This week we went on our annual trip to Walt Disney World's Very Merry Christmas Party. It is a fun night that we spend with our children and their cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents.   It has been such a special Christmas tradition since we moved home to Florida.   The kids love the beautiful lights, the fake snow, and the hot chocolate stands scattered throughout the park. I am the mom, the photographer, that takes my "big camera" everywhere.   I rarely leave it at home. I love capturing the everyday beauty of my children and to be honest, I am not confident using the camera on my phone.  A couple of weeks ago I read an article at the Creative Mama, by Courntey Keim entitled Giving Up and Enjoying my Kids.  In this wonderful article Courtney talks about her recent trip to Disney without her camera.   Admittedly, as I read her article I didn't think it really applied to me, but I thought it was really cool to read about her experience.  (I kept thinking that I don't feel like I have missed out on anything by taking my camera with me on previous trips to Disney.  And I only ever took one lens.  And I gave up posing my children long ago.)  But, there was something  about her words that kept coming back in my head as we prepared to pack for our trip.   I am so grateful that she shared her own experience and I started thinking that maybe I would try this notion of "leaving my camera at home."  I realized this will NOT be our only time to Disney (we are blessed to live very close) and the time we spent at the park would be dark (so I wouldn't be missing out on golden hour at Disney images).  I have taken it with us most every other trip we made to Disney and some of those trips I only took a few images, yet I had lugged my heavy camera around for hours .

Well, I did it.  I left my camera at home and guess what? I loved every minute of the night. I felt a new sort of freedom and even a challenge having only my phone camera. Yes, there are a few images, I know I would have LOVED to use my "real camera" for, but it really wasn't missed.  I never had to worry about taking my camera on rides or having someone hold it for me.  And I have to agree, without my camera there, I was able to be engaged fully in more of the moments instead of doing all I could to preserve them for the future. I found that one of the biggest advantages of only using my phone was I have all of my photos edited from the night and have enjoyed looking at them since the trip.  I didn't spend time at home sifting through tons of images and then editing them; I just accepted what I got (even the blurry and grainy images).  This is big for me. I am a perfectionist by nature but there are times I am learning to let go and simplify and it feels good.

Does this mean I won't bring my camera next trip to Disney?   I can't promise that, but I can say that next time I don't have my camera with me, I am slowly learning that my phone can be a pretty good back up. I definitely still believe in capturing the everyday beauty of my children. I love being able to hold onto a little bit of today through photography,  but I am learning there are different ways I can do this.  I truly believe once you know your camera (a professional DSLR, a film camera, a point and shoot, or a phone camera) that you can efficiently capture your children, without missing life and the moments around you.   I do pick up my camera almost every single day, but I know when to set it back down, and continue with our living. This balance is essential.

For me there is so much more to this than simply what camera I chose to use this week. It is just one example of a way that I can let go a bit of expectations I put on myself.   I have been reading a book called Chose Joy: Because Happiness Isn't Enough by Kay Warren.  In the book she talks about perfectionism and the expectations we set on ourselves.

I loved these words by the author:  "The antidote to perfectionism is acceptance--acceptance of our earthly imperfections because we are focused on the day when imperfection will be no more. If I try to experience perfection here on earth, I will come up short every time. If I keep looking for perfection within myself, I will kill the joy in me.  You and I need to fire our inner critic! When I accept myself as I am instead of who I wish I was, when I accept those around me as they are, not only as I wish they were,  when I accept the world as it is, not as I wish it was, my joy in today as well as my hope for tomorrow can grow."

These are quite powerful words indeed, especially if you can relate to this battle inside with your inner critic. There was a time when I honestly couldn't have accepted images from a night I wanted to remember that were anything less than perfect in my eyes.  Today, I am trying to embrace all of the flaws and find a new kind of joy and peace through doing this.

very merry long