This is You at Eight (My Family)

Eight means asking complicated questions and calling my bluff. Eight means watching scary movies and later being too scared to walk to your bedroom alone. Eight means reading graphic novels and writing story books of your own. Eight means basketball and capoeira, and a slight pre-occupation with the adornments of said activities. Eight means role playing games and doing chores unprompted and origami and so many paper airplanes. Eight means bringing me home love notes that I squirrel away and look at often. Eight means helping your little brother do things like read, make art projects, and be brave. Eight means resisting hikes and loving them once we're there. Eight means swinging wildly between boldness and timidity. Your rich imagination is your strongest gift, my boy. Let's continue to stoke that fire as imagination is the key to opening the doors that life puts up for you. To quote you, I love you more than a hundred million stars. Happy Birthday, Julian!

This is You at Six (My Family)

You are our family's comedian and recently, the class clown at school. You are uncannily articulate, predictably good-natured, and have appropriate Virgo-level stubbornness. You are curious about all things science and nature and Lego. You grasp concepts like gravity, infinity, air resistance and space travel. You l-o-v-e school so much that you don't want to come home in the afternoon and often demand-request that I "come back later!". You enjoy meditating with me before bed, taking your posture and breath very seriously. You create habitats for your stuffed animals so they can be comfortable and safe and have an accessible toilet. ;) You sometimes sing to yourself in slight vibrato when you think no one is listening.  In your eyes, your big brother hung the moon, sun, and stars, despite how much he does all the mean big brother things to you. Your little butt wiggle dance moves are still the cutest thing in town. You come to me first thing in the morning for cuddles and back scratches and the whispered sharing of dreams. This feeds me in ways you might never understand, Sebastian. I'm humbled to be guiding such a wise little spirit and I'm happy to celebrate another year of YOU. Happy Birthday, baby boy!!!

The End of Summer (My Family)

We're in our final days of summer break over here (school starts on Monday!) and I'm taking a moment to reflect on what felt like a fast and somewhat uneventful summer (for our family at least). We took no big trips, we did no major house projects, the boys were in summer camp every week that we were in town. But... we did see lots of family. We spent time with friends that we love dearly. We made mindful parenting and marital connection top priorities. And we made it through the summer without injury or illness. So that's something! I often feel a little wistful at summer's end, like I was supposed to DO something or GO somewhere really special. Then I remember that this is the real work of living: to find enough in the ordinary, to see the miracle in the mundane.

10 Years (My Family)

Last night, my husband Ignacy and I went out to celebrate the 10-year anniversary of our first date. He surprised me at dinner with a printout of our email and IM correspondences from the first few weeks we knew each other. It felt so good to revisit the details of our first days and weeks, and we both cringe-laughed at the ridiculous attempts we both made to seem smooth/intelligent/adventurous. I'm still rolling my eyes at how much I said the word the "yummy". But a thing that really stood out in those messages was how we both had such a passion for photography. You see, I had purchased my first DSLR (shout out to the Canon Rebel series!) only a few weeks before meeting him and was so excited about learning and shooting as much as possible. He'd been a serious hobbyist for years at that point and I found that hugely attractive. I remember him mentioning that we should go do some night shooting together and that I could use whatever equipment of his I wanted. Way to sweet talk a girl, amiright?! It was Ignacy who taught me my basic technical skills. It was Ignacy who enthusiastically took photo trips with me (around California and the world!). And it was Ignacy who encouraged me to quit my very safe job in academia to pursue photography as a career. Thank you, love, for always gently nudging me forward and helping me believe in my talent. I love what I do and I love that you helped me land there.

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This is You at Seven (My Family)

Seven means wanting to do-it-all, have-it-all, see-it-all, be-it-all. Seven means almost always moving -  capoeira, parkour, skating, dancing, handball - taking short breaks for mostly still games of chess. Seven means taking pictures and wanting to be photographed (on your terms of course). Seven means showing a more thoughtful and observant side of your curiosity, though solid determination in all things has never wavered. Seven means taking your big brother job seriously and acting as manager, cop, and protector most of the time. I've watched you change so much this past year, Julian. In most ways, I am simply delighted and yet my nostalgia for the "younger years" sometimes takes my breath away. Mainly, I just see so much of myself in you. Thank you for being such a powerful mirror and the most forgiving of teachers. Happy birthday, my beautiful boy.

This is You at Five (My Family)

You are quick to say sorry and have the memory of an elephant. You notice beautiful things and like to point them out - tall trees, a nice sunset, emotional music, cracks in the sidewalk. You like to talk about your dreams upon waking. You are all about rolling on wheels - bike, scooter, and (soon) the new skateboard and roller blades. You are forever the maker - apartments built from cardboard boxes, Lego creations that reject the instruction manuals, complicated drawings of houses with many staircases. You are adamant that you want to be a robotics engineer and not an "architector". You are a fantastic weirdo - a quality we love and encourage and hope will always serve you. You are still our little cuddle nugget, though you're getting so big that we just want time to s-l-o-w down. You're our bright star, Sebastian Aster - happy birthday!

Our Summer Vacation (My Family)

My family and I recently took a 3-week trip to see family and a bit of the world. Our boys are fantastic travelers and they're finally at an age where we knew travel could mean something more than just a location change. This trip gave them opportunities to be curious about history, architecture, new foods, and sleeping in a place where the sun never sets.We started the trip with a visit to New York to see friends and Nana Hanna. Next, we landed in Warsaw, where we spent time with aunts, uncles, cousins, and of course our beloved Babcia Beda (my husband's 83 year old grandmother who happens to be a complete badass). We visit Beda in Warsaw every few years and our time with her always involves a lot of eating, drinking, laughter, and a fair amount of translation fatigue from my husband. Beda's English is slightly better than my Polish but we mostly communicate through smiles, hugs, and the Google Translate app.Beda accompanied us to Copenhagen where we explored for 4 much-too-short days (I seriously want to go spend weeks trekking around Demark - it's so beautiful!) and then we set off for a week in Iceland. Iceland was more beautiful than I could have imagined and I'm already fantasizing about our next trip back. It's a land that is largely uninhabited with vastly changing landscapes and a curious light that is almost always perfect for photos.Traveling with a 4 year old, 6 year old, and 83 year old was no easy task. My husband and I tended to collapse into bed every night with little energy left to reflect on the day. But I am so grateful for this adventure we took. My husband and I are serious wanderlusters and we hope to pass that curiosity on to our boys. Now, where should we go next summer...? :)PS - I shot everything on my new Fujifilm XT2 camera and a 35mm f2 lens. I LOVE this camera and what a welcomed difference it made to not lug around my giant Canon.

This Is You At Four (My Family)

You are still morning cuddles and missing me while at school. You are still trains but animals might be the next big thing. You are all arms when we dance and your air guitar face is fierce. You are all about mama right now but your obsession with your older brother has never wavered. You are over napping and into sleeping past sunrise. You are belly laughs and make-believe and blanket cloaks and belting out the song Tingalayo. You are all DOING IT YOURSELF. You have the emotional intelligence of an adult and the focus of a brain surgeon when given glue, scissors, paper.  You are blazing fast on your Skuut bike and probably ready for a regular bike. You are incredibly well-spoken, though you still call breakfast "brefkiss" and family "faminy", and exclaim before running "on your mars, get set, go!". You refer to the sun as "Mr. Golden Sun"; please don't ever stop doing that. You fart with abandon and announce the end of all bathroom trips with "I'M DOOONNNNEEE!". You are growing too fast for my liking but I accept that this is the way of it. You inspire me daily to be better, truer, more generous. Sebastian Aster - I couldn't love you more. Happy Birthday!!