a birthday picnic, some reflections, and a dream

I turn thirty-three years old tomorrow. Thirty-three? That doesn't seem right. It's funny how we construct identities for ourselves. Identities that have to do with age are especially foolish. Time marches on, we all know this. But somehow I have, for the last seven years, identified as a young mom. Partly because Sheldon is 16 years older than me and partly because when I had Fiona at 25, I was the first of my close friends to start a family. But thirty-three is solidly planted in the thirties, and the thirties are solidly planted in the middle of life, and one stepson and three daughters in, I am solidly planted in parenthood. I am here and this is the life I've made for myself. Many of my biggest decisions–who to marry, how many children to have-have been made. This feels good, but also different. All these years, I have somehow continued to feel new to the world, but I don't feel new anymore. I feel capable and experienced and beaten and bruised and wise and aware and very much of this world.

But at thirty-three, there are still thousands of choices left to make and dreams to be had. After eleven years in our beloved Fell's Point with Sheldon and fifteen years total in the city, we are moving back to the woods and fireflies and open spaces of my childhood. We haven't found the perfect home yet, but we will, and it will have trees to climb and a little creek and a rope swing. It will have a kitchen window overlooking a garden and a few chickens. The next phase of our lives will be spent building our own homestead, trying to live a more sustainable life, and rediscovering our place in the natural world. I'm guessing I'll feel new again in no time.

Thanks to my Mama for the birthday picnic!

A New Beginning

A new homeschooling year has begun, and with it, a resurgence in my desire to align my goals with my actions, my knowledge and ideas with my lifestyle. I haven't posted much here in years. In that time, I have turned inward. I have done a lot of work on myself and made quiet, sometimes winding, incremental changes in the way our family lives, eats, moves, and learns. We have come a long way, and have a long way to go. I'd like to return to this space to write again about our journey, both to share knowledge and to stay inspired. Where should I begin?

It seems there is so much to say and so many gaps to fill, so let's start with something simple: Our homeschool schedule for Fall! Every homeschooling parent will tell you about the huge expenditure of mental energy that goes into creating the year's schedule. What classes to take where, what gatherings to attend and with whom, when to simply stay home... It's a 15,000 piece puzzle that takes an exorbitant amount of time and thought to fit together. This is what I came up with, with each day having a morning and afternoon focus:

Monday: Life & Lessons with Mama :: Homeschool Friends Gathering
Tuesday: Life & Lessons with Mama :: Nature School at Irvine
Wednesday: Life & Lessons with Mama :: Speech Lessons
Thursday: Life & Lessons with Mama :: Nature School at Irvine
Friday: Life & Lessons with Mimi & Granddad :: Afternoon at Home
Saturday: Gymnastics :: Life & Lessons with Daddy
Sunday: Life & Lessons with Mimi & Granddad :: Family Adventure

I hope we've found a good balance between academic lessons, nature time, quiet time, family and friend time, movement time, etc. Time will tell! I hope to break down each component of our rhythm and talk about some overarching philosophies in future posts. I hope you'll follow along!

So that's it for today. Thanks for being here!

Winter Sketchbook & News

 Dreamer

Dreamer

 Girl Gang

Girl Gang

 Nursing Mama

Nursing Mama

 The Queen

The Queen

 Catching Fireflies

Catching Fireflies

In the last few weeks, I've made some major changes to my business, the biggest being my choice to retire House Love portraits. It was a difficult choice, considering their success and the still-growing wait list. I have been spending the majority of my work time on them for three years now. It's been a wonderful adventure, creating these darling little portraits that mean so much to their recipients (and being featured in a bunch of magazines and blogs along the way), but I am ready to move forward. For those of you who have gift certificates, no need to worry! I will be honoring gift certificates for years to come!

I know this shift is what is needed to allow more time for mothering, homeschooling, homemaking and moving forward with my art. I am ready to spend more time on my non-custom prints and on making more art with my hands (drawing and painting, oh how I've missed you!). I have so many ideas flying around in my head all the time (a blessing and a curse!), and I need to choose wisely how I use my limited work time. 

The above sketches are the result of a commitment I made to myself a couple weeks ago to keep a daily sketchbook. While I haven't been able to squeeze in a drawing every day, I am pleased that I have stuck with it and wanted to share the sketches here. I really do love drawing and want to make more time for it. I'll be posting here every week or two with new drawings and would love if you all followed along!

Silent Auction benefiting charity:water

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Hello All! Just a quick note today. If you have been considering purchasing any prints from the Transportation Series, I've donated the above three to a silent auction run by a friend's son, Nathaniel Drexler, to benefit charity:water. Consider buying the prints from Nathaniel's silent auction and do some good with your purchase! (And check out his other offerings while you're there!) Hope you're having a lovely weekend.

10 Tips for a Mindful Home :: A New Art Print!

I am so excited to introduce a new print I've been working on. I have loved Karen Maezen Miller's work since becoming a mother and have held many of her words close to my heart as I've navigated motherhood (and personhood, for that matter). When she put out a call for an artist to create a print of her 10 Tips for a Mindful Home, I was quick to raise my hand. I am honored I was chosen and hope I did her words justice.

As I worked on the illustration, standing at my desk (a.k.a. the kids' art chest in the kitchen, which happens to be the perfect height!) with Greta sleeping in the sling, I listened to the audiobook of Momma Zen. It felt like a gift to myself to let Maezen's voice comfort me during this exhausting and beautiful time of life caring for young children. I think this print will always symbolize this time for me. If you purchase the print, I hope it can come to mean something to you, as well.

Hang the print in your kitchen or living room. Hang it in your bedroom to see upon waking. Hang it anywhere you need a gentle reminder. Keeping a mindful home is simple (but not easy).

You can see Maezen's own blog post about the print here. (And I have to say, seeing my work on her blog is so amazing! Wow!)

Thank you again to Maezen. It was an honor!

A bit more about Karen Maezen Miller: Maezen is a Zen Buddhist priest and author. Her latest book is Paradise in Plain Sight: Lessons from a Zen Garden. She also wrote Hand Wash Cold: Care Instructions for an Ordinary Life and Momma Zen: Walking the Crooked Path of Motherhood. Visit her online at www.karenmaezenmiller.com .

Grateful

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I could easily spend the rest of the evening (or the rest of my life, really) finding the right words to express the gratitude in my heart—for a present, supportive and loving family, for nourishing food on our table, for the gift of spending every hour of my life with people I love—but I am short on time in the most beautiful way I can imagine. I have a baby downstairs who needs nursing, children who need feeding, and a home that needs tending, so a simple Thank You will have to do. A thousand times, Thank You.

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I hope you all had a peaceful Thanksgiving with the ones you love.

It's Greta!

Oh, hello there! It's been a while. Quite a lot has happened since the last time I posted. First, let me introduce you to my beautiful baby daughter, Greta Rose! (Though, I'm betting many of you have met her over on Instagram already!) She is a happy, smiley little thing and we are all enjoying getting to know her. There is nothing like a brand new baby, is there? So cozy and sweet. I just love her.

Shortly after welcoming Greta into our not-so-little-anymore family, we began another new chapter. We started homeschooling this Fall and the girl gang (yes, I have a gang of them now) and I have spent most of our days outside, which has been wonderful. We're doing 'yoga' here... ;)

Thanks for checking in, friends! Wishing you a peaceful week.

Why We Stay

Since we announced that we are expecting our 4th child, we have been asked (and have asked ourselves) many times whether we plan to stay in the city. I would never presume to know what is right for another family, or for our own family many years from now, but right now, we know Fell's Point is our place, tiny rowhouse and all. It seemed like an apt time to re-read, and re-post, my piece from 2012, which was originally published on the DBFA Blog.

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Every morning, I pack up my children, Elsa on my back and Fiona in the stroller. We take a long, wandering walk through our little corner of the big city. A few blocks to the coffee shop and another few to the harbor, we stop every couple steps to chat with our fellow early risers. We pick up some groceries, stop by a neighborhood shop and catch up with the owner, then head back to our two hundred year old row house, where Polish immigrants lived before us with their five children, two in the attic and three in the bedroom. We know this because one of those grown children knocked on our door the week we moved in. He wanted to say hello and take a look around. The whole kitchen used to be Pepto-Bismol pink, even the damn cabinet doors, he told us.

In the afternoon, we venture out again to drop in the bar where my husband and I met one tipsy night many years ago. Today, my stepson, Elijah, performs magic tricks in front of that same bar with a little hat and collects money from passersby, fifty cents a trick. Fiona is greeted with hoots and hollers from the regulars as she skips in. Captain Kai beckons her to pull his white beard and Gaz starts a debate about the proper name for crisps. They’re called po-ta-to chips, Fiona insists. Bernard makes a joke from behind the bar about kids not being allowed in this establishment and naughty grins spread across the children’s faces.

We live in Fell’s Point, an old waterfront town founded by ship builders, home for centuries to the tobacco, flour, and coffee trades and miraculously avoided by the Baltimore Fire of 1904. Over 200 years, scores of immigrants have built a life here and have come together to create a community rich with culture and diversity. In the 70s, we almost lost Fell’s Point to a highway, but locals rose up and fought for years to save this magical place. And they won. I hadn’t even been born then, but the men and women who spearheaded that revolt still live here. We know them, hang out with them, and are grateful beyond words for their efforts. We just celebrated Bob’s 83rd birthday at Tony and Laura’s house. Fiona wore a fancy dress for the occasion.

But this place we love, that they fought for, isn’t perfect. I know a day will come when we’ll have to explain to our children why one of our neighbors acts differently from one day to the next. Substance abuse, we’ll explain, changes a person. A homeless man rants at his station outside of the coffee shop, scaring the tourists, but we know better. His name is Mike and he wouldn’t hurt a fly. He suffers from mental illness, we’ll tell the kids, and he deserves our kindness. These lessons are real and raw and they are right in front of us.

These people who have become ingrained in the fiber of our everyday, the shop owners, the men selling roses, the homeless, they aren’t people we see at natural parenting playgroups or soccer practice. We don’t meet at 4pm on Tuesday. We live our lives alongside each other, with each other. We don’t share a background, political ideology or age. We share something much deeper and more permanent. We share a place.

We don’t choose who we run into on the way to pick up groceries, who moves in next door, or which children happen to be at the park in the afternoon. But it’s in the not choosing that we find something beautiful. This city, our home, has created a tapestry richer with community and history than one we could have ever woven on our own. And for that, we do choose to stay.