Blog a la Cart

First Day of School

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Sunny’s first day of Kindergarten was last Thursday (I DON’T KNOW HOW EITHER! hashtagonslaughtoftime hashtagcoveredinlies hashtaginaglasscageofemotion). Where on Earth did THIS mohawk baby go? Whew, wow. Sorry for yelling. It’s been an emotional few days. hashtagemotionallyunstablemamabear

We spent the evening prior packing our lunch (a new activity as her preschool provided both breakfast and lunch and sweet lord how I will miss the convenience of that! Who knew spreading peanut butter on a sandwich could add complication to a daily schedule? Now I know.), laying out our outfits, and setting our alarms for an earlier start to the day (the WORST for us night owls).

Thursday morning over breakfast, we surprised her with her own personalized backpack to kick off the start of her schooling adventures (from Garnet Hill, and it matches one of her bed sets because who can get enough of polka dot ponies?!)

We walked the quarter of a mile down our dirt road to the bus stop, happily talking about the day ahead. All was well and I thought that we were all going to make it through the experience tear-fear. I’d been selling my own emotional state pretty hard to friends and colleagues that asked how I was doing, but, I thought, mostly for show as I believed deep-down that I would be more than fine when the moment of her departure for school actually arrived. But then the bus pulled up to her stop, and Sunny panicked and started crying and asking, “Why can’t I just go to my preschool, Mommy? I love my preschool. Please don’t make me go to Kindergarten. I’m scared.”

Somehow the rational grown-up side took over and I remained stoic through the experience. With the help of the adult supervisor on the bus and some coaxing, we managed to get her aboard and on her way to school. But once that bus rounded the corner, oh man, the water works. And then I realized that our camera didn’t have a memory card, so all the images I’d snapped were for naught, and oh the ugly crying.

Courtland, fortunately, was cheery as ever and kept the mood light. She merrily held my hand for the ride in to her school and told me that every thing was okay. (Role reversal, what?!) We were so thrilled (and maybe a wee bit surprised given that she has a flair for the dramatic) that she had no problem adjusting to drop off at preschool solo. And James reminded me that we had plenty of iPhone captures of the experience, and that we had enough images of our children to last 20 lifetimes.

When we picked Sunny up from the bus that afternoon, she was all smiles, although, in typical kid fashion, shared very little about her day. We did bear witness to a reprise of a very silly dance they’d done as a class and we learned that her (new) best friend’s name is Izzy. She even announced that she would like to go to Kindergarten the next day.

Later that evening, we received a surprise phone call from her teacher who just wanted to let us know that Sunny had had an awesome first day of school. She’d heard that Sunny was emotional at the bus, and wanted to assure us that she didn’t see any of those nerves in the classroom. She even claimed that Sunny was the most enthusiastic kid in the class and helped reassure some of the more shy and nervous of her classmates.

If I could have wrapped that woman up in a big old bear hug I would have. The phone call lasted no more than 2 minutes, and yet it provided a level of assurance and comfort for which James and I are beyond grateful.

The next day Sunny eagerly loaded up her backpack and headed off with a smile. I’d say that the school year is off to a great start!

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

Sunny: Despite a few tears climbing on the bus her first day of Kindergarten, she’s been all smiles and enthusiasm since.
Kaki: This red army warrior was spent after a weekend of Labor Day antics. Here she is pictured right at the beginning of some truly epic meltdowns. Fortunately, everything that preceded that moment was ridiculous amounts of fun (and very late bedtimes and limited naps and too many hot dogs) that all culminated into a perfect storm of exhaustion.

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

Ursa

I carry you with me into the world, into the smell of rain & the words that dance between people & for me, it will always be this way, walking in the light, remembering being alive together. -Story People

She’s been gone a full year, yet I still look for her as though it were yesterday. 143 My Ursa.

#FBF

A little Flashback Friday to the days when Doda and his bestie were (body)surfer brahs.

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They’ve been friends since diapers, and we saw them together, on the beach, just two weekends ago.

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Perhaps *slightly* less hair, but I’d say they’ve still got it.

August 28

A year ago, we made the decision to bid farewell to our beloved Ursa. It was the hardest decision that James and I have ever made as a couple, and yet, simultaneously the easiest, as it was clear that our sweet Ursa needed relief. It was time to say goodbye. The following day, the vet came to our home and helped us give her the rest that she so deserved.

I have thought of her every day since her passing. 365 memories have danced through my head as I ache from her absence and remember the love and comfort that she brought to my life. While I am no longer paralyzed by the grief of her death, I miss her. I miss her so much that I can still feel the throbbing in my chest when she comes to the fore of my thoughts. I dream of her and Gladdy romping through the fields together. And while, logically, I know that those two creatures would never have co-existed, Gladden would not be a part of our family if Ursa were still with us, I can’t help but conjure these images of those I love together in the same space.

Sunny still talks about her and visits her grave. She reads her “Ursa books,” the books that we gave to her when Ursa was first diagnosed with cancer to help her understand sickness and death and life cycles. She drew me a picture of Ursa at camp this week, and I hadn’t even mentioned that it was the one year anniversary of her death. Ursa is present with all of us, however subconsciously.

And as I focus on this loss and reflect on a summer that was filled with devastation and loss and pain and fear, I am reminded of how fortunate I am to have made it through those darker days to now, a summer that has been filled with light and laughter and opportunity and magic and so very many happy memories. I should never take that kind of contentment and ease for granted. This summer has been a wonder, made all the more sweet remembering what we faced to make it to today.

But August 28th is not just the day that I made the decision to part with my Ursa and learned to say goodbye and let go, it is now the day that I sent my oldest child off to Kindergarten. The day that I was forced to loosen the reigns, however slightly, as she took one of many steps toward her own independence.

Today, my baby started Kindergarten.

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August 28th has taught me many things. Above all, strength.

Andrea & James

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Perhaps I was a bit biased in my adoration for this couple given the groom’s name and their initials A&J, but I had such a blast photographing the wedding for Andrea and James this past weekend in Maine.

While it will take me a month or more to wade through all the images from the day, I pulled some of my immediate favorites for them to enjoy while on honeymoon (and during the waiting period). While I had never met the couple, Andrea is a fellow Eph, so there was a fabulous Williams contingent present for the celebrations and it was fun to connect with some familiar faces.

The wedding was held at a summer camp, so it was a weekend full of capture the flag and bonfires and kayaking and greased watermelon and sleeping in bunk houses. The groom is from Scotland, so a large UK contingent was present, and I adored all the kilts and bag pipes and endearing Scottish accents! They were truly some of the most fun, enthusiastic, light-hearted people that I’ve ever met. And I think that that comes through in the images. Here are a few beloved captures from the day:

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^^The bride loves penguins, so her thesis advisor gifted her a penguin floaty for the weekend of fun. Waziyatah is the name of the summer camp.^^

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^^The bride’s aunt is a florist and did all of the flowers. Totally amazing.^^

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^^Mother-of-the-bride and Bride.^^

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^^Bagpiper photobomb FTW!^^

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^^This sums this couple up in one quick snapshot.^^

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^^I love this image so much. Sure, it was shot in low light, but man, it captures the essence of that night.^^

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

Sunny: Every night she wants someone to sleep by her side, whether its her sister, her mommy or her daddy. She just wants to be next to someone. And while it can be beyond infuriating, I try to remind myself that in just a few years’ time, she won’t even want me to kiss her goodnight.
Kaki: She has become an elaborate storyteller, and I have to admit, I adore the fact that her language is still rather underdeveloped. It is so dang endearing and oh, she is still my baby.

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

Kendra & Andrew

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Last month, James and I attended and photographed a dear friend’s wedding in western Maine. We celebrated at her family’s lake house in New Hampshire before a joyous, rustic, happy wedding at the Stone Mountain Arts Center. It was elegant and personal and carefree and thoughtful; the perfect balance of formality and comfort.

The couple was so effortlessly blissful. I have never seen Andrew so at ease, so happy, so outwardly joyful. Kendra, like myself, is emotive and expressive and extroverted. Her husband, like James, is quiet and inward and introverted. It was such a wonderful, unexpected twist to see him outwardly energized like his bride. Beaming. Radiant. Happy. It comes through in these images and for that I am so grateful.

It was especially fun that I wrapped up this wedding right before shooting an August wedding just one hour north of here. Thanks to Kendra’s parents hospitality, I was able to call their lake house home base for the weekend, and I prepped and then decompressed from a full day of shooting on Saturday. We shared fond memories from this happy day in July and enjoyed these images together. And I even snuck in some play by the lake before my trip home Sunday, complete with sea-cycling and swimming and witnessing a bald eagle fishing just off the dock of the house while a loon sang out from the water nearby. This place is pure magic. Here’s my favorite taste of that…

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^^Find the heart among the strawberries…^^

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^^Their beloved cat, Bernie.^^

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^^This is Kendra, to a T. I just love how it showcases the essence of who she is… excitable, joyous, and not afraid to show it!^^

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^^I always love weddings when a close friend or family member officiates the ceremony, it adds such a personal touch. Kendra’s college roomie, and our mutual friend knocked it out of the park. Touching, thoughtful, funny, lovely. Nicely done, Meg!^^

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^^I went to high school with the woman on the right, and Kendra grew up skiing with her throughout her childhood. It was beyond fun to all reconnect over such a happy occasion.^^

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^^Those roosters killed me.^^

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^^And why, yes, it would seem that I was most definitely able to enjoy myself, even with the photography responsibilities. So much dancing. So much blueberry sangria. So much fun.^^

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^^A dazzling send-off to a dazzling day.^^

Baldersnäs

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And now, the Swedish countryside! As I’ve poured over these images, editing and processing, I’ve been reliving all the joy and splendor of this place, these people, the experience. It was, truly, once in a lifetime.

We journeyed west via train to the provence of Dalsland, the ridiculously picturesque, bucolic Swedish countryside. The wedding festivities for the weekend were hosted at the Baldersnäs, a historic estate with guest rooms and guest houses and lakes and farms and traditional craft markets. It was as though Swedish folklore had exploded before our very eyes.

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^^The interior of the mansion was the stuff of a Brontë novel. I tried to capture the details so Momar could properly envision its majesty.^^

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^^The grounds and shops and cafés and farm buildings were similarly charming and captivating. We were able to find traditional Swedish gifts from straw ornaments to rod iron candle sticks to embroidered linens for our family.^^

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^^We were particularly obsessed with the wood stove heated hot tub right outside our lodgings for the weekend. I insist that one of these be constructed on Cartwheel Farm, alongside a sauna and outdoor shower. (Hey, one day! Maybe!)^^

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^^We were welcomed with Swedish lollipops and a note from Maja & Lars informing us that Friday’s supper would be hosted on a boat, complete with a tour of the local lakes.^^

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^^Before boarding the boat, we headed down to the main lake on the property, where we would later find ourselves sauna lounging and swimming at seven o’clock in the morning following the all night wedding festivities that took place Saturday to Sunday. It was the stuff of a fairytale.^^

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^^The happy bride and groom welcomed us aboard the Dalslandia, our vessel for the evening.^^

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^^We traveled through a series of locks, and moved from one lake to the next, which was quite the experience.^^

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^^We snapped pictures in the gorgeous golden light of the late evening sun. And feasted on a freshly prepared meal primarily sourced from Maja’s mother’s garden. Monica prepared all the food, including smoked salmons and abundant salads and quiches. We were completely floored that the mother-of-the-bride would go to such a great effort for her guests the day before her daughter’s wedding. The food was beyond… and it was just the first taste of all the culinary extravagance that was to come.^^

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^^When the boat returned to land, we headed down to the sauna where Kimmy and I sat giggling like silly Americans among 25 Swedes drinking vodka and sweating it out in the sauna. They lived up to our wildest stereotypes, and it was even more awesome than we ever could have imagined. We retreated to bed “early” (i.e. 2am) to rest for the next day’s celebrations.^^

Currently Playing

Of late, these three songs run on repeat chez Cart. I particularly love “All About That Bass” and the fact the singer is a native Nantucketer slash Cape Codder.

And I will forever and always love me some T.Swift. And her choice of centering the video around dance? Girl knows the way to the Ulmers’ hearts!

Sunny knows every word to this song. And sings it with gusto. Daily.

Now go, enjoy, and dance your face off!