2016, a year where everything changed and nothing changed. We traveled the world, took road trips, sent F to kindergarten, survived surgeries and ER visits. In the midst of it, I forgot my password to this site and worried that I had forgotten how to take a photo as well. I pick up my camera less and less these days. It remains to be seen: is this a result of burnout or a result of a refined instinct for which photographs matter? One thing that I know now is that I've been motivated by fear for a long time. Fear of forgetting and fear of loss. I took my first photography course in NYC and told Nick that I was just going to buy "one fancy lens and then I'll have everything I ever need!" Famous last words. F is 5 ("AND A HALF!" he would add) and I can confirm that 14,438 photos of a baby do not bring back the baby smell. In the hippy-dippiest of ways, I'm trying to focus on the now. I'm not sure where that will lead, and I'm trying to be ok with that. In the meantime, I remembered my password and these photos help me remember 2016 as well.
After a short flight from Morocco back to Paris, which seemed long due to Athena screaming the entire time, we went on a short jaunt east to Reims. There we visited a champagne house and toured the Surrender Museum. It's not much of a tourist attraction, but I was so excited to visit the actual place where WWII ended. In case you were wondering, now the historical building that once served as SS, and later US, headquarters is a high school where little punks smoke within 2 feet of the door. We then headed on a road trip west to Normandy. Nick made a deal that he would only return to Paris if we visited somewhere else in France as well, so he could see something new. We found a chateau that offered a kids dinner at 6PM (with wine for the adults!), a baby monitor, and a fancy adults dinner at 8PM. I fell madly in love with the place, and vowed to return. Along with simply relaxing, we drove to Mont Saint Michel, a beautiful church on an island. We stayed over Easter, and had a wonderful candy hunt on the grounds. The church bells come from Rome and drop eggs and candy for the children. Which makes even less sense than the bunny story, but we loved it nonetheless.
Shot with a Nikon D750 + 24-120 f/4 lens and iPhone 6
After our stay in Paris, we hopped an Easy Jet to Morocco with our friends who are currently living in Switzerland. What a crazy start. I had forgotten what it's like to be in a culture with no lines. Everybody just crowded together for the the passport line, and I practiced 90 minutes of gently "boxing out" just like my 7th grade basketball coach taught me. By the time we got to our hotel, it was dark. A man from the hotel met us on the street to show us the way. Toto, we're not on a grid system anymore. Down an alley away from the busy streets, take a right and toddle down some crooked stairs, to the right past a building in shambles, to the left past the sound of people making dinner and another left down a silent alley. It was almost scary, but not quite. Until we got to our tranquil Riad and had dinner on the rooftop, where we spent so much time during our stay.
Marrakech was a wonderful place for kids. People were so nice and friendly with them, and connected easily to the adults as well. We wandered the souks, where the streets were lively and busy. Ferris bought a magic box with a snake inside that scared me even though I knew what was coming. We (Nick!) fell for petting a monkey with diapers so we held him and took pictures. We watched snake charmers from afar. We wandered through Yves Saint Laurent's gardens and neverending palaces. Ferris drew in his notebook. Athena played with the hotel room key. Cats ran amuck and feasted on leftover meat. I took a few pictures. Some Nikon D750 and many iPhone6, one-handed and fast, to avoid being hit by a scooter. We'll be back when the kids are old enough to ride a camel.
As evidenced by the damn near ridiculous swell of photographic volume below, we recently spent about 9 days in Paris. The start of a wonderful March vacation to Paris, Marrakech, and Normandy. We decided to go about 2 months before, and booked our first airbnb (thumbs up!)
First things first, the flight, since everybody has asked about flying with kids. It was awesome. The week before, we made sure the kids were in bed by 6:30 to start adjusting bedtime, and they both went to sleep relatively easy (by 8:30, after dinner and lights out on the plane.) Great movies, free wine, kids asleep on our laps; by the time we'd landed, I felt like I'd already had a vacation.
We had both spent quite a bit of time in Paris before, so there was no pressure to see a bunch of new things. Most days, we had a plan to do one site/museum and one park, which left plenty of time for impromptu stops. Tons of croissant eating, tons of carousels, catching up with wonderful old friends and meeting new ones.
It was so fun seeing a different side of the city. We loved it. Seeing all the intricate Easter chocolate sculptures. Eating dinner at home and watching French Super Nanny. Palais Royale. Montparnasse Tower. The little park behind Notre Dame (but not inside the church, because lines.) These were some of our favorite places this time around. The Jardin d'Acclimation has a great amusement park, and instead of stale hot dogs, has a legit Angelina cafe, which serves the world's fanciest hot chocolate. Kids in France are expected to be quiet, and to adequately handle an environment with velvet furniture. There is a French saying that translates to "well-raised." Parents whose kids rip their coats off in 50 degree weather and scream "NYOH!" will be given a strong side-eye. (And without a scarf, en plus!) C'est la vie. We continuously bribed them with small chocolates if we really needed good behavior, and that worked out well for everybody. The first day we bought Ferris a notebook at the store where I once bought school supplies. He drew everything he saw, including a replica of the Paris subway map.
I miss it already.
(photos shot with Nikon D750 and 24-120 f/4, Canon EOS M, iPhone 6S)
Somehow a wonderful tradition has crept up on us. Since moving back to the midwest, we've spent our Thanksgivings with my stepsister and her family. One year it happened by chance, and it was so much fun that we keep coming back. They graciously let us stay with them, bringing the total number of children under one roof to 6. One might think it would be chaos, but they all take care of each other, and it's bliss. They declared November, "Baby Athena month" and welcomed the kids with homemade blankets. The dads watched football while the moms got pedicures and watched Magic Mike. If there were a monthly membership or a punch card, I would buy it.
Yes to blogging, no to dishes. That's what I always say when we have 3 positive strep cultures and Nick is out of town. But what I've discovered about sickness, when it's not the serious kind, is that it's awesome. It's one of the few things that gives me respite from trying to get things done, and just say, "FUUUUUUUUUCCCCCK it." (It gives me respite from trying not to use the F word as well.) McDonald's for dinner. Unlimited screen time. Unlimited chocolate milk. No mommy guilt. A grace like the weather itself, which hasn't yet punished Athena for pulling off her socks and shoes. I really should know better than to set such expectations, because "getting things done" recently is not an accomplishment, but a mere prelude to somebody undoing those things.
But little by little we have been doing things. Tiny things that add up when you look back. Covering a blank wall with memories, pulling together a smashing Billy Idol costume, visiting family, selling apple cider.
Well, shucks. I appear to have missed the deadline on some sort of a summer recap. Photos of swimsuits hanging to dry, kayaks, and road trips. Here we are, with fall in full swing. Everybody I've bumped into over the past few days has seemed moments away from crying. (Us included.) Ferris because his painting isn't perfect, me because this is the last fall without Ferris in school, Athena because she ran out of yogurt, Nick because he has to put up with us. There is something about this time; it's abuzz with both extreme beauty and gloominess. It's a moment of being pushed out of my comfort zone and enjoying the goodness within the uncertainty. Once again, photography takes after my life.
"Normal day, let me be aware of the treasure you are."
This is one such normal summer day. The last day of soccer, a day with tantrums, smoothies, Chloe, car rides, crawling. Imperfectly perfect.
I'm not sure how it happened, but I've been bamboozled by motherhood. In need of adult time. A time when the presence of a stiff drink replaces that of my adorable children. The opportunity for a photography retreat (!) at a vineyard (!) in Sonoma (!) presented itself, and I couldn't resist. Since I had never been to San Francisco, I added on a few days to wander around there, with somebody I only knew from the internet (!) I should clarify that Camille is sweet, likes backlight, and has cute babies (one of whom looks like Athena's twin), so it was a low risk situation. We wandered around neighborhoods and vineyards, and it was just what I needed. You learn a lot about your photography self when you see what sort of circumstance will make you drop your good manners and leave in the middle of a conversation to take a picture. I loved seeing how that was different for each of us. It was a wonderful opportunity to put real faces with online personalities, to talk about life and photography in a beautiful happy place.
I can hardly believe our little lady turned one. (Insert all the cliches here.) We had a celebration for her, and my aunt and uncle with birthdays, on July 4. Ferris picked flowers for the table, and proudly said, "I picked your favorite daisies for you, mama!" Athena wolfed down her cake, along with a cup of guacamole. (Insert wardrobe change here.) She is observant, cautious, passionate, full of delight. Since it was so hot, we had everything set up in my grandma and grandpa's garage, which hasn't changed during my lifetime. The deer head, the keychain hanging from the ceiling that indicates how far to pull the car in, the plastic bins full of cat food, these symbols of the past. And our Athena, who is getting ready to take on the world. Thank you to my cousin for making sure I got in a photo or two, she's the best.
Back to New York, just like old times. But not really. It's funny how much has changed. Each time I visit, I go through "the phases":
1- excited to see things and feel recognition, like returning home
2- glad I don't live there any more, because it's such a pain in the ass
3- pain in the ass numbed, move on to more important things, like what to eat and do
4- feel eerily at home and dread leaving
5- get back to Minneapolis, realize I don't remember how to drive
I took this picture with Ferris sleeping in the Ergo. Ferris on my chest walking in Union Square, a scene that unfolded countless time, but so different now. We spent a few days together as a 4-some and then Athena and I stayed on an extra week, to eat, explore, eat. There was an instinct to relive the life we had together in the places where I was so happy. But now that Athena's here, it just felt silly. We've moved on to new happy, so I tried some new places, too. And I got my April video done there! Woot.
My grandma turned 81 last week. It's funny how as a child, you always envision your grandparents as a single age, immune to such things as birthdays. Truth be told, I grouped most adults into a single age: old. As I'm older, and perhaps approaching "old," I'm more grateful for the things I once took for granted: their old fashioned radio that pipes through the whole house, the wall phone with its rotary dial and twisty cord, charming holiday decor, board games at the table. I wanted to know what it's like to be 80.
So I asked.
We spent a long weekend in Chicago for a wedding, first time traveling as a family of four, shizzam! By now, Nick and I are both pretty efficient in the travel department. For some reason, the Southwest agent wanted some sort of "documentation" for Athena, which was super weird, especially considering that she forgot to check my id in the process. My favorite travel tip is to just leave the damn liquids in your bag and save your energy. I do that every time, and I've only been called out on it maybe once out of 20 flights. (Of course, I looked like a complete moron that time, but it was worth it!)
I made a little slideshow as well, because I couldn't edit down the photos, and I had a little clip of Ferris toting his suitcase that I couldn't bear to waste. He packs his own suitcase, and brought 3 toothbrushes, naturally. We had a nice streak of getting free things in Chicago. For example, some guy on the bus could tell we were heading to the Art Institute, and accompanied us with his family pass so we could go for free and skip the line. Ferris loved the art, especially a sculpture that had multiple heads ("How does that work?!") We had fun at the zoo, museums, got our very first family photos, and ate the best cheese fries ever.
We spent Labor Day "fishing", which Ferris's grandma introduced him to. He just loves it. Loves letting the line down and searching for fish, loves reeling it in before the fish have a chance to bite, loves dropping corn in the water. He pouted and about lost his mind when we decided it was time to go. And Lord help us if we actually would've caught a fish, zero of us could've handled that.
Athena has reached the six week mark already. Having a baby transports you to an alternate universe, and this is the time when we start to emerge and rejoin the normal people, little by little. I have been a bit obsessed with video, ever since Ferris started talking. Photos just didn't feel like enough, but video helps me remember. Ferris said, "I want to watch this movie every day!" He knows just what to say!
One of the city parks had a sundown showing of Back to the Future this week, so we grabbed some ice cream, packed a picnic blanket, and headed out as a family of four. Four! A month in, and we're starting to get used to it. The only downside is that now Ferris walks around saying, "What are you gonna do about it, butthead?" Dammit, Biff!
My second pregnancy has been all about the nursery, because if it wasn't, what would it be about? There's a lot less work to figure things out the second time around, so I had a lot of baby energy in need of direction. And given that our first nursery involved nothing more than setting up a pack and play, I was so excited to daydream and decorate this time around. So, without further ado... here's us turning our office into a nursery over the past couple months, and the new little one growing along.
Theme: no, thanks.
Inspiration: the 3rd print (f/ left) solidified which direction I wanted to go with the main colors (blue/coral with orchid/gold accent.)
Favorites: I'm madly in love with the brass himmel that we chose to use as a mobile. I also really love the prints, and my old childhood music boxes on display.
DIY? I made the little pillow that works as a foot rest, and did quite a bit of painting various Ikea things to customize.
What's her name? No, not gonna tell you, hence the blue tape across the growth chart. For now.
We were lucky to have a toddler free babymoon in Seattle. It was a new location for both of us, and we picked it based on a blog photo of some donuts at a Seattle brunch place. A perfectly good reason to travel halfway across the country, if you ask me. It was restaurant week when we were there, so we spent most of our time eating. The weather and scenery were gorgeous, and the aura of hipster wasn't nearly as cloying as I'd expected it to be. It was a week of pleasant surprises for us!
Lately my goal has been to explore Minneapolis, and go on "adventures" each weekend. Advance planning is a huge detriment of having a car; you actually have to decide where you want to go. Usually Ferris responds with some sort of kicking and screaming, "I don't want annedvenTURE!" But as his mama, I know he will always come around, and we had a great time at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts!
These days Ferris has taken to roaring at us, courtesy of his alter ego, Tiger Ferris. So what better way to tell you than to show you Tiger Ferris going about his day: getting ready for school, getting coffee with mama, obsessing over the big crane, the bedtime dance.