Perfect summer weather—and the fancy wading pool Jeff brought home—have drawn us into the backyard every day lately. Our plants are exploding after heavy rains during the first half of May, making it feel like we live in the tropics. Deliciously scented honeysuckle has blanketed the back fence.
The small dogwood we planted outside the kitchen a few years ago is covered in twice as many blooms as it had last year.
And if you look closely, you may even spot some wildlife.
The world feels off-kilter right now; my family and I are trying to re-orient after losing my beloved grandpa, John Bean, last week. It's difficult to imagine how we'll get along without him. He lived 93 years and made the most of each one. (If you need some inspiration to get out and make a difference in your community, just check out his obituary.) Because of his service during World War II, it seems fitting to write about him on this Memorial Day.
My heart swelled as I read several comments on his obituary guest book calling him "the greatest of the Greatest Generation." Of course I've always thought of my grandparents that way, but it makes me proud to see that others felt the same.
Among the many roles he assumed throughout his life, Grandpa was first and foremost a husband, father and pilot. He was endlessly generous. He taught us to live deliberately and by the highest moral standards. He also taught us that true love really can last a lifetime. (He leaves behind my grandma, his bride of 71 years.) Just this Mother's Day, I posted a 1958 photo he took of Grandma, whom he called "the most beautiful woman I've ever seen."
Grandpa was passionate about cameras and, for my 7th birthday, gave me my first one. That gift shifted my perspective of the world; since then my favorite view has been from behind the lens. Over the next 20 years, he often passed along camera gear to me as it became apparent that I'd also caught the photography bug. (Last year I wrote here about the Leica collection he gave me.) In this and many other ways, his influence on my life has been profound.
Grandpa was blessed to have a comfortable end, surrounded by his family. As he set an example for us in the way he lived, he also set one in dying with grace. He was calm, at peace, accepting.
Nora and I flew to Florida last week for Grandpa's memorial service. The evening after the service, we wandered down to the beach with my mom, sister and niece. We have years—decades, really—of memories on that beach from our annual visits to my grandparents. It just happened that we caught the sun setting, injecting a golden lining into the massive, ink-blue storm clouds that were rolling in.
As a pilot, Grandpa's heart belonged to sky. Now the rest of him does, too, and it felt like he was sending a final farewell. Thank you, Grandpa, for being the greatest of the greatest. I love you!
How will you be spending Memorial Day weekend? Our last few weeks (and months and years) have been so busy that we're looking forward to a quiet couple of days. I imagine we'll be biking, playing at the park and setting up the new wading pool. And perhaps we'll bake a treat to celebrate Cricket's half birthday. (How can she already be 2.5 years old? Sigh.)
A few of Cricket's previous portraits: birth announcement, 1 year, 20 months, 21 months, 23 months and 2 years.
Nora's portraits: arrival, birth announcement, 1 month, 2 months and 3 months, 4 months, 5 months, 6 months, 7 months, 8 months, 9 months, 10 months and 11 months.
Have a wonderful and restful weekend!
My head is spinning. Last week I attended Alt for Everyone, the first online rendition of Alt Summit, and have so many ideas racing through my mind about directions I could take this blog. The conference was, in a word, fabulous. (If you're a blogger and haven't heard of Alt, check it out. Now.)
Sessions focused on design and business aspects of blogging, and the instructors were all hot-shots in their fields. It's kind of cool to hear about building your brand from someone who has more than 14 million followers on Pinterest. Okay, it's really cool. (Joy Cho, you're awesome!)
I was able to select seven hour-long sessions and learned an enormous amount from each speaker, including Laurie Smithwick, Adrienne Arieff, Susan and William Brinson, Liz Stanley, Melanie Blodgett and Sara Urquhart. And one of the best parts about Alt was getting to network with the other attendees, who are all insanely creative. I'm looking forward to checking out their blogs this week for even more inspiration.
Thank you Alt for Everyone! (Now back to ruminating on where to go with Calm Cradle...modifications to come as soon as my children accept that sleep is a good and necessary thing.)
(Image via Alt.)
It's time for me to accept it. Nora has turned 1! I thought my heart might break as I carried out her birthday cake, that single glowing candle reminding us that an entire year has already passed since she arrived in our lives. How can it be?
Today I'm sharing her 11-month portraits, since I'm more than a month behind on posting all the content I've been collecting lately. Over the next several weeks, I'll be posting birthday party and 1-year photos, some DIY projects and a whole lot of images and travel tips from our recent Colorado trip.
But for today, I'm basking in the pre-birthday-candle glow of Nora's last set of portraits as a zero-year-old.
She spends so much time standing at the back door watching our yellow lab, Finn, snoozing or dashing around the yard. Every time I grab the camera, Nora loses interest and crawls away. But on this day, she miraculously kept her focus. Here are the results: a few images to capture my memories of her playing by the door, admiring her buddy—smudged windows, saggy diaper and all.
Nora's previous portraits: arrival, birth announcement, 1 month, 2 months, 3 months, 4 months, 5 months, 6 months, 7 months, 8 months, 9 months and 10 months.
A few of Cricket's portraits: birth announcement, 1 year, 20 months, 21 months, 23 months and 2 years.
P.S. I'm excited to be participating in the Alt for Everyone online conference starting Thursday. Anyone out there joining me?
Is that a movie star? Nope. It's a 1958 photo of the ever-stunning Ruth Leslie Bean, my grandma. It is one of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of photos my grandpa, John Bean, has taken of Grandma over their 71 years of marriage. He recently told my mom he takes so many photos of Grandma because she is the most beautiful woman he has ever seen. (I'm tearing up just repeating those words.)
My post last year about Grandma remains one of my most viewed. Since today is Mother's Day, and I've always thought of Grandma as "the ultimate mom," as a mother to six, grandmother to 16 and great-grandmother to 27, I thought today would be a meaningful time to share a few more of her thoughts on motherhood.
Four and a half years ago, when I was newly married and not yet a mom, I got the seedling of an idea to interview my grandmothers and mother about their expectations and perceptions of motherhood. I wasn't sure what I would do with the interviews—and I'm still not—and have only completed two of the three—it turns out babies make it difficult to conduct interviews, but I'll be calling soon, Grandma Connors! At some point I will finish that last interview and pull them together into something cohesive.
In the meantime, let's rewind four and a half years to when Grandma Bean was a mere 87 years old. Here are a few notes from her interview.
I worried I had missed the chance to talk to Grandma about motherhood. Over the last few years, her short-term memory had deteriorated, and signs were emerging that she was beginning to struggle with her long-term memory, too. I pulled Mom aside and asked whether she thought Grandma could still speak to her expectations of motherhood and what it means to be a mother. Mom said she thought the topic was so close to Grandma's heart that she would still be able to talk about it.
The mercury was hovering in the mid-teens with a wind chill well below zero as Mom and I drove to Grandma and Grandpa's apartment. Gusting snow blanketed the rush hour traffic—a typical Minnesota evening. Grandma was wearing her Coach sneakers. We sat on the sofas they've had as long as I can remember, which were recently recovered in a powder blue floral pattern.
Grandpa sat with us and chimed in when he could. Mom helped spur Grandma to talk about things she knew were important to her.
Grandma did speak fluently. In fact, for the first time in several years, I felt like my old Grandma was back. Something inside her came alive as she spoke of her children and the values she hoped she instilled in them. To be good. To make the world a bit better. To love one another.
I expect it will become more and more difficult to draw that part of her out, but what a gift today was for me. What a gift to see her glow when she spoke of the dearest subject of her life: motherhood.
Here are a few of my favorite short excerpts from the interview.
JCS: What were your expectations going into motherhood?
RLB: I guess I was overwhelmed with love for my children. My expectation was that, of course, we would always love our children and that we hoped they would forgive us for our mistakes as we were raising them. But I just expected that everything was going to go perfectly, and it did. [Laugh]
JCS: What do you owe your children?
RLB: Love. Unconditional love. That’s the first thing. You owe them a sense of stability. I think you owe them an example. You are there example. And, therefore, you have an obligation to be a decent person.
JCS: How much of your energy do you owe your children?
RLB: It’s a complicated question.
JBB (Grandpa): Well, you gave them all your energy. That’s why you’re so tired now!
RLB: I gave them all my energy! Well, I think when they’re little you owe all your energy to them.
JCS: Is there anything else you want to add about being a mom? How important has it been in your life?
RLB: [Laugh] How important has it been? It’s been my life.
Who could put it better? Happy Mother's Day to you and yours!
Happy May Day!
As kids, we used to roll cones out of paper, fill them with flowers and leave them on our neighbors' doorsteps on May Day. I'm not sure where that tradition came from, but no one outside the neighborhood seems to know what I'm talking about when I mention it! Do you have May Day traditions?
Maybe next year we'll get our act together to deliver flowers to our neighbors, but this year I'm sharing them electronically. Here are a few blooms from around our yard. Enjoy!
P.S. Despite the photos, I'm actually posting from Denver....where we are in the mid!
I'm Julia Soplop. In a former life, I studied lemurs in Madagascar, worked for National Geographic and trained as a medical journalist. These days my adventures usually include my three tiny daughters. Oh, and I'm still a writer and photographer—a storyteller. This blog is my story. It's about things that make life beautiful.
DIY crate bookshelf
Toddler bedroom tour
DIY twin bed
DIY braided scarf
DIY coffee bean centerpiece
Grandma knows best
Little gallery wall
DIY yarn wreath ornament
DIY no-sew tutu
5-month portraits + b&w tips
DIY felt heart mobile