Kick, kick, kick.
Kick, kick, kick, kick.
Boy's a fish.
Don't worry, it's just sparkling water.
Kaspar's bestie, J.
Welcome to planet Earth.
Juice pops. Still going strong.
Nice catch.
And... Scene.

Happy Memorial Day! 

We had a Murphy's Law kind of week up in here: Stomach flu (extra uncool for co-sleepers, for the record), broken phones and vehicles (utterly without warning), more bureaucracy than I even want to think about (two words: insurance renewal) and general chaos ensued. Yet, I bowed my head to the wind (and borrowed the babysitter's car...) and made it through three presentations at three separate conference-center locations, and a final exam, before finally collapsing into bed last night, feverish and begging whatever vengeful Voodoo god I've wronged to take pity on my poor, spent soul. My message must have been received, because I felt just fine today, and having no wheels and no desire to wander, spread out on the deck with Kaspar-- and some watercolors-- to wait out this full moon. 

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We went to Kaspar's school's Fall Festival today. It was super freaking fun. 
We celebrated our second wedding anniversary on Friday night (though today is the big day), really threw it down with a multiple-course dinner at this swank Austin spot right in our neighborhood: apps, entrees, desserts, drinks. Deliciousness. We’d left Kaspar, already sleeping, back at home and in the care of close friends, and walked our way leisurely through the warm, balmy night. Holding hands, we passed food trailers strung with Christmas lights, street musicians, packs of college girls, people eating ice cream and staring at the sidewalk flowing by. South Austin’s sultry neon signs glowed beneath a violet sky (which promised rain all weekend, but never did put out); we took our seats on Perla’s patio and marked our ascension to two years: complete.

Friends and family who attended our wedding have remarked, “Time flies! Two years already?” We feel like we’ve lived five. We’ve loved it and lived this married life well; time’s kaleidoscopic little trick has not been a matter of misery… far from it. It’s just that we’ve fit so damn much in already— we’ve been going full-throttle since our very beginning, and we couldn’t have known on our wedding day just how wild this ride would be (though we both probably could have guessed at that, to some degree).
It’s mostly been a no-holds-barred blast, but there have been moments (sometimes uncomfortably sustained) when we’ve just had to lean into the winds and push on. Our anniversary last year, for example, was kind of a bust: we were five flights from New York, mid-move, having landed in Dallas for a couple of days with Aaron’s mom after swinging through Wisconsin to attend my brother’s wedding. OD-ing on air travel and extended-family-time, we debated fine dining but ended up heading to a taco stand, wanting to honor our milestone in some way and figuring tacos were at least a properly Texan way to do it. We ended up cutting our date short, however; Aaron’s mom had called to say that Kaspar was crying and scratching at his ears. She couldn’t comfort him. I could, but I couldn’t really help. This was going on then, this thing we couldn’t name or solve. Not yet. We just did our best and loved our baby up strong and smiling, and ate our dinners, or didn’t… and kept going. We went to bed that night with Kaspar breathing rhythmically between us, reached for a kiss over his small, warm body and held each other’s hands beneath his feet. We woke the next morning and drove yet further into the unknown (we've been cruising in that direction just about from the start), to Austin, to continue creating our story and to start something new (first order of business: new floors. Our place was gross), and now here we are at year two. Complete.

Year two brought new ventures, new friendships, new challenges, new victories, new days and our version of normalcy, some solid routines… and folded up nicely with champagne and chocolate mousse carried to our table on a tray. I asked Aaron, leaning forward, “Are you happy in this life?” and he said yes, yes he is, very much so. It’s been intense for us both at times, to say the least, but we’re also wired that way—striving, moving forward, growing. We’re not the kind of people who shy away from change. Sometimes we initiate it, and sometimes it initiates us into entirely new eras, and new versions of ourselves to match the times: naked boldness is a prerequisite for true participation in this life, you know, and sometimes life simply won’t settle for less.

He asked me, too, whether I’m happy in our life together, and in mine, as in my own (“so busy, and with so little sleep”). I am, I said. I really am. And that is true. So we walked, shoulders touching, leaning in, back to our home, to our friends and our still-sleeping baby, and I stood awestruck at the fullness of it all… already. That just two years ago we were married, that for all my hopes and guessing, I could never have imagined my life would be as rich as it is now.

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Kaspar’s best friend, FM, is the proud pint-sized owner of five pet chickens. FM’s moms are some of our best friends, too, and in fact our cross-family friendship was largely born over the subject of chickens (and other urban barnyard beasties), during a chance encounter at the library one afternoon, many months ago. A quick re-enactment:

Small talk—small talk—sussing for red flags and extreme political parenting agendas—small talk—green light:

H (FM’s mom): So, do you guys live nearby?

Me: We’re right up the road, yeah. You?

H: We’re about five minutes away.

Me: Let’s get together sometime— you know, so the boys can play. (We both look up at the boys as they dart between shelves, with FM’s other mama in hot pursuit).

H: Yeah! That’s what I was getting at *laughs*. Here, let me write down our numbers.

Me: I’ll write ours, too.

H: (Looks up while writing) We have chickens!

Me: (This doesn’t strike me as random. It strikes me as awesome.) No way! I’ve been telling Aaron I want a goat.

H: I’ve been reading about raising goats-- I have a great book I can lend you.

And the following Sunday, we all had brunch.

Neither of our families have gotten goats (yet), but we do like to hang out and watch the boys and chickens do their backyard-barnyard thing; Kaspar and FM are content to toddle around and make clucking sounds at the chickens while H and I supervise and drum up family field-trip ideas and plans for business ventures (an early concept involved selling goat milk… Big business in natural-parenting circles… But the plan we’re actually going with involves wall art, which you’ll soon see in the Alt-Mama store).

I fantasized, in my former city life, about backyards in general, and about gardens, wildness and boys playing in dirt. I’m not exactly what you’d call hardcore “outdoorsy”, per se, but I grew up in New Hampshire, and spent hours, as a kid, just hitting things with sticks (and, presumably, using my imagination) in the small woods behind my childhood home.  I do value outdoor spaces and unstructured time as two of the greatest gifts we can bestow upon our children. Neither of those priceless commodities is readily available in New York, and I only realized upon moving there how much fresh air and easy outdoor access really mattered to me. But, of course, top-tier cultural-things access also matters to me—and that is one thing NYC offers to a degree that no other city can match.

Even so, once I became pregnant, I felt strongly that I want my child(ren) to grow up discovering our inherent human connection to dirt, plants, and—yes—chickens, in some kind of… unstructured way.     

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Our family ventured, several days ago, to the original of Austin Museum of Art’s two locations, Laguna Gloria. The primary building on the grounds is an Italianesque villa that houses a permanent collection, as well as rotating exhibits; the current exhibit is called Art and Nature (an apt description of the whole operation, actually). Although the artworks on display are somewhat few in number—we pretty much saw everything that was hung within half an hour of arriving-- they’re well-curated and refreshingly diverse in style and provenance, with deliberate nods toward Texan artists among national and international peers. As interesting as the artwork was, however, it was the villa itself that-- for me, at least-- stole the show… only to be outdone shortly thereafter by its lush and entrancing grounds. It was as if in driving fifteen minutes North of our home, we somehow found ourselves in Wonderland.

Click read more for the rest of the post, and a photo gallery from our visit!