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!

Van Gogh Immersion

Van Gogh if you can Gogh! Nana treated us to the Immersive Experience and we had so much fun. Highly recommend. Great way to expose little ones to a great artist and to be able to run and play with the masterpieces. We’re going to sleep well!

Lake on Van Gogh, “He saw color so swirly and beautiful”

And a few notable quotes from Vincent Van Gogh. Van Gogh said “there is nothing more truly artistic than loving people.”

“Sketching is like planting seeds to grow paintings.”

“Color itself speaks its own language, you cannot live without it.”

“If you truly love nature you will find beauty everywhere.”

“Nature always begins by resisting the artist, but he who really takes it seriously he will not be put off by that opposition.”

“I put my heart and soul into my work, and I lost my mind in the process “

Thank you for sharing this truly immersive experience with us Clarence and Nana —and most especially Vincent!

Virtual Valentine’s Day

Royally in Love, On the Road to Recovery
📸 PC Madeline Jung

This year we are celebrating Valentine’s Day virtually. Lake brought covid home from Kindergarten ten days ago and quickly shared it with his unvaccinated one year old sister. It took a few days until I succumbed as well. So, I’m still in covid quarantine and Michael is quarantining separately in the Airbnb. He’s working really hard to stay negative so he can continue to support his hospital. But that means he’s not as available to support us. We wave and mime kisses through the glass door, and we’ve ducked out for a few walks.

It’s been a long lonely go of single parenting two sick kiddos while sick myself. Mothers everywhere can relate to this unenviable position. So I has been looking somewhat desperately forward to a romantic date night with Michael at the ballet over the weekend to celebrate Valentines Day. When the realization that there was simply no possibility we could attend finally penetrated the dense layers of covid haze, I was crestfallen. Thankfully the PNW Ballet graciously changed our tickets so we have Swan Lake to look forward to in a few months. But for now it’s a case of all dressed up and no place to go— That’s Michael holding his breath in the back of the Fiat to mark the occasion.

We are celebrating our love this virtual Valentine’s Day by infusing a wee bit of fun into our covid-dampened days. We are finding ways of keeping our family together and strong, even when it means we’re apart. We wish you and your families a very happy Valentine’s Day this year. Know that even if you’re alone, you are loved. May you be well!

Happy MLKJ Day Weekend

Dear one, whether you stay cozy indoors or venture out…

We hope you are safe, healthy and feeling comfort and peace. In honor of Martin Luther King Junior, perhaps you are taking a moment to pause and reflect, recharge, and when setting out again, stepping in the direction of inclusiveness and racial equality.

Perhaps you would like to be inspired anew by MLKJ’s historic speech 28 August 1963. I just listened to it and find it beautiful and all too relevant still.

As much as is was true in 1963, so MLKJ’s poetic and poignant words remain compelling today: “Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quick sands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children.

We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline.”

Perhaps this is a weekend to pick up a topical book and further educate ourselves on pressing race issues in America.

Perhaps this is a weekend for action. Stepping out with peace, smile a friendly smile to a stranger, have a kind word for all we meet, or have a challenging yet meaningful conversation.

I’m at the ocean on my first mother hiatus in nearly two years picking up Barak Obama’s A Promised Land, which he describes as “An invitation to once again remake the world, and to bring about, through hard work, determination and a big dose of imagination, an America that finally aligns with all that is best in us.”

Enjoy your weekend, and take good care.

Birthday Song of a Mother

Birthday Song of a Mother

Bedtime with my children is one of the sweetest parts of my day. Nearly every night for the past five and a half years, I crawl into bed next to my baby and cuddle, (nurse), and sing them to sleep. At the foundation, four years were spent just with Lake alone, so the two of us have a solidly established routine. With the advent of Lady Kitty nearly two years ago, our party has joyfully expanded to include her as well. Lake sleeps in the bunk bed above Lady Kitty so as I lie next to Lady Kitty breastfeeding, Lake and I chat about the day and all important things, great or small. We have a relaxing visit and a good giggle. Then just as, or before, our merriment escalates to rowdiness, I wave my magic lullaby wand, and after a few songs Lake goes out like a lightbulb. Lake finds tireless enjoyment from the same set of soporific family favorites.

The past few weeks this precious bedtime ritual has been complicated by my inability to sing Lake his traditional lullabies. Thankfully I’m not sick, and my voice is still as strong as ever. It’s actually that, any time I begin to sing throughout the day, but most disruptively at bedtime, Lady Kitty has started mounting a sudden and insistent resistance. She immediately interrupts me with her emphatic uh uh’s and if that doesn’t work, she moves quickly to no! no! no! protestations leading to flat out upset crying making it all but impossible to eek out anything more than a halting Twinkle Twinkle if we were lucky. Lake and I were dumbfounded, and our inquiries to Lady Kitty revealed no further insights. Lake was frusterated but resigned, and if we really stopped to consider our predicament – which we did as we had plenty of time for contemplation without the singing- we could see the comical side.

After weeks of this—Lady Kitty picketing my bedtime singing and Lake lobbying for his songs —I finally stumbled upon a song that Lady Kitty approves of. It turns out she is delighted if I sing the Happy Birthday song, and only the Happy Birthday song! In a dramatic and welcome departure from her general singing boycott, she giggles and laughs each time I sing a round of the Happy Birthday song!

But only it it’s sung for her. Of course, Lake urgently wants me to sing the song him instead, but Lady Kitty won’t stand for that. Now, both my kids are clambering for Happy Birthday to be sung to them each night, and meanwhile, it is ironically my birthday week. However, we are happy (Lake begrudgingly so) to sing Happy Birthday over and over to Lady Kitty if it means we can all enjoy a song together as we drift off to sleep. So, on this eve of my birthday, I’m feeling particularly blessed by the richness and the quirks of life as a mother. A perfect day. I’m glad I spent it with you!

I’m delighted to share three new photos taken late October at Washington Park Arboretum to commemorate this 44th birthday. 📸Jason Gerend.

Lady Kitty had a Good Year

We love this theme song for Lady Kitty, that Michael sang, inspired by the Beatles’ Peter Jackson “Get Back” documentary. Sing the “Lady Kitty” lyrics in place of John Lennon’s “everybody” lyrics in the tune of “I’ve Got a Feeling” and you have an apt description of Lady Kitty’s past year.

Everybody had a good year
Everybody let their hair down
Everybody pulled their socks up
Everybody put their foot down
Oh yeah, oh yeah.

“Lady Kitty had a good year. Lady Kitty let her hair down. Lady Kitty pulled her socks up. Lady Kitty put her foot down. Oh yeah, oh yeah.”

Indeed she did. She grew so much this year! She learned to walk and have compassion and show empathy. Lady Kitty loves pickles, drinking water, shaking her head, spinning in circles, playing peekaboo, and communicating.

Her words to date are: hi, bye, no, Mama, pleece, dank oo, uh huh, uh uh, dis.

She loves to be impish and enjoys a good joke. Equipped with all that, she can convey the world. She knows how it works.

All photography on location at McCaw Hall by Chamonix Browne, The Happy Film Company

We loved, we laughed, we cried, we grew and we all had a good year alongside Lady Kitty. We wish you a lovely New Year’s Eve and the very best for 2022!