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Secure the Building

Her: “Mama, what does ‘secure the building’ mean?”

Me: “It means to make the building safe. Why do you ask?”

Her: “Today our principle said over the speaker, “Secure the building,” so we practiced hiding in the bathroom with our teachers and being very quiet and good listeners. Mrs. B said that if that happens it means that there is a bad guy in the building and we have to hide to be safe so that we don’t get hurt. We also practiced in the gym and hid on the stage behind the curtain. We couldn’t turn on the lights because we didn’t want the bad guy to see us.”

**At this point tears are visibly streaming down my face and my entire stomach is in knots**

Me: “Sweetie, I am so so sorry that you had to practice doing that.”

Her: “Why are you crying, mommy?”

Me: “Because you shouldn’t live in a world where you have to practice hiding from bad guys in school.”

Her: “Mama, what makes people bad? Are they born mean? Why would they want to hurt me?”

**I am now speechless and heartbroken and fumbling for words to explain the inexplainable. How do you even begin that conversation? How do you talk about all the ugly and hate and violence and death with a five year old, let alone yourself? How do you talk about why people do awful, terrifying, terrible things, when you don’t even understand it?**

Me: “That’s a really complicated, hard question and I don’t have good or easy answers for you.”

Her: “Mama, am I safe at school?”

And I say, yes, even though there are headlines that leave me questioning my own attempts at honesty.


I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, You cannot stop violence with violence.

Count your blessings. And write your representatives.

Also: The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence and Gun Control. Now.


Il Vaporetto


While on The Cape, we snapped a ridiculous number of photos on Il Vap (the tugboat, more formally Il Vaporetto) to showcase some favorite New England-made nautical accessories. Take note of our wooden sunglasses from Cape Codder and our rope bracelets from The Ropes of Maine (and our matchy matchy sister dresses from L.L. Bean (thanks to Momar)). hashtagstripesonstripesonstripes hashtagnauticalstripesforeveramen




















Currently Gawking

“Thank you Moms for the most trying year of your life.”

And then I cried my face off.

Cape Cod Summer // 2014

Given all of our various summer commitments, we wound up only finding one weekend when all four of us were able to visit my family on Cape Cod. The girls had a weekend all to themselves on the Cape with my parents in July, and I snuck in some time there on either end of my trip to Sweden, but we were grateful to have one full weekend of family beaching and boating Cape Cod style. And the weather sure cooperated.

We spent a full day in my sister’s world in Woods Hole, enjoying her tugboat in particular. And then had a beach day at my parents’ beach which is so private and uncrowded and lovely. I only wish we’d had more time by the sea as a family.


^^Kimmy’s summer cottage is a riot – complete with tiki bar.^^





^^Headed out on the tugboat, ready to go under the itty bitty drawbridge.^^




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^^Seriously, the cutest wooden boat I ever did see. They’ll be many more pix of her tomorrow.^^










^^A SHELLY BUTTON! Har har har.^^



^^Ice cream on the docks (where all these sister, sister pix were snapped.)^^




^^Gladdy’s inaugural ocean swim.^^

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^^Hanging in Momar and Doda’s backyard.^^




^^Vroom. Vroom!^^




^^Happy retrievers at the beach.^^

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This weekend was well, less a weekEND and more a weekmarathon? weekbatshitcrazy? weekashleyovercommittedherself? weekholyfuckiamtired?

Yeah. All of the above.

It’s Sunday night, and I’m already asking, “Is it Friday yet?”

Which isn’t even a fair question, considering I have another work-centric weekend before me beginning Thursday night running through Saturday night.

This fall is on steroids, y’all.

I am (as always) ever so grateful to my parents who swooped in and took care of all of our dependents chez Cartwheel Farm, freeing up James to support me in all of my work madness. I had “day job” related work and events to run Friday night into Saturday, and then a wedding to shoot Saturday night, and then “Nutcracker” auditions to attend with my Kindergartener on Sunday.

(Side note: Sunny will be carrying on her mother and auntie’s legacy as a reindeer in her inaugural performance of this ballet classic. Kimmy and I will be front and center at every performance (as in multiple, yes). Bring on the holiday cheer!)

For this weekend’s wedding, I rented some insane camera lenses as it was an evening affair, held indoors, so I knew I’d be shooting in very different lighting than usual. I’ve had my eye on the Canon 85mm f/1.2 for some time, and man, it sure did live up to every possible expectation. (Which would explain the sticker price and why it is sadly not in my camera bag on the regular. Until I can afford to take the plunge, I’ll be turning to Borrow Lenses for all future photography gigs.) It has to be returned tomorrow, so James had fun snapping some images around the farm (while I lay on the couch eating nachos and demanding foot rubs from my children. Please don’t judge my attempts at self-care).

James, too, was smitten. I think you can see why…


















“A portrait of my children, once a week, every week, in 2014.”

Sunny: In her Kindergarten classroom there is a behavior chart in the form of a seascape. Each child is represented as a bubble, and they move throughout the seascape each day depending on how they are behaving. If you are having a “bad day,” or “not listening,” or “can’t keep your hands to yourself,” you get moved to “stormy seas,” or “high and dry” or (the worst one of all according to Sunny) “ship wrecked.” If, however, you are being a good listener or helping the teacher or doing the activities or being a good friend, you get moved “up,” as Sunny describes, to different sea creatures of which the Starfish is apparently the greatest honor.

Sunny was very excited to show us this chart at her back-to-school night for parents this week and declared that she had never been down, and that she’d even reached “Starfish” level a number of times. While putting her to bed that evening, she said, “Mama, I never want to be down. I’m going to work really hard to be good and listen to Mrs. Berard so I can always be up.” And man, how I am simultaneously so proud but also so aware that she is fitting that stereotypical firstborn need for affirmation and the pressure to be good, to be responsible, to be a leader. While it is a wonderful trait, I want her to feel that she is safe to make mistakes and falter every now and then. Some of life’s greatest lessons come from failing. All of us have shipwrecked days, and I’ll love her just the same, even when she’s navigating stormy seas. (I may have taken the Kindergarten metaphor a little too far.)

Kaki: This week, she moved into a new classroom at her school. She is now in her first official year of preschool, in a class referred to as “The Lambs.” When I picked her up on Thursday, I greeted her by saying, “Well hello my little lamb!” She looked at me very seriously and responded, “I am not a little lamb. I am a BIG lamb.” And ain’t that the truth.

More details about The 52 Project here. To view all the portraits in the series visit here.

Sister, Sister

I have a huge number of photos from our trip to Cape Cod in August that I have yet to share in this space. Sorting through them last night, I couldn’t help but laugh at these series of “sister” pix. The ones of the Sunny and Kaki are of course endearing and sweet and hilarious. But it’s the ones of me and Kimmy that I find even more hysterical as not only are we grown women wearing matching outfits gifted to us by our mother, but we are unintentionally mimicking one another’s facial expressions in each photo.

Oh sisterhood. You are a weird (albeit special) thing indeed. May your weekend’s be filled with this kind of wonderful.










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September 11th brings many people and feelings and memories to the fore of my thoughts, a day of such loss and fear and broken innocence, but no thought more profoundly than my love and admiration for my brave, inspiring friend, Devita.

Today Devita shared this on her FB wall, and I wanted to share it with you all here so that perhaps you are inspired to Pay It Forward in honor of a fallen hero: “Say not in grief he is no more, but live in thankfulness that he was.” It’s still hard to fathom that it’s been 13 years since that fateful day at the Pentagon that changed my family’s life and even harder to think that I’ve “outlived” my big brother by 7 years. Nonetheless, I know he’s proud of the woman I’ve become and I am honored to be able to share his life with those whom I know & interact (be it virtually or physically). To honor his life and legacy, I ask that each of you pay a favor forward today as this was Romeo’s mantra and the way he lived his life. So whether it’s buying a drink for a stranger at the bar or holding the door open for someone or paying for the car behind you’s toll, please pay a favor forward and share my brother’s story as a way to keep his memory alive. And for those of you who had the privilege to know Romeo, you know he’s partying it up somewhere – so take a drink for and with him And lastly, thank you from the bottom of my heart for the ongoing support and love. #WeRemember #Sept11 #NeverForget

She visited us on the farm in late May, and spent the weekend as part of the family, playing with the girls, planting seedlings in the garden, painting the porch, bonding with Gladdy (Devita knew Ursa from day 1, and is the dog that helped Devita find her own love of canines), taking selfies with farm life (see the final images below) and generally snuggling and drinking beer and laughing and just being. How I miss the days when we shared an office and a quick 2 minute walk divided our apartments. I am grateful for many things today, but above all, today I am grateful for a friendship with this inspiring soul.














^^Devita gifted Sunny that tutu and Kaki that outrageously cute sunsuit of smocked octopus.^^






My final post about Sweden (for now at least!).

The day after Maja’s wedding, we retreated to her parents’ home nearby in the Swedish countryside with her nuclear family. I had stayed at this home my freshmen year of college when I flew to Sweden to visit Maja during my spring break. I will admit that the beautiful summer weather made this trip even better than my visit in March of 2002. Maja’s mother is an avid gardener so I was completely drooling over her amazing gardens and fruit bushes. Her kitchen is filled with jams and pickled produce and everything fresh and homemade pulled directly from the backyard. Incredible!



^^Lingonberries abound! In every possible color, in pure abundance!^^


^^Find Kimmy’s body prostrate in the lawn, still recovering from our 7am “bed” time.^^



^^We consumed leftover hotdogs from the bar the night before as our afternoon pick-me-up.^^


^^Maja’s sister’s flatcoat Sigue joined the fun! Oh my favorite dogs in the world – he was so happy at the lake.^^

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^^We all went swimming in the lake in her parents’ backyard. The whole scene felt like a Wes Anderson film.^^



^^The only photo of me and Maja “solo” is this ridiculous image. My rear end and Maja’s face after submerging in the chilly water. Pretty priceless actually.^^

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^^Maja and Lars opened wedding gifts while we sipped champagne. They were deliriously happy it would seem.^^

That evening, we enjoyed another outrageous culinary experience prepared by Maja’s mom and brother. Traditional Swedish crayfish covered in buttery, garlicky goodness, fresh vegetables, deer, moose, and more cake and wine than we could possibly handle. We all visited and enjoyed our final hours all together, basking in all the fun and happiness of the past 48 hours. The next day we bid our farewells and boarded a train back to Stockholm.

Oh what a trip! I feel so lucky to have had such a grand adventure with my baby sister and to have such an incredible friendship to inspire such a journey. Until next time!

How do we like them apples?

Apparently, quite a bit.

We’ve been picking fresh apples from the same orchard five years running. It’s fun to see how the kids have grown through the experience.

In 2011, James and I were on paternity/maternity leave so we visited more than once. Look at Mohawk baby Courtland!


If you’re ever in the Northern Berkshires in September, do make a visit to Lakeview Orchard. Arguably the best cider donuts in the area.