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First Day of School 2016 – 7th grade and Kindergarten
Previous years: 2014 // 2015

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

Lillia: This week you started school as a seventh-grader! This seems impossible—wasn’t I just a seventh-grader? The transition back to school has been a bit rough for you, in large part because you are desperately missing your pen pal / Skype pal / best friend, Jessica, who lives in England. You guys chatted almost every day this summer, and now it’s much harder to catch up—that five-hour time difference is a real bummer. However, you’re already head-down in your studies and finished almost all of your homework for the week last night. The next two years may be hard, for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is that middle-schoolers are fickle and mean. I will do everything I can to support you and help you get through it. I think you’ll be okay as long as you remember that you are a spectacularly unique human being with more talent in your little finger than most people can amass in a lifetime. Don’t let the petty stuff derail you.

Zane: This week you started kindergarten! Wow, what a milestone! I’ve already waxed philosophical about the transition (twice), so I won’t belabor the point any more here. You had a great drop-off on your first day, and in the afternoon at pick-up you came bouncing up the hill with a big grin on your face, looking every part the kindergartener. You said you LOVED kindergarten, especially the “soccer court” and learning new things. You said you even made a new friend named Wyatt. And, you’re really excited about the possibility of collecting pom-poms for good behavior (there is, apparently, a treasure chest to dig through once your bucket is full of pom-poms). For the first time this week, I feel a little lighter. If you are happy, then I am happy.

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For Zane, on his last day before kindergarten:

There’s no truth about your childhood, though there’s a story, yours to tend, like a fire or garden. Make it a good one, since you’ll have to live it out, and all its revisions…Who knows if he’s happy or not? A child is all the tools a child has, growing up, who makes what he can.

— from “A Happy Childhood” by William Matthews

Zane and I took a walk in the woods today—it was the thing I wanted to do most before sending him off to kindergarten tomorrow. As we walked, we talked about the way that things are changing and I asked him if he felt he had experienced a happy early childhood at home with me. He said he had a lot of okay days, some good days, and some bad days…but, mostly good days, “as one would expect.” (Yes, he actually used an indefinite pronoun.) Every time I think about tomorrow, the back of my throat tightens. I don’t want him to see me cry, though, because this is his story, and he will make what he can. Perhaps if it hadn’t been such a happy childhood—perhaps if he hadn’t been such a joy to care for—I would be sending him off with a sigh of relief. I suppose we can relive pieces of our years at home together through my pictures, and our memories. I will surely remember more about his early days than he will…but, even then, when I am old it may be he who has to remind me about all of the adventures we had.


While you browse the photos of our day in the woods, perhaps you’d like to listen to a classical piece that I feel nicely represents Zane’s early childhood, “Concerto for Oboe and Strings, Mvt. 1 – Rondo Pastorale (feat. Celia Nicklin)” by Ralph Vaughan Williams (push play button below to hear audio).

Vaughan Williams: Concerto for Oboe and Strings – 1. Rondo Pastorale

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Lillia 25 of 52 (2016)
Lillia 26 of 52 (2016)
Lillia 27 of 52 (2016)
Zane 25 of 52 (2016)
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Zane 27 of 52 (2016)

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

Lillia: Summer vacation has officially come to an end, and I know you’re not thrilled about going back to school. You really enjoyed being home—drawing, reading, watching your favorite shows, Skype-ing with your friend Jessica who lives in England. The last month of summer seemed to fly by with total disregard for your attempts to lengthen it. But, it’s not a total loss. A new school year brings new opportunities and, despite your protests, I think you really do enjoy school and the challenges it brings. There will be interesting projects, and school plays, and dance lessons, and all manner of things filling up your days. It will not be summer vacation, but it will still be fun.

Zane: Where do I begin? Today is your very last day at home with me before starting kindergarten. You’ve been in preschool the last two years, but there is such a different impulse behind the word “school” that leaves me feeling a bit breathless—how exactly DID all that time pass? Part of me wants to look away and have it all be over quickly, so that I don’t have to feel anything. Another part of me wants to savor these last few hours, since we will never have them again. I am not very good at living in the present—I daydream, and plan, and reflect—and miss a lot of little moments as they happen. It is only when we must cross a threshold together that I realize those moments are now forever irretrievable.

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Lillia 22 of 52 (2016)
Lillia 23 of 52 (2016)
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Zane 22 of 52 (2016)
Zane 23 of 52 (2016)
Zane 24 of 52 (2016)

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

Lillia: You’re now in your fourth week of school vacation, and you certainly seem to be enjoying the slower pace of summer, which mostly entails lounging, walking to the pool with friends, and watching your favorite TV shows on Hulu and Netflix. You’ve also been doing a lot of watercolor painting, which is great! You reluctantly accompanied us on our family vacation to Lubec, Maine the week before last. As is to be expected of kids your age, family stuff isn’t your highest priority. One aspect of our trip that you did seem to enjoy was our sea-kayaking excursion off the coast of New Brunswick—you had to go in a tandem kayak with the instructor named Bruce which, despite your initial hesitation, turned out to be the best possible scenario. The two of you chatted like old friends which, in a certain sense, you were: Seven years ago we took the very same excursion and Bruce let you borrow his special wool hat because it was so cold. Neither of you remember this, but I do, and we have pictures to prove it! We’ve also signed you up for an acting class this summer, which will be your first foray into formal acting instruction. I think you’ll really enjoy it. [Lillia will be a guest-poster on my blog later this month, so stay tuned!]

Zane: As soon as school was over, we started doing the Zane childcare shuffle. Because I only work part-time, we were able to cobble together a mixture of grandmother-care and summer camp at your preschool, which will carry us through the summer. While you were with Meme you got to visit the library, swim at the lake, and play at the children’s museum. The biggest highlight of your summer so far was our family vacation to Lubec. You’re always up for whatever we have planned, and you really enjoyed all of the outdoor time we had in Maine. Before we left we bought some Golden Guides to help us identify all the birds, plants, and sea shells we might encounter, and you used them quite a few times during our trip. You were particularly interested in the different kinds of shells we found—we came home with quite the collection of bits and bobs. You were particularly enamored with empty crab shells and crab appendages. I have to be honest and tell you that I did not bring the crab legs home with us: I have to draw the line somewhere! For the next month you’ll be at day camp and I’m sure you’ll have a blast.

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Lillia 18 of 52 (2016)
Lillia 19 of 52 (2016)
Lillia 20 and 21 of 52 (2016)
Zane 18 of 52 (2016)
Zane 19 of 52 (2016)
Zane 20 of 52 (2016)
Zane 21 of 52 (2016)

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

Lillia: You made it through your sixth grade year! While it was certainly a big adjustment from fifth to sixth grade, you were determined to step it up and work to your ability. I appreciate so much that you basically did this on your own, with very minimal pressure from us. And, you had a GREAT year. You got all A’s in your second AND third term, and your final grades for the year were all A’s as well—this qualified you for the high honor roll! This year you also ran for student council and were elected Member at Large, you starred in your school play, and you aced your spring dance performance. Words can’t describe how proud I am of all you’ve accomplished, and how wonderful it is to have you as a daughter. I love you so much, Lillia!

Zane: You have officially “graduated” from preschool, which puts you on track for kindergarten in the fall. This year you learned all of your letters and numbers, and how to write your name. You developed a real enjoyment for doodling, and you’re still enamored with babies and birds. You made lots of friends, and had your first real playdate this month. While it seems incomprehensible that you’ll be going to “real school” in the fall, I know that your kindergarten teachers are going to love having you in their class—your cheerful personality and natural curiosity will take you far. I love you, Zane-a-roo!

[Note: It’s been very hard to get photos of Lillia this year—she’s been very busy and I just haven’t been taking as many pictures lately, which makes me sad. Regardless, the picture of Lillia backstage at her dance performance was taken by Sarah Manning.]
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garden 2016 the beginning 1

I can’t tell you how excited I am to be writing my first garden post of the year! We’re doing things a little differently this summer. The big change is a new half-size (4 ft x 4 ft) raised bed just for the little guy (you can see him working on building it with Papa, above). After reading in several sources about the value of having a “children’s garden,” I thought there must be some way we could make it happen for Zane. Our back yard is framed by massive, old oak trees which are beautiful and give us much-needed summer shade—the downside is that their umbrella of leaves covers the entirety of the plant-able space and limits our ability to grow sun-loving vegetables behind the house. So…side-yard it is, and the new box fits just fine. Zane would like to grow tomatoes, radishes, flowers, and…eggplants! He’s a funny little fellow.

My parents have a great setup for starting seeds indoors, and they graciously gifted us many tomato and kale seedlings to get us started. Zane chose a cherry tomato and a kale plant for his garden. We still have room for some additional plants, so we’ll be acquiring those this weekend. I’d really like to do zucchini this year (we skipped it last year and regretted it). I’d also like to do some pickling cucumbers. We did beets and carrots last year, but they take so.long.to.grow. I’d rather focus on something else this summer. We also didn’t bring back the pea teepee, since the peas did really poorly last year, and it’s already pretty late in the season for peas. I think I might still try to do some bush-type peas in one of the raised beds, just to see what happens.

The last change is swapping out the unwieldy (but effective) cat-deterring chicken wire for more convenient (but expensive) deer fencing, also donated by my parents—it’s what they have been using in their beds for the past couple of years and it seems to work. I think it’s a much safer solution, especially for the kids.

What are you planting this summer? I’d love to hear about your gardening adventures!

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Zane 16 of 52 (2016)
Lillia 16 of 52 (2016)
Zane 17 of 52 (2016)
Lillia 17 of 52 (2016)

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

I’m really far behind on publishing the posts for my 52 week portrait project, so I’m just going to give you the pictures from weeks sixteen and seventeen, and let you write your own captions!

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today is my birthday // i'm 35

All night the dark buds of dreams open richly. In the center of every petal is a letter, and you imagine if you could only remember and string them all together they would spell the answer. It is a long night, and not an easy one—you have so many branches, and there are diversions— birds that come and go, the black fox that lies down to sleep beneath you, the moon staring with her bone-white eye. Finally you have spent all the energy you can and you drag from the ground the muddy skirt of your roots and leap awake with two or three syllables like water in your mouth and a sense of loss—a memory not yet of a word, certainly not yet the answer—only how it feels when deep in the tree all the locks click open, and the fire surges through the wood, and the blossoms blossom. — “Dreams” by Mary Oliver

This morning I was looking back at my birthday post from last year, written by a thirty-four year-old me who was obviously feeling very vulnerable and uncertain. I was confused, the future completely opaque, and I was worried about where I might be in a year or two when both kids were in school and didn’t need a full-time mother—I didn’t have a career to return to, and the idea of starting from scratch was completely overwhelming.

Things have changed.

In the past year I got a part-time job, doing something I really enjoy. I did some professional photography work and realized that I don’t really have the desire to take pictures as a full-time career—what a relief to be certain of that! I finally launched, and have been pouring myself into, a new creative endeavor called around the year. I was confirmed into the Episcopal Church.

I feel like myself, now more than ever—in fact, I feel a lot like the person I was as a child.

Thirty-five feels like possibilities.

It feels like standing in a beautiful forest, with the early morning sunlight touching down on my skin, like golden petals, as it passes through the leaves and branches—ahead of me are many paths, all of them inviting, all of them drawing me closer to myself. God willing, there will be time to explore each one, and that’s just what I plan to do this year.

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