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Ballerina Ladybug

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This weekend we watched our recent preschool grad dance in her inaugural ballet recital. She, with an array of other 3 and 4 year olds, danced on stage in lady bug costumes and stole the audience’s hearts with the level of adorableness. As I said yesterday, this kid loves to perform. And she, along with her fairy godsister, won the award for “Dance Excellence” in her class. I have a feeling that that just means that she is enthusiastic about dance and follows directions well (she’s only four after all), but it made both the recipient and her mama proud. Here they are pictured together almost exactly three years apart. Age 1 versus age 4.

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My dad and sister and my mom’s dearest friend from childhood drove up for the performance, and while my heart ached from my mother’s absence, I was grateful to have this grouping of family together. While it will never be the same without her, we are all trying to celebrate and enjoy one another whenever the opportunity presents, as she would have wanted.

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Preschool Graduation

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Courtland graduated from preschool two weeks ago, and it was as adorable and as heartwarming as one expects such things to be. She wore the dress that Sunny wore to her preschool graduation, a gift from my mother. They sang songs, including a tune in Spanish, as they’ve been taking weekly lessons from a classmate’s mother all year. Courtland, ever our performer, was so very enthusiastic about the chance to sing for a crowd.

Our little bear is all ready for Kindergarten!


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^^Her siblings dressed in their finest for the occasion.^^

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Father’s Day // 2016

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I am feeling especially grateful for these kind, caring, loving, generous men in my life who are so very present in the lives of their children. And my heart extends extra tenderness to those for whom today is particularly painful. These holidays are raw and lonely and heartbreaking for many, and I do not take for granted how fortunate I am to be able to celebrate my own father and the father of my children, two men who have taught me so much about love and partnership and commitment to family.

All I can say is thank you for all the times you kept seeing me until I was big enough to see me myself.

I love you, Dad. You have always been there for us when we’ve needed it most, and we will always be there for you. We are so lucky to call you our Doda. Mom would be so proud of your care-taking and nurturing and generosity with your children and grandchildren during these life-altering months. I know it’s not the same without her, but we need you more than ever. 143. Always.

And James, there will never be proper language to capture the gratitude and love that I feel. These past four months you have demonstrated the depth of your love in capacities previously unknown. I found myself re-reading our wedding vows the other night, and you have truly gone above and beyond those words that we promised each other nearly eight years ago. This in particular spoke to me.

Each day, I will choose to love you when I wake, I will choose to love you as we fall asleep, and through all the uncertainties of the future, and the pressures of the present, I will love you.

I will give my deepest care, compassion and understanding, my constant comfort, all my strength and support, all my joy and happiness, to make your life more beautiful.

I will celebrate your triumphs; guide you through life’s stumbles, my hand in yours.

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Sanderling // Three Months

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My beguiling Three Month Old,

You are our ray of sunshine. Our cheeks hurt from smiling back so unabashedly at your constant stream of open-mouthed, rapturous grins. You are on the brink of the giggles and that is only going to amplify the joy and happiness you so readily bestow upon our household. Your bath time routine of stomps and splashes and coos with Daddy and PINK HIPPO! are arguably the zenith of your joy each day. In the face of our grief, you are our balance. Our light. Our anchor. And you radiate that light outward to those we greet in public – the baristas, pharmacists, colleagues, friends, teachers, yogis, darling elderly gentlemen, are all so smitten with your sweet smiles of connection and contentment.

This precious ensemble arrived from a beautiful French knitwear company, Miou Kids, and I can hardly stand how adorably that bonnet magnifies that round, squishy face of yours. Those bally cheeks (just like your Momar’s)! That dimple! It makes your smiles all the more irresistible. If it isn’t already glaringly obvious, I am positively taken with you, my darling. There isn’t a moment that goes by that I don’t feel humbled with gratitude and love for your presence in our lives.

Your easy-going nature continues, as you have (for now) mastered sleeping through the night. You go to sleep with ease at bed time. In fact, I often lay you down still awake, and you merrily suck your thumb (we hear great slurping down the hall) until you drift off to sleep. We then don’t hear from you again until the following morning. If a wet diaper or a hungry belly awakes you before 6am, a quick change and/or nurse session is enough to welcome another 2-3 hour stretch of sleep. I cannot fully articulate what a gift this has been, for all of us. To be rested. To not have to stress about long bedtime routines, or prolonged middle-of-the-night feedings, or restless, sleep-deprived children and parents is particularly welcome during a time when life feels so hard and confusing. Thank you for that gift.

While I know that your daddy and I are far more relaxed and comfortable now that this is our third crack at parenting a newborn, it’s also a testament to your adaptable, laid back personality. It makes carting you around to all of your sisters’ extracurriculars, school performances, appointments, rehearsals, shows, etc. a breeze – not to mention the slew of activities and errands you find yourself running alongside your mom and dad daily. Securely discovering your thumb this month has certainly helped you manage self-care when needed. You’ve recently shown a tendency to blow out your diaper mid-errand, so we’ve gotten very skilled at stripping you of poop-soaked clothing in the mini-van. But if that’s the most challenging hurdle I have to face with you these days, I’ll take it. Baby poo stained car seats and all.

We’ve survived the fourth trimester, my friend. Two bouts of mastitis (the engorgement from your epic sleep stretches is to blame for last week’s infection, but again, tough to complain given the reason), a slew of challenging milestones in the wake of your Momar’s passing and your mama’s adjustment to life postpartum unmothered – but we did it. And I can’t imagine having weathered these three months without you curled up against my chest, a puddle of drool beneath your chin, and sweet sighs emitting from those lips that suck on air as you dream. You are an ever-constant reminder to remain in the present. To soak in the current moment. And revel in the love and comfort and gratitude it brings.

How I wish your Momar could see how much I am positively delighting in you. But I like to think of her as your guardian angel, and I trust that she knows, even if it’s just in the security of my own heart.

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Shop Sanderling’s gorgeous hand knit outfit from Miou KidsCotton Overalls in Teal; Cotton Moss Bonnet in Sea Foam ; Crochet Booties in Sea Foam

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Memorial Day // 2016

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A few more snaps from our Memorial Day parade adventure in Williamstown. We’ve been keeping busy, falling in to more of a routine with Sander and wrapping up the school year for the girls. James is taking the majority of his paternity leave after the girls are out for summer on June 20th. We’ll have nearly two months off from our usual routine before I return to work after a much needed 6-month leave (death and birth happening congruently sure fucks with one’s world). I continue (and will continue) to feel so so sad, and angry, and confused, and devastated. My mother is constantly at the fore of my thoughts, but I’ve been keeping up with self-care – daily yoga, weekly therapy, and regular dates with friends and loved ones occupy my time with sweet Sander by my side. It’s an antidote to the grief, and I’ve found myself adjusting my perspective and place in the world as I reflect and adapt to my life unmothered. I’m seeking simplicity, in all facets. And being far gentler on myself and those around me.

And these children of mine are ever my reason for facing each day anew with gratitude and love.

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20/52

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“A portrait of my children, once a week, every week, in 2016.”

Sunny: Looking like such a moody teenager at our local Memorial Day parade. She enjoyed it, I swear. And she’s rocking a festive star tee from my childhood.
Kaki: I adore that American Flag dress, also an Ulmer sister childhood ensemble. My mother was a sucker for anything patriotically spangled.
Sander: Baby’s first parade, wearing a hand-me-down from my boss and his four sons. 

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

42 Years

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My parents would have celebrated their 42nd wedding anniversary today. I find myself so angry and heartbroken that they don’t get that chance, and yet so deeply grateful and humbled by the strong, amazing marriage they shared over the course of my mom’s lifetime. It’s a rare and precious thing to have a relationship like theirs, and I am so fortunate to have been raised and loved by two people who loved one another as fiercely and deeply and truly as they did.

For their 40th wedding anniversary, I compiled a book my mother wrote about her and my dad titled The Mermaid and The Oceanographer. I added photographs from where the story left off, through their life up until that anniversary. I ended it saying, “Here’s to many, many more happy years!” My heart aches every time I re-read those words with the sting of hindsight.

I hope you know by now, no matter where you are, that the way Life sings through us into the whole, wide world is something like magic & you will always be the reason I’m not afraid to love.  – StoryPeople

Happy 42nd Wedding Anniversary, Mom and Dad.

Our Aquamarine

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This weekend was Sunny’s end-of-year dance recital. Each dance represented a different jewel, and she was an Aquamarine. It felt like a particularly fitting role given that aquamarine is Sander’s birthstone and that it’s said to be the treasure of mermaids, a creature that I associate so closely with my mother. I wore all of her vintage aquamarine jewelry (it was her grandmother’s, my great-grandmother, and Sunny’s great, great-grandmother), complete with necklace, earrings and ring, to bring a piece of her with me to the performance. It was so strange and sad to watch Sunny dance without my mom’s presence in the audience with us, saddled up next to my father, beaming with grandmotherly joy. I’m so proud of Sunny and how she’s managed all the upheaval and heartbreak of this year. Momar would be so proud of her, too. And I just love these post-performance photos.

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19/52

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“A portrait of my children, once a week, every week, in 2016.”

Sunny: Our seven year old. She wanted a pool party for her birthday, but our local pool doesn’t open for the season until early June. So instead, we’re taking a family trip to an indoor water park near Lake George. And all spending the night in a hotel room together. Here’s hoping Sander keeps up his awesome sleep habits – or it may be a very drowsy day at the park! Wish us luck!
Kaki: Changing a diaper, tongue out for concentration. The girls are so eager to help us care for their brother, and it’s a reminder of just how lucky we all are to have one another as family.
Sander: Tummy time champ. Enjoying those bugs as much as both of his big sisters did. That play mat was gift from Momar, of course, when Sunny was a baby.

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

84 Months

Dearest Sunny,

Today you are seven. And it is my first time celebrating the day that turned me into a mother without my own. You shared such a special bond with your Momar. You are her namesake and the person who made her a grandmother, the greatest role she ever played.

You asked if Doda could make you a robot Momar for your birthday, and it makes my heartache with both sorrow and gratitude that you loved her equally as much as she adored you. While nothing will ever replace her, you are a living embodiment of so many of her best qualities. That button nose. That gorgeous hair. But more importantly than the physical embodiment, the way you say I LOVE YOU to your family with abandon, just as she did. The way you surprise us with special notes and drawings and gifts, the way she always showered those she loved with affection and over-the-top giving. Your bookwormy nature (you now stay up reading chapter books by the light of a book lamp, and we have to ask you to put the book away to actually get you to go to sleep, you adore late-night reading so much). Momar had a similar predilection. Your disdain for the morning is also a shared personality trait, though that extends to your mother as well. Most notably, your tenderness with and caretaking of your siblings and pets resembles a gentleness with animals and babies that was such a core part of your Momar. How fortunate I am to have a living glimpse of her before me each day in the hearts and bodies of my children.

I am awestruck that I have been your mother for seven years. But yesterday morning, as you held your baby brother in your bed and cooed and kissed and snuggled, I gazed down upon you and beheld a child who has had to grow up so much in just one year. Who has faced the loss of her great-grandfather, and then cherished grandmother, while navigating huge changes and advancements in school, both academically and socially. Not to mention that you’ve had to watch your mother experience immense grief while our whole household shifted into a family of five. With all these upheavals and heartaches, you have become more vulnerable but also far tougher than the little girl who turned six last year. You are very much a seven year old. And I am endlessly proud of your kindness, your intellect, your creativity, and your gentleness with the world around you. As I looked into your eyes yesterday morning, there was such grace, such elegance. You are growing up beautifully my darling, and I mean that well beyond the physical.

I love you, my precious first born. Thank you for all that you’ve done for your mama, particularly these past three months.

And Happiest Seventh Birthday.
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Pictured here with your Momar the last time we saw her, Christmas 2015. Showered with gifts, just as she would have done for you today were she still with us.

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