Today is my birthday. Yesterday was my sons birthday, the boy who made me a mother. Now, I am first a mother, and sometimes other things including a wife, a woman, a daughter, friend. (Chef, baker, shopper, homeowner, writer, photographer, hiker, skier, dog mom, reader and hundreds of other aspects of a person which can't be compartmentalized).
The day before that I spanked my child despite my swearing off hitting in our family, despite that I was contradictorily punishing him for hurting his brother, despite that I have vowed to manage my anger and be the example of peace in our home. (My husband is peace. The rest of us are somewhat feral, especially when we are exhausted.)
Afterwards, I went to him and I apologized and he forgave me. We spent a few minutes lying on the floor and he looked at me and said, "I can hear your heartbeat."
I listened to his and told him how it was one of my favorite sounds in the world.
"Blood is love," he said. "As we grow, we get more of it."
I am often surprised by the things my children say when I listen, which I have to be honest, isn't often enough. I am a busy mom, or at least that's how I feel.
When our dog KD died a couple years ago, Barrett was 2. He said she had disappeared into the sun. This year, when we put our cat down, Graham said the same, that Tatu was in the sun now. They both said this independently and without prompting from adults or one another.
Children have a very spiritual way of explaining the world and we need to listen more.
What is the spiritual way of explaining one's birthday? Graham, says its drippy-frosting cake and probably he's right. A birthday is for enjoying oneself, imperfections and all.
This is a list post and in no particular order:
1. Time with my boys.
2. Watching my children grow.
3. Date night with my hubs.
4. Hanging out with my mom.
5. Seeing my mom with my kids.
6. Hanging out with my dad and Jean.
7. Seeing my dad with my kids.
8. Meru and Mira Bella.
9. Jesse's mom.
10. Jesse's dad.
11. Watching Kari with Jesse and my boys.
12. Tractor rides with Henry.
13. Jean Plummers cooking and breakfast displays.
14. Women's rights.
16. My best friends.
17. Running a business.
18. My writing friends.
19. Photographing my kids.
20. Photgoraphing other people's memories.
21. Baking and cooking with my kids.
22. Eating healthy food.
24. Showers and hot water.
25. Electricity and my cozy home.
26. That Jesse ensures we have wood heat in our home.
28. Baby shoes.
32. School age kids.
33. Jesse's awesome job.
35. Board games.
39. Fruit and vegetables.
41. Writing and journaling.
42. Reading, reading, reading.
43. TV and movies.
44. My car.
45. Lots of blankets on my bed.
46. My sister and her kids.
47. Travelling the world.
49. Being reminded that I have it all - and everything I dreamed of - and everything I ever wanted.
50. My own self.
Grahm has been biting butts. I'm in the kitchen, cleaning after a baking episode, when I feel him grab onto my leg like an alligator. It's clear to me that he's about to bite. Once he's wrapped around my leg, I have a sudden memory of Barrett biting my butt this same way. Like some kind of beast attacking during a moment in which the prey is distracted. It's only my behind either of the kids have ever bitten. I suppose I should feel honored, or am I the only one that lets myself be exposed this way? It must be a teething thing. Graham is biting everything. The couch, Bear's knee, towels, my knuckles.
I'm in the middle of an attack, shuffling left to get away from the open-mouthed, fast approaching baby, when bear says, "Mama, look at this mama." He drives a dinosaur-looking hot-wheels across the page of his search and find book. "Did you see that?"
"Wow." My go-to answer. "Amazing."
He's in a mood to show me everything he does. It must be a four thing. Everything he does is simply amazing. Driving an RC car over a rock, ramming a toy tractor over a bump in the carpet, bouncing off the yoga ball, launching himself from the couch to the ottoman. He's newly inspired by his new age and it seems all the same stuff he was doing a couple weeks ago is now much, much cooler.
Or, there is the other possibility, that he needs a little more attention, a little more encouragement, and a little more assurance now that he's feeling out a world where he is older. I give it to him as best I can, even when I feel a chomp on my bum and remind myself to switch from yoga pants to Wranglers.
Graham is sleeping in his stroller. Its like a spa day for me. I took a shower and now I'm sitting in my robe drinking a smoothie and writing for a few minutes before I edit photos. He's been having a difficult time, especially in the mornings. He's discovered tantrums and puts his whole self energetically into them, in hopes of getting what he wants - which, what does he want? Not to be held, or set down, or get a fresh diaper, or eat, drink, or nurse. Maybe he's just not a morning person. Neither am I. Maybe he just has a temper. So do I.
It's raning. Again. But no snow. This has seemed like an incredibly long winter. Perhaps because we have become used to drought. Perhaps because our house has had colds steadily since November, particularly Graham and I. He just finished his first round of amoxicillin for a brewing bronchitis.
Barrett has bloomed a minor arrogance since turning four. Jesse and I were finishing our taxes last night (high five because its the first time in our history we filed before April 15th!) and we were giggling on the couch about Graham's new expressive temper when Barrett came out of his room wide awake and smiling. He so excited to be up late, out of bed and conspiring with Mom and Dad. He climbed up on us and we told him about how his college fund has grown this year.
"You can go to school and learn about airplanes," Jesse said.
"Or anything you want," I said. "Trees, or water, or trains, or bugs." We get pretty excited about college around here.
"But," he said, "I already know all that stuff."
I have been warned about this. How early they come to know everything. I have been corrected about what tractors are what by other four year olds.
So now that Bear is four and he knows everything, its time for him to have some regular responsibility. He needs a daily chore (probably just picking up kid stuff around the house and delivering it to his room) and he will get rewarded with direct playtime from mom, any activity of his choice. We'll see how it goes.
My photography journey started when I was a child of about 10 and I first swiped my mom’s Pentax 35mm. I blew through a roll of film with photos of the digital clock, my parent’s cheetah bedspread, my cat Sunny, and who knows what else. Everything I could see with my magical eye and the child’s eye truly is magical, but many of the images were out of focus. Call it bokeh.
I used that camera throughout my teens and early twenties, learning how to manually focus and use the meter, but never paying much attention to photography’s “rules.” My images from that time were underexposed and cool in temperature, and I can see myself going back to that happy accident occasionally in my current work as the world around me is made of muted blacks, greens, greys, and blues. Lots of blues as I’m raising boys, but this canyon, at least in the winter months is a deeply cool place.
I started by photographing people, places and things that I love. One of my cherished first photos is taken of my mother while she takes an afternoon nap. Another is of my first dog Zahara while she plays in the river, drool dripping from her muzzle and sand in her eye. I have photographs of rocks, mushrooms, tree trunks, and my teenage bedroom.
My best work is when I photograph people I love. I find it easy to represent who they are and portray them through photography. Today the boys are taking a dual nap – something that rarely happens anymore, but is a treasured time for mama.
Tomorrow we have Bear’s first big birthday party – a bowling alley day complete with the pizza, balloons, and bowling pin sippy cup. I have strawberry cupcakes to bake – his request the last two years – and groceries to put away, and contracts to prepare for clients, but first I think I’ll find a way to capture the canyon blues, the wind, the coming storm, and the quiet.
I am in need of nothing except a cozy home and my children to bake with. Maybe I need scones and coffee for breakfast. Maybe I need a comfortable chair where I can nurse my baby. I do like having my camera and my phone and matchbox cars are fun. But really, I just need my people and a full belly and a warm spot to enjoy my life.
The snow has started, finally. It's coming brings much anticipation and excitement in our house. I am a child of the snow. Every year my parents took me out of school for a week at my birthday so we could go skiing and hot tubbing and eat lasagna. Barrett is lucky his birthday falls the day before mine. My boys will be swept into our annual ski week without a misstep. In fact they already have. Newborn or not we haven't missed our annual trip to Tahoe in almost 30 of my almost 35 years.
Yes, almost 35 years. Another week and I'll be officially mid-30s. The marching on of time can feel disconcerting. It's a strange thing. One can question their achievements and goals, but as the stress of the day can wear as thoroughly as the stress of the years, I'll remind myself, I need nothing but a warm place to bake with my babies, and someone to eat my creations. And any functioning camera.
What is the reason for this blog? It’s not to give advice. I’m the last person who needs to give parenting advice. It’s not to lament the challenges of motherhood and raising a family. I think I do that enough.
Here is a place to start: I can tell you why I take the photos. These photos are romantic. They portray our lives here in this remote region of northern California as an idealized version of our lives. I’m not going to post photos of kids wailing, or my yucky kitchen sink, or the kids chasing around the robot vacuum. Not that the photos aren’t real. They are, and that’s why I created these photos and shared them.
When my house is quiet, and I have time to read for hours in the middle of the day, these are the memories I want to savor. The sunsets, the fresh bread, the happy play between two brothers, the way I looked with red lipstick and a pink dress. I have my cell phone movies to remember they way Graham squeals when he turns on the vacuum and crawl-runs away. And, actually I have cell phone videos of my kids’ tantrums, because sometimes that’s the only way to cope.
But, will anyone want to read this? Why does anyone want to read anything? Do I care? If only my boys (including my dear husband) are the only people to ever read this, I will have been successful.
Like most mothers, I feel time slipping by. I laid down in bed tonight, to nurse my co-sleeping one year old, and thought, my god, they won't be little forever. Obviously, this is not a revelation - we tell ourselves and our under-slept friends this every day, but this evening it struck me as cruelly true. Time slips by. Without our noticing.
My oldest son, Barrett is almost four. Today he beat his five year old friend in a running race and I saw his stride, graceful as his fathers, and the freedom of his young body, and the jubilance of his youth and felt pride. Watching him scale a rock like Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible, I saw and understood that he will be a powerful athlete someday, as a teenager, as a young man.
My baby, Graham, turned one the day after Christmas. He is toddling around, trying to run, playing rough and wrestling. Lately he hasn't been as willing to eat anything, and he doesn't like showers anymore. He lays his head down on my chest only when he wants a hug. (He is giving kisses now though, so who's complaining?) But he's walking his way out of babyhood frighteningly fast.
We live on the edge of the The Mokelumne River Canyon in Northern California - The Moke - and this is a project that I've wanted to do since my first baby was a baby. Until I became inspired by our lives here in our home, and compelled by how special we are, and how good we have it, I haven't known where to start. So this is it - my letter to my children, a record of our days, our home and our happiness. Love you.