Summer, 2019. This was the last summer before Charlie, 5 years old, starts real school—kindergarten—where we aren’t in control of our own lives/time as much. It’s the last summer before other, older kids have more influence on him, and perhaps the last summer that he is absolutely obsessed with his parents (although hopefully not). I say this all with glassy eyes. It was such a good summer I could cry.
In March, I proposed to Brian that we try to work up at the mountain house as much as we can over the summer with the kids. Not to “take the summer off”, but be with the kids as much as possible, up there instead of in LA. There was some resistance, the argument being I can work up there (writing and shooting), but he felt he would be bored and relegated to full-time childcare. I would have other outlets, he wouldn’t. My perspective was that our kids are only young once and while there are many stresses of owning and running your own business, and flexibility is one of the biggest and most valuable ‘pros’. This summer could be the best gift we can give our small kids and each other. Turning 40 next week has certainly made me want to prove to myself that my life choices are indeed mine and I really, really wanted us to choose this choice.
And then the best thing happened. Brian booked a video series job UP THERE. BOOM documenting another makeover (for Jenni Kayne’s president). I mother f*ckin’ manifested that (technically you aren’t supposed to be able to manifest things for others, but I mean, what are the chances???). At this point, we were already paying for some summer camps near LA for both kids, so no, we didn’t stay up there all summer, but I’d say a good 5 weeks over the two months. We had back-to-back very close family/friends from out of town, mostly Oregon, so many “cousins”, and it was incredibly special to have one-on-one time with all of them. We have a rule to only host one family at a time even if we can fit more because we find that we don’t connect with them if there are too many kids running around (nor do we connect with our kids so we had space between most of them where it was just us four).
I wrote/answered emails/comments from 7 am -11 am most days with some larger chunks when needed. And Brian was amazing and would take the kids 4-5 hours at a time during other days so I could work or shoot. I actually got a TON of writing done, in a quiet space (all the mountain house posts). But sacrifices were made and my team was so patient with me as I answered their 4 pm emails at 6 am the next day. Maybe it’s not ideal, but life with two jobs and two kids never is and I suppose I’m actively and proudly currently choosing my family over my work/business. Again, I know that is a very privileged thing to say, and while I often don’t feel like I have a choice, I DO—and not everyone does so I really try to not take it for granted.
Listen, whenever I’m trying to make a decision, I ask the only person who knows me better than myself: my 85-year-old version of me. I asked her if I’d ever regret neglecting work to spend time with my kids while they were so small and she said “NO.” Nobody in the history of time, on their death bed, has wished they spent less time with their kids when they were little. She is very wise.
I didn’t post or story too much what we did over the summer, mostly because I didn’t feel like it or I would simply forget. This is a GREAT thing as a huge part of being with the kids is being present. I hate saying things like “being in the moment” but we all know that social media rips you out of the moment so fast, and thank god I’m not actually addicted to my phone as much as you’d think I am (I got my first cell phone at 22 so I think my brain was more fully formed).
But as I was scrolling through all my photos, like a mom, I wanted to share them because this space has always been a journal for me, both design and personal, and it’s been a while…
So family summer 2019…HERE YOU GO (or at least whatever I remembered to capture).
SO MUCH SWIMMING:
So many bodies in so many bodies of water. Brian bought this pontoon on craigslist, and while it has broken down like five times, this party barge has absolutely been worth the stress. Besides, being rescued by the lake patrollers is actually kinda fun (twice was because the rope was wrapped up in the propeller; we are “still learning”).
The kids pretend to not like it ’til they get out there and we cruise, jump in, dock at the island, hike around and listen to “yacht rock.” We might be naming the boat the “Michael MacDonald” because every time we start the speakers, that’s what comes on. Although “I’m hungry, I wanna snack” is a close second because the SECOND we get on, those kids start at it for something packaged.
We went to the beach a TON. The kids mostly played in the sand and we sat there and read books/magazines and chatted and sipped on a beverage. The water was shallow enough that we didn’t have to worry too much.
So yes, we swam in lakes, in pools, at the beach. I’m happy to say that through consistency, Charlie is finally able (and comfortable) jumping into the deep end, and swimming to the side without drowning. All of you moms know that this is a moment we’ve been waiting for for 5 and a half years. Can he swim? HELL NO. Can he “not drown”? YES. All it took was consistency. We’ve had them in swim classes twice a week for 15 minutes each (30 total) for months and no progress. But after 2 weeks of swimming most days, we are there. Birdie, not so much. Hopefully this fall or next summer.
It became our goal to not get into the car, so we would golf cart it down (in the Ferrari, obviously) to the dock and then take our janky pontoon to the village for lunch or the small amusement park and then back. Brian bought the golf cart on Craigslist an hour away, with the Ferrari bumper sticker already perfectly placed, with a tape deck and fringe on top. It breaks down like once a month but good news! You can pay someone loads of cash each time to fix your 30-year-old piece of garbage!!
SKYPARK AT SANTA’S VILLAGE:
The most amazing family adventure park is 10 minutes from our house and once we became members, we went there 2-3 times a week. Brian and I got STRANGELY into mountain biking, although it’s extreme. As in professionals come from the whole country to bike down it. Biking has always been something we’ve done together, but I didn’t predict that I would become an extreme mountain biker. This was the beginning of #mountainemily.
Skypark also has rock climbing, bouldering, zipline, archery, kids biking, hiking, fishing, roller skating (ice skating in the winter), panning for jewels, and 2-3 restaurants with decent food and good beers. It’s expensive for the day ($40) but if you can go frequently, it’s the best deal in town. It’s rarely busy so our kids can really run safely (but it makes me worried that it’s going to go out of business so please go!). No ad, and they don’t know I exist. It’s just a special place that used to be a year-round Christmas park that went bankrupt and a local family revamped it as a year-round adventure park with a huge Christmas component with Santas, ice skating, snow, reindeers, etc. IT’S AWESOME.
WE PLAYED IN THE WOODS:
We made forts, climbed trees, biked around, and did a lot of night hikes with headlights. There are no mosquitos up there and our property backs up to 50 acres that are gated with no cars or bodies of water. It’s an absolute dream for people like us who like just collecting bugs, leaves, and the kids played so many games (all with a “buddy”).
WE CUDDLED AND SLEPT:
That might be my favorite moment of the summer. We laid in that hammock for an hour, next to the fake river and I got to snuggle both kids in the morning for like 45 minutes while we read. WHAT ELSE COULD YOU WANT?
Sure, we didn’t sleep as much as we should have (you never do on vacation with kids) but these two slept whenever and wherever they could.
Birdie fell asleep on me most days either on the beach or on the boat. I LOVED it, even if I got held hostage by her sleep and couldn’t go jump in the lake or go on the hikes. My future self will NEVER wish that I had less time with my babies asleep on my chest.
WE BBQ’D, ATE AND TALKED/DRANK:
I don’t have any photos of it, but one night we got a sitter and took our adult friends out for a night cruise. We talked, danced and listened to music for FOUR HOURS. We all said that it was truly one of the most fun nights of our lives. We were alone on the lake, listening to college hits and for real DANCING.
I don’t have pictures of us BBQing, eating or partying but needless to say, we DID IT UP. Everyone who knows me knows that I have two modes: work mode and party mode and I’m pretty great at rallying at both, so I had to really learn to just chill, cook, lay in the hammock and read with my kids. We made delicious food and watched a lot of family movies.
Also, we gave my brother hair extensions. So natural!
WE WENT TO LOLLIPOP PARK:
There is also a tiny amusement park with a carousel, bumper cars, go-carts and a few toddler rides that the kids are OBSESSED with. It’s in the village and takes like 15 minutes to do with no lines, and it’s pretty cheap so we took each family there at least once.
This house, this mountain town is truly what our family needs. We are highly social so sometimes in LA, we invite too many people over and since I can’t sit down, I end up hosting to the point of burning out (without knowing it). So being up there, having one family at a time that stayed for an extended period of time meant that everyone was helping, I wasn’t “hosting” just providing the house. Also, the options for what to do are either woods, boat, pool or beach. Not having very many restaurants or museums/activities to go to means that your days are free to just choose what you feel like.
Re-entry has been hard, but Labor Day is nearby and while I’m not doing much for my birthday this year, it’s more of an excuse to unplug and feel “on vacation.” But my 85-year-old version of myself was totally right: I don’t think I’ll ever regret how much time I spent with my kids, friends and family this summer. Memories were made, folks, and you BET I’ve already started my summer of 2019 scrapbook (it’s for the kids, duh :)).