Ray of Heaven

In the wee hours of this morning we were all piled in high in mama’s fluffy white bed in our Deer Deer pajamas. Lady Kitty had woken up early and I brought her into my bed for Mama Milk and snuggling, then Lake joined us and we were all cuddling, playing around and giggling. Lake sang us this song:

“Lady Kitty is like heaven on the world. Lady Kitty is like heaven in the world. Lady Kitty is like heaven in the world.

Truth from the mouth of babes. Wishing you a very lovely Summer, with your own glimpses of heaven! A perfect day, I’m glad I spent it with you.

DIY Mother’s Day

Art Davidson’s 1969 account of the first winter ascent on Denali, Minus 148°, is an incredible tale. An eight man international team, out six weeks; three men summit, and seven make it out alive. On reflection, one of the images that really stands out is when the three climbers summit. It’s night, complete darkness, and they pass an aluminum pole caught in the shine of their headlamps. What’s that doing here, out in the stark nature? Wait, that’s the summit. This is it. We did it. The expression goes, “it’s lonely at the top”, but it’s also sometimes dark and anticlimactic. You think you’re at least in part climbing the mountain for the views, or to see if it can be done. Sometimes there is no view, but it can be done.

Mother’s Day 2022 – Lady Kitty is quite the climber!

If mothering is the mountain, maybe Mother’s Day is the summit; you’re expecting to revel in your accomplishment, take in the view, and feel appreciated. You’re climbing the mountains day-in, day-out every year, but not every mountain nor every summit is the same. Sometimes there is no view, but it can be done.

With physical and emotional strength, determination, companionship, and a whole lot of sacrifice, mountains can be climbed – even in the winter. Mothering is a lot like that.

Except once you get flown in to Kahiltna Glacier, you don’t get to decide if today is a good day to try for the summit. 

Every day is a mothering day. Every day you’re trying for the summit, and when you reach your goal, sometimes there’s nothing perceptible there, just the air in front of your face and the twinkle of far-off civilization. 

Then, it’s another day, a different day altogether, and you’re on your way down the mountain. There’s still pain, but the sun comes out and you feel the relative warmth and that’s heaven; that’s enough. Davidson describes how on his descent after submitting, he can’t imagine ever needing anything more than feeling the warmth of the sun on his body. A child’s smile can be that sun, and sometimes, simply… the sun is that sun. You find your own moment of meaning, of making the journey worthwhile.

Mothering 2022 – PC Chamonix Browne

In my experience, Mother’s Days tend to be Do It Yourself (DIY). For Mother’s Day this year I kept up my phenomenal mother’s tradition of gardening and weeding—getting the garden in shape after the spring rains and bursts of sunshine have woken up all the weeds but the earth is still soft and forgiving. Lady Kitty was helping me a bit. She was cheering me on. “Well done, Mama,” she kept saying. (She can say so much now, I can’t even catalogue it all.) When Lake finished playing LEGO, he wandered out to share lovely moments together in the sun. We visited our neighborhood playgrounds where we bumped into and chatted with our neighbors throughout the day.

It’s easy to say, yes, thank you, I’m having a lovely Mother’s Day. It’s harder to say, my mother’s day is hard and underwhelming. My husband is sick, working, or absent. My babysitter got sick, injured, or cancelled. The children are wild animals and I have a headache. But that was the prevalent reality.

We all seemed to be navigating some version of a DIY Monther’s Day. A true Mother’s Day— not an idealized day-off from mothering, that starts with flowers and ends with fireworks, but an actual day spent mothering. DIY Mother’s Day means celebrating the life and the family that you work so hard every day to create and maintain. It means a day spent parenting alone with your children and having it be the best day of your life.

A perfect day, I’m glad I spent it with you.

No; Baby!

“I love you, Lady Kitty! I love you, Sweetheart,” I say, smiling into her big blue eyes, which are brimming with determination and amusement.

“No. ‘Baby!'” she replies to her name and other endearments with surprising resolution.

That’s pretty cute. We all call her ‘Baby’ from time to time, perhaps more than we know, especially Michael. He calls her almost exclusively ‘Baby,’ as in “Baby, you’re a tiny baby!”

Daddy and Baby

Now, she thinks her name is ‘Baby’. She owns her name as ‘Baby’.

Okay. ‘Baby’. I play along.

“I love you, Baby!” I say, kissing her wispy curls and inhaling her toothsome aroma.

She pauses, quiescent and dubious.

“No. Kitty,” she says.

Lady Kitty crossing the isthmus from babyhood. All PC Chamonix Browne, Woodland Park Rose Garden

Happy Easter 2022

Woodland Park Rose Garden, PC Chamonix Browne 2022

What a beautiful sunny and chilly Spring day for this gorgeous Easter Sunday!

Today marks the end of Lake’s Spring Break. Thanks to the incredible generosity and energy of my parents, he and Lady Kitty spent it happily on their own together at NanaBaba’s. Michael took in some of the Seattle International Film Festival, and I continued to train for my half-marathon race next weekend.

Wishing everyone a very Happy Easter!

Michael as Au Pair

Madeline jetted off to San Diego for some much-needed California sunshine and class credits. She had a great time, taking a long weekend and leaving us in full-charge of the children and covering all au pair duties.

Lake finds it hilarious when his au pair goes on holiday and he has a substitute au pair— often it’s the ever generous NanaBaba, but sometimes it’s Jamma Julie or another friend or relative. The kids thought it especially thrilling that this past week their “substitute au pair” was none other than their “Da-Da,” MICHAEL. Friday, Monday and Tuesday Michael woke up at 6:40am each morning and got Lake dressed for school. He took the kids to the bus stop, saw Lake off to school, and then went out for a long adventure with Lady Kitty. He was back home to prepare lunch, and then would get Lady Kitty down for her nap. He might sneak in a long bath before picking up Lake from the bus stop (on-time), and returning home for an after-school snack. He is a great dad, and was a willing au pair, learning the daily rhythms and routines along the way. It brought us all closer together as a family and I would say it was really rewarding for Michael. The kids are truly a delight to spend time with.

The vocabulary of Lady Kitty is blossoming along with the cherry trees! Now she says “hat,” “bib,” “honey,” while breaking into a huge grin with a mischievous glint in her eye, and even “tuna,” “bow” (bowl), “poon” (spoon), and continues with the ever precious “pleece” and “dank oo”.

When Madeline returned we were happy to have her back, hear about her travels, and to celebrate the completion of the successful Michael as Au Pair tour-of-duty with a date night (with much gratitude to our best “babysitters” Tom and Mandy!)!!

Spring in my Step

The birds were the only ones awake and chattering away as I strapped on my new Hokas and set out my front door for a run.

Last Sunday these feet ran 17km and then relaxed cozily indoors while it rained and rained the rest of the day. I painted my toenails for Spring and dreamed of Belize… It was so fun to have had the Cambridges nearly in our time zone (+1) for a few days! I was tickled pink when HRH The Duchess of Cambridge wore her Stuart Weitzman Minx wedges I had just found on The Real Real a few weeks ago again— after ten and eight years (Diamond Jubilee tour and Australia, respectively)— last Sunday in Belize—imagine my delight! Well I painted my toe nails. 😅

2014 —HRH The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Australia. Thrillingly I just acquired this (rare) Zimmermann Roamer Day dress (to go with the SW wedges!) off of The Real Real last weekend, as well!

Today I’m grateful for my feet carrying me on another long run: this time 21 km with my running partner Jason, and for Michael taking the children to visit Jamma Julie on Bainbridge Island. I had a delicious day to myself to celebrate British Mother’s Day! With this lovely Spring weather I’m enjoying the glorious cherry blossoms and managing a bit of gardening, as well—the weeds pull up so easily after all this rain!

Wishing all the mothers a very happy British Mother’s Day!!

📸 Michael Ayres VanLaanen; the Russel & Bromley espadrille wedges my dear IHP alumna Lucia mailed to me from London! xx

Baby and Bro

Lady Kitty communicates really effectively with her limited, but growing, vocabulary. She calls herself “Baby” (Michael gave her this name). She affectionately calls Lake “Bro” (Nana gave Lake that name) or more recently “Bro Bro.”

When asked what her favorite color is (by Lake – a favorite question of his), she says: “Dada, boo” (blue), “Nana boo,” “Baba boo” or “Mama boo”. She also says “moo” for moon, “moufff” for mouth, “nose” (as she stuffed popcorn up it tonight and laughed) “hat,” “bib,” and “Ni-ice” for nice. She says bitte, heiß, nein and the ever-still absolutely adorable “thank you!” as “Dank oo.” Without a doubt this was one of her very first words and remains a cornerstone of her vocabulary and conversation. Blessed Baby!

Baby and Bro… the two of them are quite a pair. They are both clever and cheeky and they do love to get up to mischief together. These two imps are often swiping my phone and involving it in an adventure leaving the evidence behind before devolving into squawking and shouting before too long.

📸 Lady Kitty Ethel VanLaanen 2022

Lady Kitty loves to take selfies and capture vignettes and videos of her world. Anytime she sees my phone she immediately launches in with heavy lobbying to call Nana and Baba. “Hi Nana. Hi Baba. Hi Nana. Hi Baba…” Any time. Every time. And gives this precious pout pout until I give in or somehow manage to change the topic if the time is not conducive to a phone call, or if we just concluded a phone call with them. Blessed be Nana (especially Nana) and Baba for tirelessly FaceTiming with a two year old’s forehead and sometimes tolerating extensive sibling rivalry for the NanaBaba “face time.”

At night Lady Kitty requests her favorite song, and sometimes she’ll tolerate other songs for Lake’s sake, however her twist on the Happy Birthday Lady Kitty song has evolved to include the whole bedtime gang. “Hap-poo Hi – Mama, Baby, Bro,” she says (often). That roughly translates to a request for the Happy Birthday to Us song, as Lake calls it. He takes pride in interpreting Baby-speak. “Happy Birthday to Mama, Baby, and Bro.”

Michael and I think we have heard her following in the tradition of Lake and say “Hap-py Ba-by” which always absolutely melts our hearts. Happy Sunday and Happy Spring from all of us. A perfect day, I’m glad I spent it with you!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Celebrating St. Patrick’s Day is always especially joyful for me, in connection with my Irish heritage. My great-great-grandfather (my dad’s dad’s dad) Peter William Murphy emigrated from Ireland, from the likely whereabouts of County Cork, when he was a young man, most probably seeking refuge from the potato famine. Like so many others he sought new opportunities in the United States.

Once safely in the US, my paternal ancestor located in Napa where he became a city fireman. He met and married his bride Laura Aurora Leoni, a Swiss-Italian. She worked at the bakery across the street from the firehouse! The family moved to Berkeley when their two sons, Raymond Peter and Francis Cecil, were in grade school. Ray went to UC Berkeley, graduating in civil engineering and went on to become the safety officer for the Bay Bridge. Francis (my dad’s dad) followed his older brother in civil engineering and also graduated from UC Berkeley, eventually moving to the Seattle area to raise his family with my grandmother Elizabeth.

As a teenager I was blessed to visit Ireland myself, with my mother. The two of us spent two weeks bicycling the southwest peninsulas. Absolutely gorgeous! I was so in love with the country, and felt right at home with all the other red-heads, an altogether friendly country, the many sheep, and the breathtakingly verdant hills with cliffs jutting down the sea.

So, in honor of the beautiful Ireland, “Happy St. Patrick’s Day”, or as Lake says, eschewing the patron Saint and choosing to highlight the original Druid culture instead: Happy “Leprechaun Day!” Lake even built an elaborate leprechaun trap at school (of all things!). He had it taped across the kitchen floor in the path out the back door. Nana said, “I hope all the leprachauns stayed out of the traps. They are peaceful creatures.” Indeed! As of happened, the leprechauns must have snuck in, evading detection, and recycled the trap, because the trap was disappeared in the morning. Those lucky leprechauns got to keep their gold— and their freedom!

Wishing you all a very good night, pleasant dreams and a wee luck of the Irish!

Hello 2022!

“Hello 2022!” PC Chamonix Browne 12/4/21

The cherry blossoms that had brazenly bloomed their delicate pink blossoms in late December were shriveled, brown and dripping with melted snow as we heralded in 2022. The hydrangeas’ fresh buds, plump atop sturdy silvery canes, strained boldly against the few remaining snow crystals in our shaded backyard as the clock struck midnight on a brand new year. The triumphs and follies of 2021 were securely in the past, however the seeds we sowed and the packages we ordered continue to pop up day by day. As we sit in this space of wintertime, on the cusp of spring, it is a natural time for reflections and reviewing those intrepid New Years resolutions. What do we wish to plant and reap in 2022?

Ample time has passed since Auld Lang Syne was sung, to tick off all the tangible resolutions on our list – new underwear, new running shoes, addressing the ubiquitous holes left by our electrical rewiring project of last summer… Now, as February and the threats of last dustings of snow concluded with it, winter is beginning to feel like a distant dream. Spurts of spring air waft by, thick with birdsong, reminding us of the promises of the New Year’s emancipated fresh start. The last real and generous opportunity for setting New Years resolutions with deep meaning rounds the corner like a raven- looking me straight in the face and unblinkingly holds my gaze.

Is it still valuable to set resolutions and intentions when we may bring ourselves only to failure? Additionally, the best laid plans may be composed and then composted by fate or circumstance. I wonder if the gossamer-thin perception of control we have over our in our lives is, in fact, a facade. Even if, beyond the accumulation of wisdom with each passing year, I’m not able to direct the ultimate story of my life in any substantial way, I’m still driven to learn and grow, to better myself and my world. In quiet meditation, I set an intention to cultivate and harness the resiliency that is required to bloom again my buttery blossoms when my buds are laid low by snowstorm. The hopes and dreams of those pink cherry blossoms may have been dashed, but the tree as a whole inspires me as it carries on and blooms anew for the Ides of March.

Regardless of the creation or outcomes of any New Years resolutions, 2022 is already set to be a big year.

-This is the year Lady Kitty will really start talking. In the past months, she has already more than doubled her word count with the delightful addition of a few new nouns: Dada, Baby, house, Nana, Baba, Bro, nose, eye. Over the next three seasons, Lady Kitty will launch her communication to the next level. She can already carry on a pretty charming and delightful conversation using the words “hi,” “bye,” “thank you,” “Oh”, and “yea!” accompanied by darling inflection and facial expressions.

-According to the Washington State Department of Health, this is the year Lady Kitty will jump with both feet off the ground, draw circles and lines, us many questions, and tell us about her experiences. (I actually witnessed a singular episode of her stotting in the kitchen earlier this year!)

-This is the year Lake will inevitably start reading… with a bit of hard work all around!

-This will also be the year that the Covid pandemic will reconcile from a perpetual state of emergency to an endemic co-existence, shifting to some semblance of “new normal”.

-This is the year I settle solidly into my mid-forties of adult life. Perhaps that will bring about a recalibrated emotional maturity where I’m maintaining composure and steadfastness in the face of challenges and surprises… or perhaps merely a mid-life crisis is brewing. lol.

I gaze sidelong at my aquiline profile and try to keep my trials in perspective. If there’s anything I have learned from Covid in 2021, is that when the trappings fall away, the essence of what is important is connection: being together, being kind, and being present. And presently, file those taxes and make that Wall Doctor call!

“Keeping in Step for 2022” – PC Chamonix Browne 10/31/20

Birthday Kisses

First Birthday

Lady Kitty giving Mama a kiss to commemorate her first birthday

First Birthday Official Portrait
Lady Kitty opening her birthday first birthday present from Mama (Grace Glassybaby)

Second Birthday

Lady Kitty just turned two and she’s still giving Mama the sweetest kisses. “Owah!” I say when she accidentally bonks me in the head. She carefully gives me kisses on the site of injury. She’s thoughtful and compassionate. Focussed and quick to learn from her big brother. She’s happy to play hard with Lake and always happiest outside. She’s a “baby engineer”, quickly becoming a baby toddler. This year we travelled out of state for her birthday, visiting friends and family. We were showered with the love of friendships that make life sweet and rich. May you always know such abundance. She was blessed with a cake wherever we went, and after three cakes and some tips from Lake, she got well practiced in blowing out her own candles.

Cake #1–Lake shows her the ropes
Cake #2 and her second birthday present from Mama –Above the Clouds Again Glassybaby (not shown)
Cake #3 — with a little help from Nana getting in position, Lady Kitty blows out her own candles.
Happy 2nd birthday Lady Kitty! May all your wishes come true!
Second Birthday Official Portrait

We love you Lady Kitty! Mama loves you! We’re so glad you’ve blessed our lives for two years now. Wishing you a very happy year to come, and many, many more. A perfect birthday, I’m glad I spent it with you!