What it’s like to grow up on a blog, a thoughtful essay by Aidan Zielske

Cathy ZielskeCZ Life79 Comments


Toward the end of Aidan’s senior year, I was very conscious of expressing my gratitude to her for letting me share so many stories about her over the years. I’ve tried to respect how much to share, especially as she started to navigate that tricky space called adolescence. Over the summer I asked her if she’d ever consider sharing her perspective of what it was like to grow up with a scrapbooking mom who made her living online and part of that living directly revolved around telling stories about the lives of her children. She agreed but in the course of getting ready to go to college, we both forgot about it. She texted me over the weekend and said, “Hey, I have a surprise for you. Oh, and it might make you cry.” Turns out she did write out some thoughts and those thoughts I share with you today. Thank you, Aidan Isabella. You are truly something else. Take it away…

I ought to give a disclaimer here which is that I don’t actually read this blog. Sometimes I scroll through to look at the pictures but other than that rarity, I don’t read this blog. Okay, let’s go.

I hesitate to say I grew up in the spotlight. I’m not the child of a celebrity. I am not named after a fruit or an inanimate object and I had as much privacy as I ever thought was normal for a child. Growing up, it was never at the forefront of my mind that my life helped my mom’s career. Of course my life had and has a lot of different functions and intricacies, but my existence was and is intertwined with the existence of my scrapbooking mother and her brand. Truthfully, I am only ever reminded of this in sarcastic moments where my stubborn brother and I are goaded into smiling for a photo because it “keeps the food on the table.” Otherwise, it is my normal.

My mom is really into being honest and raw with you all. She opens herself up to a lot of things and sometimes what comes in hurts. She has not, however, done the same for me and that is something I respect. While she may share the nitty gritty of her own life, she doesn’t share the nitty gritty of mine. Sure, sometimes my life looks like stock photography. Sometimes my life looks like a Pinterest board. Sometimes I look at the photos and think that on the surface it’s a damn pretty picture. The truth is that sometimes it is and sometimes it isn’t. My life is complicated. Whose isn’t? There have been times where I’ve gotten angry about a certain photo she’s posted on Instagram because I don’t like the way I look or where I refused to smile for a picture because smiling’s not cool; it’s cool to widen your eyes and suck in your cheeks slightly to look angular and intense.

My life in the lens of my mother’s career hasn’t been all that strange. Occasionally it’s funny to think that there are people rooting for me that I’ve never met. It’s funny that sometimes people recognize me in various places and say they feel like they know me, because for all intents and purposes, they do from reading about my personality through the words my mother writes. My mom is Cathy Zielske (though I don’t call her that). She’s not CZ Design. She’s never been her career and growing up with my life on her blog has rarely been a misfortune.

This world has brought me some great things. There are people in this world who I admire for their kindness and their creativity and people who I wouldn’t be staring at through my computer screen if it weren’t for my Mom and her friendships and professional relationships with them. There are places I never would’ve imagined going if it weren’t for my mom teaching classes.

I love my mom. I love smiling for selfies with her. I love the ways in which she’s influenced and encouraged my creativity. I love how she takes kick ass photos of me.

She shares a lot but she also keeps a lot to herself, and she understands when it’s time to let up a little.

Thanks, baby girl. You’re something else.

Cathy ZielskeWhat it’s like to grow up on a blog, a thoughtful essay by Aidan Zielske

79 Comments on “What it’s like to grow up on a blog, a thoughtful essay by Aidan Zielske”

  1. #1
    Cynthia B.

    She must get some of her writing ability from her mom. And yes, I haven’t met her, but I definitely root for her – and for her family. 🙂
    Beautiful words, Aidan!

  2. #4

    Wow – what a beautiful tribute…

    How fortunate we all are to witness a great Mom/daughter relationship that is real and authentic!

  3. #5

    It has been a joy to watch you grow up, Aidan. My son is one day younger than you, so I have been rooting for you right along with my son as you have grown the past 15+ years. At times when it was hard, you and your Mom were an encouragement. At times when it was going smoothly, and I was just enjoying that stage; I was watching your Mom’s struggles and my gratitude grew even more. Thank you for letting your Mom share a little of your life. You go, girl. There are so many people out in the world that haven’t even met you that want the best for you, and that is a good thing….a very good thing.

  4. #6

    Well written and insightful. I loved hearing Aiden’s voice on your blog. I look forward to future guest blogging from her. Thanks to the both of you for sharing over the years…. It has been fun watching you grow up and always keeping it real. Tena

  5. #8

    You are indeed a blessed lady, CZ, and I truly hope my children are as remarkable and feel the same one day. Many blessings to Aidan as she embarks on adulthood! 🙂

  6. #9

    I believe my introduction to Aidan was your layout — her unsmiling picture, her words “There better be color film in the camera!”
    Thank you for sharing your beautiful daughter with us — and thank you to Aidan for “being shared”!

    1. #9.1
      Cathy Zielske

      Oh Loydene! Yes. That layout. To this day, I still love it. She was such a sassafras back in those days.

  7. #10

    Wow! How beautiful. Thank you, Aidan, for sharing your perspective so lovingly, and of course for sharing your mom and your life with all of us! I hope it feels good (or at least not bad) to have people out there in the universe cheering you on! You certainly have a big fan here in North Carolina.

    Thanks again for sharing.

    With gratitude and friendship,

  8. #11

    I hope our son feels that way with my scrapbooking his life since day one with photos and layouts.

    Aidan is a special young lady.

  9. #12

    What a great girl you have, Cathy! No doubt you beam with pride. I’ve followed your work since the first time I saw it in Simple Scrapbooks, so I’m one of those ones who has watched your little ones grow up. Just recently when I was reading your blog I was thinking about how much they’ve changes in looks over the years. Sometimes I’ll see a picture of Cole and think he looks like Dan in that picture or I’ll see one of Aidan and think “that looks like Cathy at that age”. Guess that comes from all the years of following your work. I appreciate that you’ve shared so much of your design skills and family over the years. You’re the one person who’s kept my interest in scrapbooking and memory keeping alive over the years. Thanks for what you do, for being real and who you are.

  10. #13
    Stacey Harrington

    So, blink blink, now that I can see again… wow, Cathy – you’ve done such a great job with her. Thank you Aidan for sharing what’s it’s like on the other side of the lens. And, you most certainly do have people cheering for you all over the world. You’re a pretty special young lady and I feel privileged to have watched you grow up. You are destined for great things, and I can’t wait to read all about them 🙂

  11. #14
    Mary R

    so many years of watching Aiden become what she is today…thank you for sharing her with us and Aiden, thank you for allowing that to happen.

  12. #16

    wow Cathy. Just wow. We are always proud of our children, but it means so much when they are proud of us.

  13. #18

    Enjoyed Aidan’s post and have enjoyed watching her grow up, a sweet young lady. Thank you for sharing.

  14. #19

    Definitely has her mothers gift for writing. Im one of those people who don’t know her but only through the blog and am cheering for her.

  15. #21

    i have been following your blog since I attended the 2006 CKU Album event in Chicago. It was then that I became aware of scrapbooking celebrities. Who knew? Oh sweet Aiden, your mom is, indeed, a celebrity. Keep rocking. Your future is bright.

  16. #22

    That is a lovely post, Aidan – thoughtfully and beautifully written!
    Thank you for sharing your perspective with us.

    *passes a box of tissues to proud mom Cathy*…
    – Lee

  17. #23
    Omayra Ortiz

    Hey, Ms. Aidan, you’re truly something else… and then some. And for you, Mom… the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. THANK YOU, both.

  18. #25
    Kim Woods

    Very sweet for sure! She’s a doll and I can totally relate to a few of the things she mentions because I’m asked to delete photos and get protests when my camera is out but mostly they love the fact that I can, do and will take good photos of them 🙂

  19. #28

    Beautifully written. Loved the content but darn, your girl has got some skill with her writing flow. I have a rock solid relationship with my mum and I so love how your daughter expressed your relationship. Thank you Aidan.

  20. #30

    Proud momma moment right here! Aiden I have loved your mom’s style forever and I have enjoyed watching you grow up along with my own kids of similar ages! Thanks for sharing your life!!

  21. #32
    Shawna Zervos

    You’re words are exquisite! Although I do not have a blog or brand, I am also a scrap booking Mama. It is my hope that my girls feel as open as you do to the sharing and that like you, they grow up to be lovely, both inside and out! Thank you for opening the door to your world and allowing us to share in you successes and trials alike.

  22. #35

    Wow, how cool to hear the other side of the story 🙂 And that fourth picture down – with her long hair and bangs – she looks like a model! Beautiful inside and out, it sounds like!

  23. #36

    Thank you to Aiden and to Cole for letting your mum share as much as she does. Your mum is a role model in so many ways…. mainly because she keeps it real. I have enjoyed *watching* you guys grow over the years and believe it or not, have taken a few lessons to apply to my kids 🙂 Oh and in terms of scrapbooking as well! And that pic of you and Ali in NZ gear..? You might just have made us kiwis feel like honorary aunties just that little bit 😀

    1. #36.1
      Cathy Zielske

      Isn’t that a rad photo? We took it in 2007 down in Wellington, NZ. Such a GORGEOUS country, you have. Plus, Neil Finn!

  24. #40
    Melissa O.

    Great post, Aiden. 🙂 I love your mom’s blog because of the fact that she’s real, & even when she posts about you guys she’s respectful of your opinions & feelings (see the “Teen Privacy” label for one thing). She encourages me & makes me laugh everyday. She’s not afraid to laugh at herself when she’s had a total duh moment, call herself out when she’s in the wrong, throw caution to the wind & just be silly when the mood strikes her (even to the embarrassment of her husband & children, lol), or give herself an “AMAZE-BALLS!” after a job well done. She’s not afraid to be HER, even with all of us watching. I’m certain not all of us are as encouraging to her in return, but she doesn’t let that stop her from being who she is. She loves what she does, loves the 3 of you, loves sharing her ideas with us, & is genuinely thrilled when both her real & her virtual family succeeds. You can see all of that in this blog. I love that about her & that’s why I keep reading it.

    I have joked on here many times that it feels like she & I are sisters from another Mr. Hopefully that’s never sounded creepy, especially given we’ve never actually met. I just mean that from what I can tell we have a lot in common. We have similar ways of seeing things, similar ways of reacting to the tough moments in life, a similar sense of humor, and both of us love being creative and sharing that love with others. As Rory Cochran once said in Dazed & Confused, “She [is] a hip, hip, hip lady, man.” 🙂 It is no surprise to me that she has raised a hip, hip, hip lady herself. It has been very cool watching you grow up on this blog & I wish you all the luck in college & beyond.

  25. #42

    Wow, Aiden, what a great writer you are. I loved this post.
    I got a chance to talk to you for a moment when you were at CKU in Chicago, with your family. Even way back then I was taken with how articulate you were.

    Cathy, I always think of Aiden as still little so when I see her all grown up I gasp because I realize that means my girls are growing up too. Sigh….time goes by way too quickly.

  26. #45
    Christine K.

    The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. I loved hearing her perspective.
    Aidan…..you have done your Mama proud!

  27. #47

    I’m so glad she knows that there are people out there rooting for her that don’t even know her and she isn’t wigged-out by it. I had to force myself not to contact my neice, who is at the same school, and tell her “go find this girl and make sure she finds her way. Be her older, senior friend. Help her navagate on a big campus.” I didn’t do it, but boy did I want to–It struck me as overly creepy in a stalker kind of way. Turns out, there was no need. Your baby girl is learning to fly all by herself!

  28. #48

    Awesome! Sometimes we (mothers) don’t realize the effects we have on our children. We always hope for the best and have no intent of harm. And then one day, when they are almost grown, they surprise us and make us realize how much we love them and wonderful they are!

    This is very touching and sweet!

  29. #51
    Kim Smith

    Aidan, thank you for your eloquent post. Getting a glimpse at your perspective is a true treat for your Mom’s fans, especially as we have watched you and Cole grow up. We’re in your corner and know you are destined for great things!

    Cathy, thank you for always keeping it real and showing us that we all have stories to tell and that we should tell them. Thanks for nudging us along the way with your designs, tutorials and classes. Thanks for being you!

  30. #53
    Blayne White

    Lovely! Aindan, thank you for sharing. I, too, struggle with sharing my kids online and I try to be very respectful and sparing with the photos. Especially with my son who doesn’t like it and I have to get his permission before sharing anything of his. It seems you’ve got a great head on your shoulders! Best of luck!

    Cathy, you always crack me up with your zingers and I love your fresh, honest style. What a beautiful family you have and thank you for sharing over the years.

    1. #53.1
      Cathy Zielske

      Thanks, Blayne.

      Aidan should post here more often. The number of hits this post has gotten? WAY more than I get on any average day!

  31. #55

    I’ve been following your blog for many years. Thanks for sharing snippets of your life and family. A shout out from across the globe – shaz from Singapore.

    1. #55.1
      Cathy Zielske

      Hello Shaz from Singapore. Damn. I love that people from all over the globe come to read.

  32. #57
    Sarah K

    This was a great post. Although, I disagree that she wasn’t the child of a celebrity. You are definitely a celeb in the scrappin’ world! You started being my scrapbook “idol” when I was Aidan’s age – I even attended CKU Minneapolis my freshman year of college. Now I am 30 with 2 kiddos of my own. A lot has changed in scrapbooking the last 10 years, but I am glad you are still going strong!

  33. #58

    As a mom of a toddler daughter I’ve often wondered about what her perspective will be someday. I really LOVE Aidan’s words. You have truly raised a beautiful daughter inside and out–good job, Mom! And, thanks to Aidan for sharing her words and for allowing you to share parts of her life. I’m pinning this post and will refer back to it often.

  34. #59

    Aidan is exactly who I thought she would be. Watching her grow up from behind your lens and through your words, it feels like we all know her. And sure enough, she’s intelligent, beautiful inside AND out, edgy, and loves her Mom. My biggest memory of her was way back when she said “Mom, there had better be colored film in that camera!”. BUT I wasn’t expecting for her to be so great with the pen…I should have. Aidan you ROCK!

    1. #59.1
      Cathy Zielske

      I love that you and some other commenters on this post remember that layout. Sigh. Those were the days!

  35. #60

    Wow! That was beautiful to read. I have littles right now, but it my hope that they share a similar attitude about their mama blogging as your sweet intelligent daughter has.

  36. #61
    Susan Pang

    Love it!!! After all their stubbornness to not cooperate for the photo, it’s nice to read how deep down inside….it isn’t that bad. Just being teenagers! Been following you since the magazine days. As always, rooting for you and your family. Thanks for all the great reads and ideas!

  37. #65

    Cathy. Girl. What a wonderful, fabulous, inspirational mother you have been and continue to be to your children. Not just blowin’ smoke up your skirt. Look at this girl you have raised! Seriously, good on ya. (And no, I’m not Australian. Just an odd Texan)

    Aidan, you. ROCK. Fo real. Stay the course and there’s no stopping you!

  38. #66

    I always wondered why there weren’t more posts like this written. I figure blogging’s been around long enough now that there have to be some “kids” that are old enough to have their own opinions on the matter. Definitely interesting to read about, and yes, it sounds like you’ve got a pretty great daughter on your hands.

  39. #70

    Lovely, lovely, lovely you are your mother’s daughter. A beautiful young woman with a great heart and future. Thanks for sharing.

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