Naomi is one of the most compassionate and driven people I know. She and I grew up in the same small town and became close as teenagers when we were both active in our high school's Peer Counseling program. We drifted apart after undergrad, but I continued admiring her from a distance. Naomi and her fiancé, David, moved to Chicago after grad school. I was beyond excited when I received her email last summer asking me to photograph their California wedding this September. And I immediately started dreaming about a trip to Chicago. In April I made it happen, and I am so grateful it worked out the way it did. We took some photos at the Field Museum (where Naomi works as an Instructional Design Specialist) and at Old Town Gardens, but most of our time was spent running around downtown. I loved embracing this city as a backdrop for their photos. The colors, lines, textures, patterns, lights, and movement (it was WINDY!) enhance the images and ground the couple in a time and a place they will remember fondly. We had a blast and I flew home absolutely LOVING Chicago and this couple. I cannot wait until September.
Her name is Squirrel and she'll be twelve weeks on Saturday. She's our little squirrely girl, curious, affectionate, playful, and we love her very much. Batman isn't too sure about her, but we're confident he'll come around.
In other news, our garden is growing (those are tomatillos) and my parents get into town today. Some of our favorite people are coming up to celebrate our housewarming this weekend. Should be a good time.
Life is moving along at top speed, I have entered wedding season (three down, twelve more to go!) and the next four months are going to be full. It's hard to believe we've been in Grass Valley for almost ten months, but looking around at the progress we've made makes it a little more believable. Patience is becoming a daily lesson around here. Everything takes longer than you think it will (or want it to), and I'm learning to accept it. Time to go scrub my bathroom. xo
April is mom to Lucette, age 6, and Arley, age 3.
What did you love most about being a kid?
I grew up in a small town about eleven miles from Nevada City called Weimar. My parents had ten acres. They were part of the whole “back to the land” movement—my dad is from Stockton, my mom is from Sacramento—and they moved to this land so we could have goats and chickens. We drank goat's milk and ate fresh eggs. It’s beautiful out there. There’re two ponds on the property and it’s really wild—they’re not landscapers, they kind of left the land untouched—and we spent a lot of time outside. I have two older sisters and a little brother. My older sisters and I played outside a lot. We were very imaginative children. One whole hillside was our pretend house. When we crossed a little stream that divides the property, we would enter our wooded refuge. It was this whole beautiful, imaginary world that we’d come back to each day. Certain bushes were designated as the kitchen, a thicket of old manzanitas were the bedrooms. We’d also spend a lot of time playing in the pond and I have really vivid memories of catching pollywogs, and naming them, and seeing them go through their cycles, and hearing the frogs sing at night and really feeling the cycle of the seasons. We didn’t have TV growing up, I think that when I was born they got one channel, if you held the antenna right [Laughs] but we didn’t watch TV. We were more fascinated by going up on the hillside and listening to our echoes as the sun went down. Being in nature was a huge part of my childhood and having sweet relationships with our animals—our dogs were definitely like part of the family.
Did it feel like there was anything missing?
There were definitely things we longed for, we longed for playing with other children. In college, one of my friends grew up on a cul de sac in Salt Lake City, and I remember asking her to tell me about the night games she played as a kid, because that was a big deal—all the kids would funnel into the cul de sac at night and play night games. Things like that I think I missed a little bit, growing up in the country. Now assessing it as an adult, there were many advantages living like we did. I think it was very informative to who I have become.
What did you think about your mom when you were little?
I adored my mom. I absolutely adored her. She was a very devoted, very loving mother. I remember her always wearing these really long floral skirts, and I would hide under her skirt whenever we were in social settings. I remember that little tent underneath my mama’s skirt as being really safe. She was incredibly nurturing. I think my mom has that gene, that need-to-nurture gene. She was a stay-at-home-mom, but when I was about sixteen she went back to nursing school, and now she’s a nurse.
How did your feelings about her change as you grew older?
My parents divorced when I was sixteen, and I think our roles changed at that point. I kind of became the one who held our family together. I remember the first Christmas after my dad had left, my mom didn’t bring out the Christmas stuff like usual. A friend and I went to this old, abandoned Christmas tree farm and cut down a tree and held it on top of her car and went to my mom’s house and set it up, and I was like, we’re doing this. My brother was still young. I kind of felt like I had to take over preserving of our family’s traditions and rhythms. I’ve kind of always been like that, even to my older sisters, I’ve taken on that roll of being the one that organizes Thanksgiving and the holidays. My mom and everyone will talk about it and be excited, but I’m the one that’s like okay, we’re going to make this happen and I’ll cook the food, put on the christmas albums or find the Thanksgiving parade on TV so we can watch it all together—like we did when we were young.
Tell me about your path to motherhood. Did you always know you wanted to have kids? How did you know you were ready?
Yes, I definitely always wanted to have children, I would sing about it as a little girl. I had a cute little song
when I grow up I want to be a mother / one little two little three little children of my own
I would sing at the top of my lungs. I was raised Mormon, and that maternal role was ingrained in me, but I think naturally I just love kids. I wanted to have six kids, that was my dream. I taught preschool through college and I worked with a lot of different child development organizations after college. Michael and I, when we decided to get married, the thing that triggered that conversation was this feeling that I had regarding my future as a mother. I was living in Taiwan at the time and we were dating long distance. I was working there for six months teaching English at a preschool. After six months I was planning to go home and we would continue our relationship. But I decided I wanted to stay for another six months, I was at this life juncture. I had this guy that I really really loved, and asking him to wait another six months for me....I just didn’t know. I think I was 24. I felt really strongly about staying in Taiwan and had developed relationships with the kids and the families, and I thought, I’m here, I feel like I should really see it through and stay for six more months. It was going so well and I was saving money to pay off student loans. I remember I went to the beach one day. And he knew that I was trying to decide what to do, whether I would come back and we’d continue dating or I’d stay and we didn’t know what would happen. I went to the beach in Taiwan and stayed out there for a really long day, and rode my bike home as the sun was setting. I had this really strong feeling that I was going to have a daughter. And that Michael was going to be my partner. And I needed to talk to him about that to see if he really was that person. The idea of this future little girl kind of got us to talk about the seriousness of our relationship. We were definitely more at the beginning phase of our relationship, but it jumped us into something more serious, and he was like, I want to be that person that helps you raise this future child. It made us examine what is this future that we have together and should we pursue it? I had decided that my future would involve having a child at some point, but I did want to stay in Taiwan, so we actually got married. We went to Spain and got married and then we both returned to Taiwan for six months, which was really wonderful for us. I think it set a precedence for who we are in our relationship together, that we are very adventurous and take the path less chosen.
And then we were married for six years before we had Lucette! But I don’t think there was ever a feeling of me wanting to start the family right away or visa versa. We had found each other, we knew we’d make a family together one day and it felt really wonderful. I think it’s been good to develop our relationship. We traveled a lot and have had many great adventures. Then, it was right before I was graduating from Columbia University with my master’s degree, I was working on my thesis and I had a funny feeling. My husband is a software engineer, so he was in another room of our apartment, working. I snuck down and went to the pharmacy and bought a pregnancy test. I just had this feeling. I knew I was pregnant. A friend asked, were you trying? I think ever since we got married we were open to it. We weren’t trying for six years but we were always open to it and felt like we could embrace a new life when it came. I’m grateful that before she did come, that we had six years together to strengthen our bond. We have those adventures under our belt and know that we work really well together, so taking on parenting together has been pretty seamless. We have this track record for getting through stuff together well. For us it just worked out really nicely.
What are some of your favorite things about being a mom?
I love the joy that my kids have for life. Both my kids are really bright, joyful children, and they get so excited about each day. They wake up thrilled to be alive and it brings such a fun energy into our home. I love getting excited about pollywogs again, and ducklings, and the seasons. When I was little the seasons were really big in my life, and that has surfaced again now that I’m a mama. We do so many seasonal things in our home. We have little stories for each season and songs that we sing.
One of the big reasons why we left New York was I wanted my children to have spontaneous interactions with nature and to experience life uncurated. In the city things are very structured, and [I wanted] to see things happen naturally in a natural environment. It’s been cool to see them get a little wild since we moved from New York. I think children are very sensitive to different energies in their environment. When we go to the beach one of my favorite things is to watch Lucette—the minute her feet touch the sand she’s completely transformed, she absorbs the energy of the ocean. She will run up and down the beach and she starts telling this story and she’s following the wind, and her body’s just like—it’s so beautiful to see someone so willing to be vulnerable and open to this magical force that the ocean is, and completely aware of it. It’s one of my favorite things. And when we go to the river, both of them are transformed and they get so into it. It’s inspiring to see how children can be so present. They’re not thinking about anything else. The only thing they’re thinking about is what’s in their hands or how the water feels on their feet, just the simple things that are right there happening then and now, and that’s been the most wonderful thing, and a beautiful reminder for me. Michael and I are always telling ourselves, be present, be focused, just enjoy now. As adults I think we’re trained to think about the future, and multitasking has overtaken everyone. [Children] are such a good example of being here now and just being alive and enjoying it.
How has the relationship with your husband changed since having kids?
Michael is very respectful of me and makes a conscious effort to instill this in our children, just as his father did for him. As a child, when he or his siblings would act up, his dad would say, do you know how hard it was for me to convince your mom to marry me? Don’t you guys mess it up for me!—She was always treated with such love and respect, and so, now, Michael does that for our children. It just feels incredible to have these two littles that he’s teaching to adore me. It’s definitely strengthened our bond and branched it out into new directions that have been really exciting and meaningful.
What have you learned about yourself since becoming a mother?
There are magical, unexplainable things that happen when you’re a mother caring for young children. There’s also this incredible feeling of victory and confidence that settles in after days, week, and years of navigating challenges with creativity and intuition.
Are there any societal pressures on motherhood that you feel more than others?
I think the big thing for mothers of my generation is trying to navigate the work/life balance. I graduated with my Master’s degree just a few weeks before my first baby arrived. It felt amazing to have made it through my schooling before she arrived. While living in New York, I found wonderful work opportunities. Now that we live here and have had a second child, I’m devoting all my energy to my home life. While it’s a choice I’m making and I’m so grateful that I can be home with my babies, I sometimes feel the pressure to be using my degree.
What are some of the biggest differences between your childhood and the one you’re creating for your children?
It’s been interesting recently returning to the where I grew up. We moved back from New York City two years ago. My mom still lives in my childhood home in Weimar. I see my children running, hopping, swimming and daydreaming where I once did. It’s lovely to see your child wade in a pond, the very pond that you spent hours and hours catching tadpoles in, throwing rocks in and seeing your reflection in. So in that sense there are a lot of similarities.
One of the biggest differences is the parenting dynamic that existed between my parents compared to me and Michael. With modern parenting, fathers are strong figures in the home and incredibly involved. I feel like that’s a relatively new thing. [Now] there seems to be this really intentional collaboration between the parents. Michael and I have a strong sense of how we feel about parenting. We work really hard to support each other and spend a lot of time reflecting on situations and communicating.
How has your relationship with your parents changed since becoming a mother?
I feel like I see my own parents in a new light since becoming a parent myself. I feel a lot of compassion, gratitude and understanding. I believe they did their best. Now that I’m going through it myself. [Even when] I make decisions to do things differently, I can still have an understanding of why they did it their way. As an adult I’m grateful for the work ethic my dad ingrained in us. He has always been an incredibly hard worker. I remember witnessing that as a child and as an adult—it's a quality of his that has remained constant.
What inspires you?
I love creating art with my children. I’ve always tried to balance my life with some sort of artistic project. In college I always had at least one art class on my schedule and I had a second major in art. It’s the best way to balance my life. I have strong feelings about how art should be introduced to children. I believe it’s more about the process—presenting them with different materials and letting their natural creativity and curiosity guide them. It’s been wonderful presenting artistic explorations for my kids. I enjoy thinking of different materials or different ways to present the materials. Sometimes I’ll set up a project in a spot they wouldn’t expect to find it in, like outside under the camellia bush, and they’ll stumble upon it—I don’t know when, but they will—and to see them find it and feel totally confident, like, I’m going to do something with this! and start creating—it is so gratifying!
What is one part of motherhood that you struggle with?
I think one of the hardest things has been shifting from the intimate, insular life of mothering babies, with much of your time spent at home, to the unexpected situations that arise as your child spends more and more time away from home interacting with new people and new situations. To see the ones you love in the outside world, there for everyone else’s interpretation can be hard. This little child that you feel so protective of and you know so intimately—you know every little detail. You’ve invested so much love into them and then to have other people not understand them, or only get five minutes with them, whether it’s their best five minutes or their worst—that’s all they get. Then having that feeling of no no no, you don’t really know them, and also feeling bad for that person because they don’t get to know the magnitude of how amazing this child is!
What are your hopes for your children?
I want them to feel confident and I want them to feel loved. I want them to learn to trust in themselves. I want them to know that in our home they’re always going to have a place that they can find love and acceptance. When they leave home, I want them to feel confident that they can interact in the world, no matter where they are, with respect, empathy and curiosity.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Gosh. I don’t know...especially knowing Michael and I, and the way we adventure through the world. [Laughs] So, today we bought our house, which is a huge milestone for us. When Lucette is in 4th grade we would like to take our kids for a year sabbatical and travel around the world. Buying the house was the first step in that plan. We buy a house, save some money, our kids have their early years in this sweet little town, then we will travel and show them that there’s a whole world out there. That’s something that’s really important to us. After that we kind of have it open, we don't know how a year of travel is going to affect our family narrative. It could change where we want to live. Who knows. I don’t know where we’ll be in 10 years, but I think we’ll be somewhere fun and adventurous.
Thank you April! ♥♥♥
To see the other interviews in this series, click here.
This day last year was hard for me, desperately wanting to be a mother and knowing that if I could only get through it, it would be the last Mother's Day that I wasn't. And I was wrong. I never imagined our journey to conceive would last this long (and it's really a drop in the bucket compared to how long many couples try) but this Mother's Day I am not feeling as much angst. I know I will be a mom someday. Holding in the feelings of my heart splitting for something I want more than anything was the hardest part. I felt like I was walking around cloaked in a blanket of sadness that no one could know about and it was a lonely place. And I have more compassion now because of it.
Mother's Day is a complicated holiday. There are those of us who are missing our mothers passed or who never had a mother present. There are those of us who have lost children, which is the most heartbreaking of all. There are those of us longing to be mothers and those of us in the trenches being told to enjoy it while they're young because they grow up fast! And there is so much damn pressure.
I hope for all women, no matter where you find yourself, that today is a day you can love and appreciate yourself for all you have to give. You are no less, you are everything. And my own mom? I couldn't have asked for a better one. She made motherhood look effortless and she mothers with endless joy and intention. She's the warmest, most generous person I know and I am lucky to have her as my example. I love you mom.