an old letter to Rowan, when she was 11 months old

So I was going through some old stuff on the computer this weekend and came across this thing I had written for Rowan when she happened to be 11 months old. Piper is 11 months old today---so it kind of struck me. I didn't have this blog back then, so I figured it was worth a posting....almost 4 years later! I think I had read this question in an Oprah magazine, of all things, and the following was my reply to Rowan.

What’s the most important piece of advice you can give your daughter about being beautiful, feeling beautiful?

You’re 11 months old today, and I don’t think you could be any more beautiful than you are right now. Last night, you ran your hands, covered in pizza sauce, through your hair and over your face—then looked to us in delight. You make these hilarious faces; we call one of them your “evil eye,” without self-consciousness, only to make us laugh. You strut around in your holy nakedness with pride and pleasure. You are pure. You don’t care what anyone thinks of your appearance. It’s hard to imagine you fretting over how a pair of jeans fits, or sneaking makeup to put on after you’ve left the house, or groaning “oh mother” when I don’t allow you to buy a shirt that looks “soooo cute” on you. But I know those times are coming. Eventually you will learn how interested this world is in beauty.

Always know that I thought you were most beautiful today—at 11 months, with broccoli in your hair, and that I will also think you are most beautiful at 11 years old, and 31, and 61.

When you think too much about beauty, when you worry about it obsessively, when you spend too much money on it, when you shed tears about it--as soon as you work too hard to be beautiful, you become less beautiful. The most beautiful women I know don’t spend that much time on it. One of the most beautiful women I know wears her hair the exact same way every single day, and has for over twenty years. The most beautiful women don’t really understand how beautiful they are…and if they did, they wouldn’t really care. Because they’re more concerned with the latest social injustice they learned about, their amazing children, or their rewarding careers. Be passionate. Love what you do. Beauty will be secondary, and automatic.

Take care of yourself. Floss. Get enough sleep. Wash behind your ears. Exercise. Wear clothes that fit. Take chances. Try new styles. Be pampered once in awhile.

Care less about yourself. When you focus on the people around you, you realize how unimportant it is to have the whitest teeth or the tannest skin. Be selfless, and you will be beautiful.

Don’t believe the smiling, overpaid celebrity you see touting the next miracle cream. Protect your heart. Protect your confidence. Tell yourself “they’re not real!” over and over again if you have to--about fake boobs, botoxed eyes, impossibly thin magazine cover images. They’re not real.

Don’t wear makeup every day.

Love your skin--the thick skin covering your elbows, the delicate skin between your toes, the vast desert of skin over your back, the ocean of skin dressing your stomach. Love it when it’s smooth and tight when you’re 15, love it when it’s stretched over a miraculous pregnant belly when you’re 28, love it when it bears the stretches and strains of that life-giving at 40. Love your skin when it deepens with wrinkles. Love it when it jiggles on the underside of your arm as you wave goodbye to your grandchildren. Tattoo it, if you can be that committed. Pierce it, if you can handle the pain. Don’t do either in a place that cannot heal or be covered up for an important interview. Celebrate your skin, celebrate you.

A guy likes a girl who can go from being sweaty playing basketball or hiking in the woods to looking acceptable…no, looking beautiful… for a symphony in under an hour. 30 minutes is even better. 15 will make you the most dateable girl around. Just ask your dad.

Don’t fight getting older. You’re not supposed to look like a 21 year old forever, and no one expects you to. Wear your gray hair proudly. Your dad thinks it’s sexy when an older woman wears her hair long and gray. Marry a man like your father.

Marry a guy who thinks supermodels are not real.

Marry a guy who understands that true beauty should not require hundreds of dollars of skin cream and makeup, and who doesn’t expect you to wake up in the morning looking like you’re ready for the prom. Marry a guy who thinks you’re beautiful in sweatpants, beautiful after giving birth, beautiful when you’re singing off-key in the car, beautiful when your nose is runny, beautiful when you’re 65.

Have I always followed this advice? Of course not. Has anyone? But I’ve tried, and I think I’ve done pretty well. I can get ready for a fancy event in no time. I don’t bother with makeup most days. I didn’t get a real haircut until I was an adult. I married your father. I thought my body was the most beautiful when I was 9 months pregnant with you. But sometimes I find myself fretting over a poorly timed pimple (yes, they still happen after adolescence), wishing that my hair was more this, my thighs more that, my skin more whatever. If I’m having a particularly self-conscious day, I see a stunning woman at the supermarket and I get a twinge of jealousy. Don’t beat yourself up. No one is perfect, not in beauty or in wisdom. If someone, someday, tells me that you are a beautiful person on the inside--it will be one of my best moments.

I have this friend. She lost 3 of her babies. Then she lost both breasts to cancer. Then she lost her hair. We’re the exact same age, 28, born a day apart. She knows more about beauty than I will ever know. She has the most radiant smile. She always did, really, but it took stripping away her luscious hair (she had the best hair), and flattening out her breasts, to really get a look at that smile.

It stops you in your tracks.

Want that kind of beauty.


i'm in love...

with these girls!

I'm trying out some new lighting techniques and also some new fabric backgrounds. These are from this morning. There are a few more shots on this set-up here.

Sigh. Are they really mine?


sisterly love

While Joe and I prepared dinner tonight, Rowan came downstairs and proudly displayed the sign she had just made for her door: NO PIPER, with a picture of Piper with an X over it. She did this all on her own initiative, and I especially like the rendering of Piper's hair.

Have I mentioned how particular Rowan is about her things? She loves having friends over, but struggles deeply with sharing her toys....and I know that for her, it's equally as much letting go of the organization she has in her room as it is letting someone play with her stuff. She really doesn't like her room to be messy. For a long time after we moved in, she absolutely did not want me to go in her room without her...for fear that I would move something or disrupt her idea of organization.

So you can imagine how she feels about (a now VERY mobile) Piper playing in her room. I've noticed that 10 month olds don't have much respect for order. And they tend to like their big sister's stuff.

It's the first time, honestly, that Rowan has really struggled with having a sister.

Later in the evening, when Rowan taped her sign to her door, she told me "This is really good news and really bad news. It's really bad news for Piper, but it's really good news for me."

If only a sign on the door could keep Piper at bay. I'd put one all over my door at 2:00 AM!


Piper is taking steps

She's officially taking steps....more than just a few at a time. The last few days, it's been 10, 12, 15 steps at once. Of course, there is still a lot of crawling going on...and a lot of falling....but you can tell in this photo how pleased she is with herself about the walking!

Like most babies, she is also obsessed with drawers, doors, cabinets, and making huge messes wherever she goes. She loves the dishwasher. She actually helped me put all the tupperware lids away yesterday! Starting to pull her own weight already!


love this girl

My lovely lady this morning. Don't you just want to kiss her cheeks?

And don't miss the two posts below this...both put up yesterday :)


Kitchen and Dining Room Completed!



I'm finally getting around to posting some photos of our finished kitchen and dining room. You'll have to head over to the set on flickr to see all the pics and all the details....but I'll list some of the information here, too.

Oh my, where to start. Once again, Joe has done an amazingly detailed job on this space. I'll start with the kitchen. I did manage to convince Joe to purchase the cabinets rather than build them himself (it took a lot of convincing)....but he installed them all, including adding a few inches to everything but the island (for us tall folk). Then he designed and poured the concrete counter tops...which you'll have to check out all the pictures to see some of the details there. An integral drain board (seems simple...but how do you make a form for that, including the steel channels? a bit mind-bending), a built-in knife rack, a subtle indented "fruit bowl"...and what has earned him the moniker "lover-boy" by the neighbor guys: a really cool L + J design that Joe originally came up with for the cover of a gift he made while we were dating....and eventually showed up on our wedding ceremony, and evolved into the design that is on each of our wedding rings. Joe found a guy who cut the design into steel, then Joe put it into the counter top. Around the stove on the island, Joe made part of the counter out of oak....then added some stainless steel circles that serve as hot pads.

I'm sure I'm missing some details. Follow the link at the end of this post to see the photos and notes.

The dining room--Joe had the idea of using steel sheets as the background for wainscoting instead of something more traditional (wood or paint), then he trimmed it out with detailed wood-working including inlays of a darker wood.

The trim throughout the downstairs is white oak that Joe bought from a guy on Craigslist. This guy gets trees that are already coming down from utility companies and other construction jobs, then he mills it all locally, and sells it for a great price. Joe's dad has done all the window trim and helped out a lot with the other trim--incredibly detailed and beautiful work.

So now we have the second half of the downstairs left: the living room and back room (den?) and 1/2 bath in the back. These rooms are a lot less involved than the kitchen and dining room---and much of the ground work has already been laid (yes, he already took out another wall:) And the bathroom is all plumbed and the electrical is all done. He is taking a few days detour to re-do the flat roof on the backside of the house....but we're not far off now!



Before you head over to flickr to see the rest of the photos of the kitchen, make sure to check the post directly below this, too, because I also added some photos of the girls there today!
To see more photos of the kitchen/dining room, click here.

Autumn Photos

Just a few photos of the girls from the past few weeks....enjoying fall in Michigan!
To see a few more photos from these days, click here.

The first 2 photos here were taken by my friend Jill....she also took the last dozen or so photos in the set on Flickr. Thanks Jill! It is always such a challenge to get my own kids photographed....I love the help (and thanks to Mom, too, for helping with a very fussy Piper in the first set of photos! where does my happy baby go when the camera comes out?)

Piper is taking a few steps---I love this first photo, it captures these fleeting weeks when steps are so tentative...how quickly they give way to full-confidence walking!