October 28, 2015

This View

My earliest memories of home are planted in a tiny one bedroom rental cottage, with a stream and limitless woods to explore in our own backyard. My mom gave me the sole bedroom, which was filled to the brim with shelves of dolls and treasures. One window over my bed was cracked and I covered it with glittered stickers and often traced its sharp edges after I'd been tucked in for the night. It was that window that most twisted my heart with nostalgia when we did move years later.

My mother slept on a futon couch in the living room, which also housed a small wood burning fireplace and a deep closet that was 'off limits' to my curious little fingers. We had a storybook porch that we circled with flower beds, and my best friend was a literal stone's throw, her front door framed in view through that cracked bedroom window. Her family owned our house as well as their historic neighboring farmhouse, and seeing as my mom was on her own, and there were whole years where we didn't even have a car, I spent lots of time tagging along with those neighbors.

My friend was the youngest of three girls, her father was a social worker with a passion for photography and her mother worked part time in the local theater, but was largely a master homemaker, serving up gourmet meals and effortlessly accommodating my early vegetarian politics on the many nights that I was welcomed for dinner. With my own parents divorced, and without any siblings, I idolized her family and dreamed of a future where I would recreate this domestic bliss. 

I spent most of my teens and early twenties fully invested in long term relationships that were about little more than my commitment to commitment. When I did finally fall in love and got married, I remember an initial feeling of terror that it would all implode. Every step that brought me closer to the family of my childhood envy, also left me more afraid that it was a life that I didn't have the tools to precipitate or sustain.  

It wasn't until I had children of my own and started to cobble together some version of my elusive dream life, that I began to legitimately value having been raised by my single mother. I had the privilege of being included in all adventures, and my voice was heard on every major decision. It's a murky boundary between parent/ child/ friend that might be frowned upon by the experts, but gifted me with most of what's 'good' in who I am today. I have a deep bond and genuine friendship with my mom that I can't imagine being propagated through any other history, and it's sometimes confusing to grapple with the idea that my own kids won't have this same relationship with me. 

With every year that passes, and as we check off our little family's annual traditions; camping at the reservoir, apple picking, the harvest festival, ski trips, planting seeds in our garden, there is a part of me that is amazed that this is actually my life. It's incredibly good. It's too good. Of course it also takes a lot of work and sacrifice; the marriage, the jobs, the kids, the house behind the picket fence, it isn't this recipe that magically creates a family, a revelation to me but likely no surprise to anyone who grew up immersed in these ingredients. I do have my perfect family, but I also had perfection inside that rented cottage with my mother, seated in front of the fire on a feather pillow while she combed the tangles out of my wet hair. There are no smiling pictures of that family tradition, and yet it's tucked within me eternally. And so I make this my life because it's what I want, and not because I'm afraid of the alternative. That distinction matters to me, it gives me the freedom to maintain my own history and identity while I navigate inside a reality far different than what I've always known. The glass in the window is cracked, and that's what makes it mine. 

October 22, 2015


In one month, my son will be five. I have been a mother for five years, and it has been the single biggest transformation of my life. 

I spent my whole first pregnancy planning for every variable and fending off nerves. I tried to sock away enough money to be able to stay home from work for about six months, knowing there was a good chance it would be closer to three. I stared at the ceiling at night, imagining how I would convert my tiny closet into a reasonable nursery, and reading way too many books on natural childbirth. And then my son was born, induced nearly a month early, an ordeal that was anything but natural. He was tiny and my blood pressure was high, and those circumstances kept us apart for his first day of life, a day that tore my heart in two and had the midwives wondering if they should call in a therapist. I joke that it was the last time we were ever separated, and that joke is very close to the truth.

Becoming this boy's mother changed big pieces of me that I previously imagined immutable. My former identity was so tied to architecture, a profession my husband and most of our friends shared. It was literally unthinkable that I would not return to work, until I held my baby boy... and suddenly leaving him for any space of time was the unthinkable act. I pride myself on not judging, especially in motherhood where any judgment is truly toxic. And so it's with significant shame that I admit that until my daughter was born, I didn't understand how any mother could leave their baby and go back to work, because I could not leave this boy. A baby who was joyful and peaceful, but only if he was tied to me every minute of the day. My daughter would have been fine, she is fierce and confident and could have thrived with any loving care giver. I get it now. But this boy was different, and we have worked together over the years to build his confidence and independence, which kills me with pride each and every time I see it in action.

I am a radically different person than I was five years ago, and I will forever be grateful to my son for giving me the gift of motherhood, which in my case has been about so much more than being a mother. I look back on this journal, and see that being his mother has afforded me the space and time to reflect on my own childhood, which was beautiful and complicated and informed more of who I am today than I had ever realized. It's changed the way I approach my ever-growing professional life, and also given me greater perspective with which to parent to my daughter, who is divinely feisty and much closer to my own natural tendencies.

I wasn't a particularly young mother, and so it's a little embarrassing to confess that my son and I have grown up together over the last five years. He is the reason that I started this journal, freaked out and self-doubting over what the hell I was doing with my life, a very unfamiliar place for a control freak to find herself. I never anticipated finding the community that this forum has granted me, nor did I realize how valuable all that introspection was to my own personal development. And now, five years in, my life includes less pondering and more shuttling to and fro school and activities, more design work and volunteer work and outside obligations... and yet I value this space... I need to write out and learn from all these milestones and from this community. I certainly still have no idea what I'm doing, but I'm proud of what we've done.

*With his fifth birthday looming, it seems as good a time as ever to turn the page from 'Little Smith' to simply 'Smith'. You all know this kid's name, but I do prefer preserve his future searchable anonymity, if possible. Like Roo, this is an actual nickname, so it feels very natural. Although I am so used to Little Smith, it might take me a beat to leave it behind. Ch-ch-ch-changes.

October 15, 2015

Summer Camp

The leaves and temperatures are dropping and already our camping trip from all the way back in August seems ages ago, but such is the life of an irresponsible blogger. I am determined to share these photos, even if time won't slow down enough to afford me currency.

We were able to squeeze in a handful of camping trips this summer, despite the demands of buying a house and moving. There really is no better way to get away from the daily pressures and reconnect as a family than piling into a tent in the woods. 

One of our go-to spots is Tolland State Park in western Massachusetts. If you scroll through the camping posts, you will see a whole lot of this place, and here was our very first visit (that baby face on Little Smith is such good incentive to put back on my blogging pants!). We love that there is a kid-friendly beach and lots of great camp sites right on the water, and this year was even better because we got to enjoy the company of great friends for just shy of a week's adventures.

There is nothing better than watching your children be free and wild and push their limits, add to that bonding with the children of close friends that you don't see nearly enough, it was a pretty amazing couple of days. Our whole group included five adults and five kids ages 7, 5, 4, 3, and 2... and while everyone took turns having a melt-down or two (and yes, that included me!), I can honestly say that these families and kids were totally easy going, well behaved, curious about the world and courteous to one another. I don't think things would have gone as smoothly in any other environment (zero screens!). We also wouldn't have shared great meals or stayed up way too late night after night, chatting and drinking by the fire. I did learn that those day-break wake-ups are way more brutal when the fun doesn't end at sundown.

We all have plans to schedule this as an annual trip, and it makes me feel all warm and fuzzy that even if we don't connect more than that once a year, the quality of time shared and relationships formed while camping for a few days can sustain that gap. I am already missing crawling into our big yellow tent, can't wait to see her again in 2016.