Ketchikan Complete

These kids came back to the lower 48 today! We had a short and sweet meeting at the airport. They were dressed in fleece jackets and had to quickly adjust for the heat! Bye bye cold rainy Alaska— hello heat wave!

After spending a week with Lady Kitty glued to him, Michael said, “now I know what it’s like to be you, Tolle!” As far as appendages go, she’s a really lovely one.

Then he continued, “I’ve had plenty of time to observe her this week I’ve concluded… she’s a lot like you, Tolle.”

“Oh?” Of course I want to hear more. To me she’s confident, funny, strong, grounded, keenly observant, and pragmatic.

“She likes to hold hands.”

Yes she does! And with that quick turnaround the kids are off to The Lake with NanaBabaa!

A perfect moment, I’m glad I spent it with you!

Lady Kitty buys her first pair of shoes

Lake and Lady Kitty are with Michael in Alaska while I hold down the home-front. Specifically they’re in Ketchikan visiting Michael’s sister Kendra, her husband Simon, (who’s from Liverpool), and their two boys who are a bit older than Lake. They’re a lovely family, funny and relaxed and there are toys everywhere. Lake has been looking forward to this cousin time for weeks. (And Michael his sister time). It’s a wonderful scene.

Lady Kitty reports on air travel. Plane. Uh. Up. Down. Up. Down. Uh. (They encountered turbulence.) As they deplane immediately Michael senses there is less going on in the air. Notes of ocean and trees on the breeze are noticeable.

Downtown Ketchikan – Summer in Alaska

Michael needs earplugs so a trip to the store is in order. Lady Kitty beelines to the shoe aisle. She starts trying on shoes.

Shopping in Ketchikan

Uh. Too big. Uh. She opens boxes, evaluates and tries different pairs on.

She takes the pink sparkly boots she walked in wearing and lines them up on the shelf. She’s found the perfect new pair instead. She’s ready to go. The whole takes 15 minutes.

“We bought her the shoes. We had to.”

I Wuv You Mama

This weekend Lady Kitty astounded us with the sweetest proclamation.

“I wuv you, Mama,” she said, quite out of the blue.

Lady Kitty had clearly been working up to this, and she looked absolutely chuffed with her success.

“I wuv you, Mama,” she said again. Then stood back to bask in the glory of what she knew would be a well received statement. She was not wrong. I was ecstatic. Soooo in love. Not even having the Duchess of Cambridge wear my navy Alessandra Rich polka dot dress to Wimbledon on Sunday felt better (and that was pretty exciting). Not even in the same league.

The love did not stop there.

“I wuv you, Bro Bro.”

“ I wuv you, Dada.”

“I wuv you, Mama,” she said it again and again. We were all over the moon! And she was too! She delighted in delighting us. Love is not a sum zero game, she knew.

We love you too, Lady Kitty! We do! We do! A most perfect day, I’m glad I spent it with you!

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!