transparent with him as I possibly can be as he grows older. One thing is for sure, studying counseling has made me a better husband and father, and a better person overall. My relationships with my friends and family have been much more meaningful and healthy since I have gained insight about myself and about how we as humans relate to one another.

Micah plays with his toy

So as Micah grows and discovers new things about this world and about other people I hope that I can be a consistent guide and example for him, helping him understand the complexities of what it means to grow up in this world. What it means to be a boy. What it means to be an American. What it means to have a mommy and a daddy who love each other. What it means to love other people. What it means to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly before God.