Motherhood is a strange dichotomy: it simultaneously hardens and softens us. Having two boys has made me mentally tougher than I ever was, even during the most grueling training and racing of my rowing career. I thought life was tough, what with the constant injuries, hunger, and mental fatigue of competition. And then I became a mother. If I estimate correctly, it has been five years and thirty-two days since I last had a day – or a night – to myself. Since I slept soundly without being roused from bed by cries or my own worries. Since I spoke on the phone, drove in a car, or bought paper towels without the constant din of baby-toddler-preschooler-mayhem. Since I walked out of the house without a bag resembling that of the migrant workers heading west during the “Grapes of Wrath.” I’m amused by the recent debate over methods of torture used to extract information from prisoners. Why? Because I have a solution. Put them in a house with my children and a broken coffee maker for three days with no reprieve and I promise you, they will gladly spill the beans.

At the same time as I’ve been honing my tuning-out-the-screaming skills and the mediation-between-warring-factions-while-on-the-phone skills, I find my work has been affected – for the better – by being a mother. I used to photograph strictly in black-and-white: I had no desire to work in color or veer away from the moody, contemplative images I created. I have changed. I listen to advice of my littlest assistants. I see the colors. I climb into tents built from sofa cushions and blankets. I remember the rainy afternoons when I hunted for that magical closet that would finally lead me to Narnia.

This photograph, while taken on a perfectly ordinary day on a perfectly ordinary boardwalk, is anything but ordinary for me. It is the techni-color dream of castles and kings, captured by my eye, inspired by my (energetic, sleep-deprived, imaginative) life with children.