I have, currently, 844 photos on my phone, or as I jokingly refer to it when talking to the hubs, my life raft. I have 844 photos that I just can’t bring myself to part with. This one has him smiling but this one has that face that he only made for four days. In that one, he’s looking at the camera and I can see exactly what his cowlic looked like at age 4.25. But in that one, the middlest is smiling a real, genuine smile. Is it like that for you or do you think I sound crazy? Or both?

I go back and forth on pictures. I love having family photos once a year. I think it’s a beautiful way to capture each phase of our family, and our life. But I also know that there’s a bit of overkill on pictures these days because of the ease at which a new picture can be captured every moment {hence the 844 memories I hold tightly to}. I do think that we have to live life instead of posing for it. But I also love that I “own” all of these snippets of my existence. But maybe that’s because the unposed pictures are my favorite. I’m a candid sort of momma. I don’t prefer posey-contrived moments. I prefer the messy, spontaneous ones. Where the hands are blurred because they’re moving. Or the wind has blown my hair over half my face. Or the oldest is not looking at the camera because he’s so caught up in laughter that the camera was the furthest thing from his mind. This is why I have 844 pictures.

But I can’t help but wonder what people think of when they see what’s going on in the background of my pictures. Or what things I notice in the background of other’s. In the life that lives there. We can crop out, blur out, filter out those unwanted details leaving only the perfect parts to be seen. And yet, the moments that we cherish the most sometimes happen in imperfect conditions. In imperfect ways. 

As I perused my photos again the other day, in an attempt to ditch a few, I looked at so many and thought of how I felt when the pictures were taken. Each picture holds a story in my mind. Each picture means something different to me than to anyone else who would lay eyes upon it. And there is so much background to the pictures. Far beyond where the lens can reach. So today I share a few of my outtakes. My uncropped life.

I adore this picture of my son. But I can recall wishing I could have cropped out the $75.00-garage-sale-find-circa-2003-table, paired with a frumpy couch that sat in our kitchen at the time. Then it would have been perfect. And yet today, when I look at the picture, all I see is a sweet little superhero.

There are about eight bajillion things in this picture that I would have cropped out if I could. My children all still in jammies — it was likely 4 pm. The mess of papers and toys strewn about. The random diaper. But I’m glad I didn’t hit edit. This picture is pretty representative of the summer we just lived. Someday, I will smile fondly looking at this moment, remembering the simplicity of this time and how we were all together.

And then there’s this one. The baby of the family so tiny that his skin was literally translucent. And sort of hung off of him. And the IV that had to be put into a vein in his head. A picture that I was afraid to post at the time because he looked so sick {and because it wasn’t the most appropriate angle}, I now cherish having as a comparison point of how far he’s come and how healthy he now is.

The middlest blocking this view, I likely took another following this one. But now, I can’t possibly part with this oops. Seeing the funny little expression on the oldest’s face. And knowing that the middlest was totally being the middlest, jumping about, not sitting still, being his own dog. This one, for me, is worth well over a thousand words. 

A snapshot with my two oldest boys, that I didn’t like because of my thighs. That’s the truth. How often do we, as women, nix a picture because we don’t love how we look. And yet, I kept it because I couldn’t just erase this moment with my boys. Because in a year, I’ll probably look back and stare at how little my middlest used to be. And ignore my thighs all together.

And this picture. Note the background. The non-blurred… non-cropped. The sidewalk chalk and box haphazardly left where two brothers last created. A water container. Crack in the sidewalk. A little rust on the arm rail. And various drawings that will eventually wash away when it rains. Almost a true picture of then and now. Of the summer we just lived and the school year we are now in. I will cherish this photo forever. Both for the beauty of the foreground, and the reminder of the background.


I wonder, what memories are we leaving out because we remove the background? And what pictures, though outtakes in a reel of 20 of the same pose are now your very favorites? What moments are we deleting because they don’t meet our idea of picture perfect? And what parts, though they seem imperfect at the time, will feel just right, years from now as we think about the life that happened behind the pictures? I am trying harder and harder to leave in the details — the messes, the emotions, the reality –, to keep the outtakes, and catch a fair amount of candids. And I hope that even if there’s a laundry pile on the couch, spit-up on the floor, Legos randomly placed, and my children are never looking at the camera that perhaps, they will appreciate all that was in the background. All that made their childhood, picture imperfect.

Read more from Ashli on Her View From Home and her blog, Baby on the Brehm


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Ashli Brehm

Ashli Brehm = Thirtysomething. Nebraska gal. Life blogger. Husker fan. Creative writer. Phi Mu sister. Breast cancer survivor. Boymom. Premie carrier. Happy wife. Gilmore Girls fanatic. Amos Lee listener. Coffee & La Croix drinker. Sarcasm user. Jesus follower. Slipper wearer. Funlover. Candle smeller. Yoga doer. Pinterest failer. Anne Lamott reader. Tribe member. Goodness believer. Life enthusiast. Follow me at http://babyonthebrehm.com/