Beached (Whale)

“The sea does not reward those who are too anxious, too greedy, or too impatient. To dig for treasures shows not only impatience and greed, but lack of faith. Patience, patience, patience, is what the sea teaches. Patience and faith. One should lie empty, open, choiceless as a beach—waiting for a gift from the sea.” -Anne Morrow Lindbergh

It’s possible that all the relaxing by the ocean all last week has bleached the words out of my brain, so before going into too much detail about our annual family reunion with Drew’s mom, brother, sister and her family, I’m going to gently ease back into the land-locked world with some pictures.

This year, the beach looked like this:

With tons of glorious, beautiful, hysterical cousin love at every turn: (Ok, ok, and maybe a few freakoutswah! over who got to sit in the big chair or look at that book, but you know, mostly glorious! cousin! love!)

From Ashley

From Ashley

Also from Ashley

Also from Ashley

We had many dance parties:

And by ‘we’, I mean them. I pretty much did a lot of this:

Because really, that’s the best thing in the world when you’re 31 weeks pregnant and close to an ocean.

There was a sunrise(ish) walk with Asher at the National Seashore:

And home cooked meals every day, and late night conversations under scratchy blue blankets, and profound inappropriateness courtesy of Cards Against Humanity, and movie time in that cool darkness that can only be claimed after a long day on the beach, and bad jokes, and just love. It’s cheesy and true and deep and fabulous. We feel really lucky to have a family that we love to travel with and this concentrated week slightly makes up for the miles between us. We keep this trip simple on purpose, tumbling from home to beach to pool to home every day, trading sandy bathing suits for PJs, avoiding anything that would involve a crowd or a line or shoes, blatantly stealing time for naps, and just existing together for seven days. It’s so, so, so good.

Heck yes the Waltons travel with their slippers.

Here’s to the beach, to family vacations, and to floating, weightless, in a gigantic ocean.

Muah.

 

 

 

 

Lately.

The fireflies are out. They make Asher catch his breath.

So, apparently, are the bears:

And because my obsession with wildlife signs seems to just be the recurring theme for the summer, I’ll tell you that I did look up the bear (for anyone that’s interested, I do all of this ‘looking up’ in a book called Medicine Cards, it’s similar to tarot cards. I don’t take any of this as a gospel, but do often find some food for thought in the various messages that are associated with the animals, so no harm, no foul. I’d rather read wildlife signs than my horoscope, keeps things spicy. And I do love a good sign.) Annnnnnyway, so I looked up the bear after this one lumbered through our yard yesterday and here’s the piece that I pulled out to think about this week: 

If we choose to believe that there are many questions to life, we must also believe that the answers to these questions reside within us…The Bear…indicates that you have to search within to fulfill your hopes and aspirations, or to find solutions to your problems. Bear is concerned with the reaching of goals. Just as a bear withdraws from the outside world when it hibernates, so should you withdraw from your entanglements and seek refuge within…

I’ve rattled on about pregnancy enough for a while, so I’ll keep this to a minimum, but I do think that being pregnant is a strange mix of being both a very public and profoundly private event. The growing belly is a siren to the world, announcing this intimate time and inviting strangers in, but there’s also the quiet relationship with the baby and the deep solitude that comes in that communion. For me, I like this bear’s reminder about using this internal time to seek resolution and relish turning within. There’s something comforting about remembering to think of this time as a kind of hibernation, isn’t there? I told you I love a good sign.

***

Company. My stepmother in particular has always referred to house guests as company, and I just love that. We kept good company last week with a visit from Drew’s mom and aunt (Jo Ellen–JoJo to the under 10 set–is on the left and Aunt Gail is on the right), enjoying just being together. The ladies took in all that Charlottesville and the surrounding area has to offer during the day and we would reconvene at night for the simple pleasure of just hanging out. Drew’s family is exceptionally good at telling childhood stories which are all uniquely funny, so even though I know a lot of them, it never gets old to laugh along. I think it’s their Louisiana heritage, but the Walton family did not shy away from finding a good time growing up, and we’re all the better for it.

***

I ate three watermelons last week. In theory, we shared them, but the truth is, I ate almost all of them. My conscience fares better if I just suck it up and announce these things publicly.

***

Asher had sixth disease last week which mainly meant a high-ish fever, an eventual rash, and some extra long snuggling time. It didn’t really affect his mood much, and he’s going to finally return to school tomorrow as it took a while to hit the 24-hours-with-no-fever mark. We’re so relieved that he’s on the mend and that it wasn’t anything more serious, and I have to cautiously admit that there’s a certain super mom feeling that accompanies a sick kiddo. We haven’t had to deal with it much in Asher’s three years, but being able to rock him with a cool washcloth and know that, for him, snuggling close to a parent is the best medicine is a sweet feeling in the midst of the concern. Mostly we’re glad to see him back in action though. I knew he was better when I woke up to him poking me in the ribs at 5:50 in the morning yesterday and whispering in my face, “Mama? Do dinosaurs have freckles?”

***

That’s the wrap up. We took in that wild super moon the other night, making a little more noise than needed in case that bear was still hanging around, and marveling at how clearly we could see each other in the darkness. The turtle is still hanging around in the flower bed, and Asher has given her the completely unexpected and totally unique name of Turtley. It’s summatime indeed.

Beach Baby.

We’ve returned from our annual Walton/Beck family beach retreat and it was…as much as you can fit into the word “wonderful”, it was all that and a bag of chips.  (Actually about 10 bags of Zapps chips, and my bathroom scale is groaning under the proof.)

Here’s a brief schedule of events on any given day of our trip:

Wake up
Go to beach
Nap
Go to beach
Family Dinner
Crawl into bed with visions of sand fairies dancing in your head

Awesome, right?  We are not burdened with distractions, shopping, anything…it’s all about lounging, digging, splashing, snacking, laughing, and just being together.  You know how you mostly always need a vacation after a vacation?  Not so in this case; I don’t think that it would be possible to come home from a trip any more relaxed or refreshed, and with a suitcase of clean laundry to boot.

Much like our Easter trip to the farm, Asher blossomed in the presence of his cousins, starting the week as a fearful baby who was concerned about the sand, about his parents holding other children, about being somewhere new, and ending the week helping Drew dig his annual Big Hole in the sand, laughing as waves crashed on him, and rolling on the floor and laughing with the cousins.  It’s enough to make (these two sappy, dorky) parents choke up a little.  There’s a little boy in there.

This week is really special for us every year because it’s hard to be a flight away from family that we love so much, so being able to be with Drew’s mom and brother and sister and her family is not only really fun, but it’s an opportunity to reconnect and feel close despite the miles between us.  We mostly keep it light, but those moments of serious conversation, of laughing so hard, of watching our children play together and knowing that they’re going to be old together one day…well, it’s just good for the soul, you know?  It’s a good reminder of the sweetness of family and the joy of being able to love and be loved.  It’s just so good.

So, pictures!  You know I’ve got about 300 (literally) but here are a few…
The view from our balcony:

Sunset:

Baby pool on the beach in the shade=good times all around.

Jeff brought a YOLO board which we all had a good time learning to paddle on.  Standing up and paddling in the ocean is no joke, but it was a lot of fun once we got it.  My time on the YOLO board came to a close when I was asked if I saw the 3-4′ shark that was swimming next to me as I was paddling on it.  No, I did not.  Excuse me while I go barf.  


How gorgeous is that water?  As a girl who grew up on Atlantic Coast beaches, I still can’t get over the Gulf’s clear beauty.

Our friend Chuck came by with his twin boys Jackson and Aiden and we even managed to get all of the kids to sit still (for exactly 6 seconds) for a picture:

(L-R: Caroline, Charlotte, Asher, Aiden, Jackson)

Drew’s Big Hole.  Why does Drew dig the Big Hole every year?  Hard to say, except that it brings him (eh, the children! It’s for the kids!) great satisfaction.  When asked about using this hole digging talent to create something other than a Big Hole, Drew counters with, “nah, that doesn’t sound very fun”.  Big Hole it is.

The Beck ladies:

Cousins:

All in all, it was a wonderful week.  I loved watching Asher especially, which I know is probably incredibly shocking to all of you, but it wasn’t just because I could watch him staring at paint drying and enjoy myself, this time it was because he was such an inspiration.  Toddlers can’t ever seem to satiate their inherent curiosity, and so even though Asher didn’t like the feeling of the sand when he first stepped on it, he couldn’t keep himself from stepping on it a second, third, fourth…time until he found that it was actually pretty fun stuff.  I shy away from so much if I think that I might not like it, but watching Asher forge ahead into all that life has to offer, well it’s a good reminder that I need to keep trying things and pushing myself a little more because there’s a whole lot of fun to be had out there.  Seeing him confidently walking around at the end of the week like he owned his little slice of the world was a great reminder that we are much more able than we often give ourselves credit for, and that it’s possible to change immeasurably over the course of a week if we allow ourselves to.  Well, all of that and he’s crazy cute in swim trunks, but mostly the inspiration bit.  I love that boy.

Hello Summer!

More Red Stick Ramblins

So I told you it was a big trip and it was going to take more than one post to sum it all up.  This is me taking a stab at sharing some of the adventures in 4 parts:

Part one: Family, family, family.  We love our nieces, and they are seriously going to give Asher a run for his money.  Not to name any names here, but Charlotte, I’m talking about you.  It also does our hearts so good to see Asher with his cousins, and snuggled up with his grandparents and aunts and uncles.  And ya’ll, Asher knows.  He knows who is people are, and we had a number of moments where Asher nuzzled into his Grandpa or Grandma thoroughly rejecting any advances from his boring old parents.

Part Two: Drew loves the outdoors, something that he gets from his dad.  He loves the snow and the mountains, he loves a steep climb, a good long view, and the changing seasons, but at his heart, I think he really loves the waters of Louisiana.  If you want to see Drew get excited, put a fishing rod in his hand and tell him there is a lake nearby.  Drew and his dad got to spend an afternoon fishing and seeing the store that Drew’s paternal grandfather owned in a nearby town.  We also took in the urban outdoors with a quick trip to New Orleans one afternoon for po boys and flower laden balconies and the general sense of abandon that comes with NOLA’s big heart.

Part Three: Purple and Gold, honey child.  We watched those LSU Tigers with Drew’s mom’s side of the family last Saturday, and while the Tigers didn’t get a W up on the board, I thoroughly enjoyed an afternoon of gumbo and first and second and once removed and any other kind of cousin that we could round up, and felt like I fit right in with the purple and gold shirt that Drew’s aunt Christie gave me.  While I understand the game relatively well, and while I deeply hope that Asher doesn’t want to play football (I just heard Drew sigh in exasperation), I will tell you that I mostly like football because it’s an excuse to get together.  So even though the Tigers couldn’t pull one out, I thought the afternoon was a success, and just so so loved seeing Drew and (one day) Asher in his element.  It’s tough for a Louisiana boy to find solidarity all the way up here in Virginia, so you know that he was happy.

Part Four: Some nuts and bolts…This trip was also epic because Asher came down with pink eye, got his first serious fever (unrelated to the pink eye) and we ran into a little trouble with the airport.  Brace yourself for a quick rant here, but Delta!  What’s up! You’re terrible! Some of you may remember that the last time we flew to Baton Rouge, we wound up renting a car and driving from Atlanta to BR when our flight was canceled.  This time we got delays coming and going, and while we were stoked to get an extra day with our family, we were supposed to be home by 2pm on Sunday, and found ourselves walking through our front door at 7pm on Monday.  In the end though, this is a story about redemption because they gave us meal vouchers which we didn’t have time to spend, and so after picking up our bags from baggage claim, Drew marched over to a newsstand by the front door and asked if they accepted the vouchers.  They said yes, and Drew and I…well, it’s not a pretty thing to say, but we bought 50.00 worth of snacks before walking out the front door with our heads held high.  We have a lifetime supply of popcorn, chips, beef jerky, gum, mints, dark chocolate, and some delicious little pretzel chips if anyone’s in the mood.  As we were standing out on the curb waiting for the shuttle to the parking lot holding our child, suitcases, a stroller, and um, a bag of groceries, Drew looked at me and said, “Yeah.  We just did that.  We’re those people.”

Whatever.

I am going to do everything in my power to never fly on Delta again, and also to spread the word that our pediatrician (the one that made a house call last night for Asher’s lingering cold, that one.) is the coolest man alive.  He doctored over the phone, kept us calm, and joked with us that we had just learned one of the cold hard truths about parenthood: we pay for past life transgressions by attempting to go on “vacation” with children.  Ahh well, in the end, it worked out beautifully and Asher was his usual cool self, despite his warm head.

Are you still reading this?  Then I’ll finish with a picture that I think sums it up best and say this: We love you Deep South.  We love the family that you house, we love that it’s 80 degrees in October, we love that you love to be loved.  See you soon, mmkay?

Want to know what happiness looks like?

Hard to tell, but that’s the little butterbean sitting on my lap the first morning that I arrived in Louisiana.  It was a trip of epic proportions involving everything from boudin balls to pink eye to an extra day in the BR courtesy of Delta and its faulty plane parts.

Alls I can say is that I love my Louisiana family, and this one’s going to take more than one post.  Oh, and I’ll also throw this out there: Asher is the world’s raddest airplane baby of all time.  As far as he can tell, airplanes are just noisy cabins where you wave at all your new friends and delight in the constant stream of snacks that your parents are forcing on offering you.  What a guy.  More to come on that and our adventures…

Home Alone.

My boys are in Louisiana today.  And tomorrow.  For the rest of the week.  Nothing woke me up other than a little sunshine peeking through the curtains, I showered to the sound of a silent house, I read a book over a cup of coffee and cleaned out a couple of my drawers.  Clearly I’m taking indulgent self portraits, I think I may have a wine date with a dear friend this evening, and I have delusions of grandeur about the amount of cleaning that I’ll be able to get done in the next 48 hours before jumping on a plane to see our Southern Family and get my two favorite men back in my arms.  I didn’t think I would, but I cried when we said goodbye in the airport.  That made me feel like a mom, like a woman, and kind of like a sissy, but a sweet sissy.  Right now I’m simultaneously thinking about how much I’m missing Asher especially, while also thinking about how cool it is to have the tiniest bit of breathing room.  Leaving work and thinking, “I can do whatever I want with my time this evening” is worth ten hours at a spa.  When I was about to give birth, I either read or was told that women not only give birth to a child, but we also birth guilt.  That Mom Guilt is potent stuff…all we want is 10 minutes to ourselves, and then we get it, and all we can think about is getting back to the kiddo and wishing that we just had a moment to ourselves.  Funny business, this motherhood.  I’m trying not to squander my time alone with useless guilt, and am instead making myself dream of something delicious for dinner, smiling to myself about the wonderful time that we had in North Carolina this past weekend (more to come on that!) and focusing on how cool it is that I have an amazing husband and child to miss and look forward to seeing in a few short days.  And speaking of that amazing husband, how cool is it that Drew is traveling with Asher?  Drew’s a bonafied rockstar.

Ok.  Enough time with the computer, I have time! On my own!  I gotta go!

And…we’re back!

If you’ve been wondering where we’ve been, we headed to the beach for a looooong and delightful vacation.  We started last Thursday and flew to Amelia Island (yep, you guessed it…my namesake) where my father and his family grew up.  We stayed with my aunt and uncle Mike and Leisha, and got to see pretty much all of my dad’s family.  I can’t believe that this is true, but it had been 10 years or more since I had seen a lot of this side of my family, so it was really special to bring both Drew and Asher home to a place that I spent many a summer as a child.  We gathered to celebrate my Grandfather’s 89th birthday and got all of the cousins together.  On Saturday we jumped into a car and drove the six hours from Amelia Island to Perdido Key, Florida to meet up with Drew’s mom Jo Ellen, his sister Ashley and her family, and Drew’s younger brother Neal.  We take this trip every year, and I have to say that we are really hitting our stride.  This year we managed to get in a minimum of 12 hours of sleep every day, we spent our time almost exclusively on the beach, by the pool or curled up in the condo, eating all of our meals in and heading to bed with the rising of the moon.  We slept better than we sleep at home (Asher had his own “room” in the walk-in closet in our room and that seemed to suit him just fine) and just generally loved having so much relaxing time as a family.  Jo Ellen had the inspired idea to bring baby pools for the kids, so we filled them every day and sat under the tent on the beach with Asher splashing around in his own private (and safer) ocean.  He was content to sit and splash for quite a long time, safe from sun and waves, but getting to take in his first week at the beach with a big sandy smile.  There are a lot of pictures and videos from the trip, but I’ve chosen a few of my favorites to share and am happy now to be back home with a headfull of happy memories from a wonderful week away.

Here are some pictures from the trip to Fernandina (Amelia Island).  A special note to the pitcture of me and Asher with my father and grandfather, his great grandfather.

And some pics from our time in Perdido Key: (The girls are our nieces, Charlotte, on the left and Caroline, on the right)

home.

We are back from a really excellent trip to our southern home! The picture above was snapped on the plane as we were being bathed in the gorgeous red sky sunset light that welcomed us back to Virginia yesterday evening, and it sums up nicely the peace that we felt as we touched down. Tonight my mind is rife with all of the smiles and big laughs, and importantly, the gentle though strong feeling of bringing Asher home to the rest of his family for the first time. I don’t claim to bring any new insights to this parenting gig, so please forgive me for continuing to echo what so many others have said, but there is nothing quite like seeing the people that once held you as a child snuggling on your own baby. This unexpected and powerful sensation is one that continues to grip Drew and me as we watch Asher with our families, and it’s that feeling that I’m holding on to now. There is a lot to say about the trip (and even more pictures!) but for tonight, I’m just going to bask in the glow of a full heart and quiet house.

Oh, and how was the plane ride, you ask? Well that is a bit of a story that involves canceled flights, snow on the ground in 49 of the 50 states, a rented minivan, and a kid that nailed it. In a nutshell, he did great! More to follow…

Leavin’ on a jet plane…

Ahhhh, the good ‘ol days:

This is a picture of Drew blissfully sleeping away the hours that are needed to fly to Baton Rouge.  I took this picture last year, unaware that there was a baby just beginning to take hold in my belly.  Tomorrow we are making this same flight again, only this time instead of boarding the plane with neck pillows and engrossing books, we are arming ourselves with preferred rattles, teething rings, gas drops, and to be perfectly candid, a shirt that will provide lightening fast access to the best comfort ‘weapon’ that I’ve got in my arsenal.  (Don’t tell the ladies in my local LeLeche League that I just referred to nursing as warfare!)  Oh, and crossed fingers.  We are definitely crossing our fingers.

I have always had a fair amount of patience with crying babies on airplanes.  They’re little, they’re flying, and to be perfectly honest, there are a whole lot of adults that would like to be screaming as an airplane takes off and lands, so I think it’s easy to understand the impulse.  I am considerably less patient with the kids that are old enough to know how to tie their shoes, but don’t seem to know that what they’re kicking is the backside of the person sitting in front of them, but we’ve got a couple of more years before crossing that bridge with Asher.  I am hoping that we will be on a plane mostly full of understanding souls, should Asher decide that a bus is his preferred mode of travel.  Well no, what I’m hoping is that he’s cooler than the other side of the pillow tomorrow, and that we’ll land in Baton Rouge wondering what we were so worried about.  And, regardless of how the flight may go, any thoughts about it will quickly be forgotten as we see all of the people that we love so well in Louisiana!

We’re so excited to be getting to bring Asher to Baton Rouge for the first time in the midst of all of the excitement surrounding the Saint’s victory, and Mardi Gras and cannot wait to see everyone.  Although Drew hasn’t lived in Baton Rouge for many years, he carries the prevading Louisiana sense of laissez le bon temps rouler into our life daily, and will always be a bayou boy at heart.  We can’t wait to share this wonderful part of our life with Asher!

Now, back to crossing those fingers…

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Great News!

Drew on his graduation day clicking his heels as he exited Thomas Jefferson's rotunda at UVA

Drew on his graduation day clicking his heels as he exited Thomas Jefferson's rotunda at UVA

Drew called this morning to let me know that he was pulled aside at work when he got in today and told that he has been nominated for UVA’s New Nurse of the Year award!!  UVA is a huge health system with hundreds of nurses, so this is really special.  I am absurdly proud of Drew, the nomination is a wonderful honor and very well deserved.  We’ll find out on October 13th who will be named, but in our house, he’s been the best nurse around for a while now.