Our Motherhood Story: Crazy, Messy, and Beautiful

 From left: Cassidy, Charles (the dog), Lauren, Katie, and Enzo.

From left: Cassidy, Charles (the dog), Lauren, Katie, and Enzo.

Two moms. Two kids. Two dogs. One big happy family. Meet Katie Avery and Lauren Ruffin. We stopped by their home one Friday afternoon (as the family prepped for a weekend camping trip) to chat about what motherhood has meant to them. Sitting on their sunshine flooded front porch, Katie and Lauren shared all their favorite mom moments (with some occasional supporting chirps from Cassidy and Enzo), and the story behind what they framed to highlight their bond not only as a couple, but also as a family.

Name: Katie Avery (the mom), Lauren Ruffin (the stepmom)

Occupation: Katie: educator, Lauren: fundraiser

Favorite Things: 

Katie: coffee, date night, swimming, and my house

Lauren: bacon, tomatoes, basketball, my bike, and Charles, my dog--even though he's not a thing.  And Katie forgot to mention that she's obsessed with scarves. 

Favorite Instagram accounts:

Katie: @healthyisthenewskinny - it's super empowering and provides great body positive images for women. They emphasize health over size - we should all be better and kinder to ourselves in that respect. Oh, and @kristynmillerphotography of course! She's a friend from college AND our wedding photographer. She captures joy in the most honest and beautiful of ways. 

Lauren: Anything national park service related and @mustafaseven--another great photographer. 

What do you admire most about your mom?

Katie: She has always modeled and encouraged independence. At the same time, she surrounded me with a village of strong and supportive women from a young age - something I hope my children will also grow up with. 

Lauren: My mother died when I was eight, but I admire most that she spent so much time reading to me. She loved to read. And now I love to read and tell stories. 

Katie: You are a fantastic story teller!

How has being a mom changed your life?

Katie: In every way imaginable. People tell you having kids will change your life forever, but I don't think any of us can really put it into words. I think it's different for everyone, because we all define and experience motherhood so differently. So maybe that's what it had taught me - that we all need to be OKAY living life on our own terms and in a way that makes us and those around us happy. 

Lauren: I have less time and money, and I find myself talking about feelings more. 


"Being a mother has been the biggest component in my journey of discovering, defining, and accepting who I am as a woman."


What is the most important thing motherhood has taught you?

Katie: Being a mother has been the biggest component in my journey of discovering, defining, and accepting who I am as a woman. That and the importance of stolen moments and taking time for self-care - whether it's locking the bathroom door for five minutes to read an interesting article, going back to grad school, scheduling weekly date nights, getting a manicure, or meditating in the car for ten minutes after work before walking in to the lovely chaos of home (all of which I do!) - we have to make sure WE are good before we can be there for anyone else. Cliche but true!

Lauren: Not everything needs to be a huge production. We get to introduce the kids to really basic "firsts"...ice skating, rainbows, big snowstorms. Just living life is cool to them...we don't need to really plan anything. 

 Wedding photo by  K   ristyn Miller Photography  in our  Newport  frame. 

Wedding photo by Kristyn Miller Photography in our Newport frame. 

Proudest mom moment (so far)?

Katie: There are so many! My kids are truly awesome - they're each developing a really good sense of humor, they take care of one another, and they genuinely appreciate love and kindness. If I had to pick one, singular thing, it would be the moment when I saw the flicker turn into a flame when they each realized they could read. Watching a child fall in love with reading is SO COOL (but I don't know if that's the mom or the teacher in me)!

Lauren: Definitely when Cassidy created an alternate economy at her school, using the "bucks" they provide to students as incentives. She saved extra fruit from lunch and sold it to her classmates via her own little black market for a buck each--literally convinced her friends to buy fruit they got for free at lunch! It was genius entrepreneurship! (And she never got caught.)

What does a day in your life like?

Katie: I never wake up early enough in the morning. The kids go to our neighborhood school, so drop-off is easy and Lauren is kind enough to take them to school a couple days a week (usually when I've really overslept). During the day I do a lot of driving for school visits and spend a good amount of time writing at local cafes (I have a list of writing spots for every Ward in the city). I often spend more time planning, scheduling, and "prioritizing" than I should, so I usually still have a fair amount of "doing" to do after I pick up my kids from after school. We are the typical weekday-race family after school - dinner/bath/bed - and once the kids are asleep I usually get back online to get some coursework done for grad school or finish up my reports for work. Weekends are sacred - no work, all play. 

Lauren: Wake up, get Katie (she really doesn't wake up early enough) and the kids off to school and work, go to work and ask people for money, come home to chaos, and put everybody to bed as early as possible so that I can go to bed as early as possible. 


"I'll do almost anything for a smile and a hug from my kiddos."


How do you stay inspired?

Katie: I'm really mission-oriented when it comes to my work. When I left my first job as a grassroots organizer, my boss told me to be sure I never sold my soul for a paycheck (his words were more colorful). I took that to heart and I think it's one of the most important values I can instill in my children. Also, smiles. I'll do almost anything for a smile and a hug from my kiddos. :)

Lauren: Given the work I do, it's hard not to be inspired everyday. When your job lets you support the children and families who need help the most, it's hard to not feel fortunate for everything that I have and continue to be inspired by how hard many families in our city work for a better life. 

How do you see creativity developing in your kids?

Katie: They are both exceedingly curious. For my daughter, her curiosity manifests through science experiments. She's also quite the artist. My son is becoming an avid story-teller and he's very creative in his play - he designs wildly complex adventures for his toys and action figures. Sometimes I just creep outside his room and listen. 

Lauren: There's paint all over the house - on the carpet, on the walls, everywhere! While I don't yet appreciate their artwork, I assume that their creativity is indeed developing because I find myself cleaning up after it all the time! 


"It captures our family perfectly."


What did you frame? What's so special about it?

Katie: A "family portrait" from our wedding day in Annapolis - we were on our way to the courthouse. (Photo credit and forever memories due to Kristyn Miller Photography). It captures our family perfectly. The kids were so excited to be mommy's little helpers that day, and Ruffin kept us all smiling and laughing. As usual, our good friend Phoebe was there to see us through it all - she's like another auntie to my kids. Their aunt Sam (my sister) is missing from this pic, because she was running her cute little tail off to make sure everything was just right!

Lauren: This is how we look pretty much all the time - my wife is gorgeous, I have a stupid look on my face, Enzo looks like Dr. Spock thanks to a terrible haircut I'd gotten him the day before, Cassidy's laughing behind Katie's back, and our best friend Phoebe is there, making sure we get to where we need to go on time.

How do you feel when you look at your frame?

Katie: I feel at home. I love our family. We are crazy, messy, and beautiful. We have a tremendously loving and supportive village and that day was as much a celebration of them as it was our love. 

Lauren: Happy and full - I think. I don't usually use "feelings" words.

What photo or memory do you have that perfectly captures and celebrates your family?