What makes life really matter? Over the holidays I read a book that addressed this question in a beautiful, heartbreaking way: I gulped down When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi in one night and one morning: I can't remember the last time a book gripped me so fiercely, or stayed with me so indelibly.
It's officially summer! I love taking the time to make a list of all of the things (big and little) that I hope to do/cook/go/make/savor over the seasons. Do you do this, too? Making this list was a good reminder to appreciate the treasures in my life right now.
Hello loves! I decided a good old fashioned update post was long overdue, so here it is! This was my son Bixby's first year in a new school, in a new state, on a new coast, and it went really well. Phew! As a mom, I was really nervous at the beginning of the year — for all the usual reasons — but also because
I came across these photos today (which I shot ages ago for a story in Gatherings Magazine) and the memories came flooding back: the days when my baby was just arriving and all of the mad preparations we made. Oh my! We had just bought our little 1920's house when I became pregnant, and it was painted in rainbow colors (literally! each room was a different color of the rainbow, starting with blood red and working its way through the spectrum...) so we had a lot of painting to do. Both sides of our family pitched in to get everything done, and painting everything soft cream, white, and pale blue completely changed the mood. I am a big believer in the power of your home + space to affect your mood and emotions, and I feel much better surrounded by soothing hues. Soothing colors like blue, soft green, cream, and lavender are also quite soothing for babies and creates a restful environment for sleep and quiet play.
Also in preparation for baby we cleared out a great deal of clutter, clearing out extra space not only where you see it, but also the deep clutter hidden inside of cupboards and closets. Clutter that is crammed behind closed doors may not be readily visible, but it still creates stress. And goodness knows when you have a new little one to care for, extra stress is the last thing you need! I read the book The Peaceful Nursery, and this inspired me to be very intentional about simplifying: rather than springing for all of the "must haves" listed on baby sites, we considered what we would really use. Looking back, it's funny that we asked for a crib (a beautiful crib, seen above!) because we ended up co-sleeping almost entirely. If we have another baby, I may use it in our bedroom (our vintage cottage had very small rooms, so the crib wouldn't fit in our bedroom). As a new mom (also: breastfeeding) I couldn't imagine having to trek down the hall each time baby woke, but if it were near us, like our bassinet was when he was a newborn, I may have used it.
For a changing table, we used a vintage chest I picked up locally and painted white. With a cushion on top and baskets nearby to hold diapering supplies, this was a very comfy little setup — and now we use it in our entry to hold shoes and mail, so there is no waste :-)
A large shelf held blankets and wraps, rattles, board books, and stuffed animal friends when Bixby was a baby. As we entered the toddler years, more toys made their way into the room, along with a small play table and art supplies. It's not easy to stem the tide of toys, but keeping things simple offers great returns: when a child's room is simplified, play is calmer and more creative, cleanup is easier, and the space just feels better to be in.
Today, Bixby is in Kindergarten, we live in a different home, thousands of miles away from this one, and his toys are certainly not all wood and handmade — but with the right intentions (and regular purging) we've found it is possible to find a sweet compromise. We can follow his interests (right now: predatory dinosaurs + Transformers) while still setting limits on how much space toys take up, and keeping other favorites in regular rotation. It's easy to feel you're "treating" your child to more, more, more, when really having just a few of something makes it so much more special.
Simplifying, to me, means protecting your space + your time. We may not have power over much in the world, but intentionally choosing what to put in your home (and what to take out) and how to spend your time is something we can all do. You can choose to make some extra space and decide how to fill it: with creativity, with snuggles, with stories and silliness. If you are preparing to welcome a new little one, you can choose to create a simple, peaceful environment to spend those first precious weeks together.
Happy New Year, friends! I've been doing a lot of thinking recently about how I would like this blog to feel, what I hope to get out of it, as well as what I hope you will draw from it. After lots of brainstorming, I think I've hit upon a few fun features to try out in the year ahead, including a regular podcast, drop-ins with creative people at home and in the studio, and some seasonal craft projects. To kick things off, today I would like to introduce what I hope will the the first in a semi-regular series pairing black and white photographs with musings on motherhood and family life.
Growing up, I was always fascinated by black & white photography - there is something otherworldly about seeing everyday life represented in black and white, don't you think? It's timeless, but somehow that also makes it feel more mysterious. As a parent, the days are long but the years are short, and I find myself grasping for a way to hit the pause button; to make some of the small moments of life more indelible. If you feel inspired, please feel free to respond with a comment below, or with a link to your own photo or blog post. :-) So without further ado, here is the first installment of Motherhood in Black & White...
These days, I keep expecting to feel a frost in the air, to see the first swirling flakes, but they won't come. By now back in Rhode Island, we'd be hunkering down for winter: digging out the woolen mittens and long johns, snow shovel and sled; trading emails with mom friends about winter activity ideas to keep us from going bonkers. It's not that I miss freezing winds, or scraping ice off the windshield each morning - I mean, let's get real: yesterday we hiked in a eucalyptus and oak forest, and today we biked along the beach, in January! It is awesome to be out of the path of Winter-with-a-capital-W. But this past year has been such an upheaval for us here that I also can't help but miss our life in Providence, nor'easters and all. I find myself reaching for our favorite chocolate chip granola bar recipe when nostalgia strikes. The scent of toasting oats and honey calls up our old house, the hissing radiators, the view from the kitchen window of our 'girls' in their snow-covered coop in the backyard, and the afternoons when Bix was a toddler and he first learned the joys of scooping and stirring, and tasting (and tasting some more).
These days I am keenly aware of my little guy on the cusp of something: he seems so much more mature since our big move (to Santa he said, "You know, I'm not so easy to fool" ... Oh, we know!) but at the same time, so sweet and small and vulnerable. This little man that loves soft pajamas, bedtime cuddles, beaches, climbing trees, Pokemon battles, robots, treasure rocks, microscopes, hiking, and buttered noodles. This little man who has been through so much this year: a broken arm, surgery, saying goodbye to our elderly kitty, moving thousands of miles away from the only home he knew, starting Kindergarten... To be honest, my heart breaks when I think of it, but at the same time I am so very proud and amazed at his resiliency.
These days I'm reminding myself to appreciate him as he is right now: my messy, impatient, demanding, curious, risk-taking, smart-as-a-whip cuddle bug. The pull of screens and work can be hard to resist, but I am reminding myself it's the little things and small moments that often make the biggest difference, and those are not so hard to give: a few extra minutes in the morning to play; just one more chapter of Frank Einstein and the BrainTurbo at bedtime; a pause on the way home to hunt for bugs; saying yes to that third bike ride (or twentieth robot battle) of the day.
The days are long, but the years are short. I hope to make these days count.