February, 2015

You know what Al Green says…if the spirit moves you, let me groove you, let’s get it onnnnnnnn”. 

And while I’m not coming on to you, anonymous reader somewhere out there, let’s just say that the spirit is moving me again and I’m going to get [the blog] on for a little while. I miss having a record of our life to look back on, one that my kids won’t have to wade through my private journals to one day see.

So here it is, February 2015. Lucas is 17 months old and affectionately known as a fat hog, the hog, hogzilla, one who hogs around, and a baby hog at the hog trough. He is a fierce spirit and a tour de force in our lives, laughing hard, hitting hard, walking hard, exploring hard, crying hard–he is determined to leave his mark thoroughly and with extreme charm. By contrast, Asher is almost like a feather or a beam of light. He is in that phase where a lot of the firsts are intellectual ones, exploring his sense of humor, exploring feelings and bad words and friend dynamics and counting by fives and social boundaries. He is funny, all of his teachers comment on his humor, but best of all–he knows when he’s being funny and you can see it in his little crescent moon eyes.

The boys are figuring out how to be brothers. Asher can be in another room and make a silly noise and Lucas will laugh from the kitchen without looking up. In the way that the older-younger sibling dynamic works, Lucas is inherently tuned in to Asher’s movement and ways, confidently orbiting around his big brother and his big brother’s things and sounds and mannerisms. Lucas already shows signs of being significantly more independent than Asher was or is–Lucas is content to busy himself with the things that interest him, and Asher wants always, always to be by someone’s side. It can be overwhelming to have a five-year-old glued to us, but in my best moments, I’m charmed by that too. Currently Asher wants to give lots of hugs and kisses, and he has a way of snuggling against us that comes awfully close to feeling like he’s willing his body to melt into ours. He is a gentle spot in our bustling world, full of laughter and noise, but fundamentally sweet in the way that he’s taking on life.

As for the grown ups, another year has gone by, and Drew and I are squarely in our thirties. Maybe I don’t even know what that means, but here we are, and it’s good. I once sent my dad a card when I was in elementary or middle school with that old adage, wherever you go, there you are on the front. At the time, I didn’t really understand its meaning, but it seemed like a profound thing to say which seemed like a good objective for a card, at least in the mind of 10-year-old. Now those are words that I live by, reminding myself that I am my own common denominator in my life’s equation and shocked on a daily bases that somehow, inexplicably, every day, we are here. I remember my mom once telling me that one of the inequities of aging is that at some point the reflection in the mirror doesn’t match the image or feeling of yourself that you carry around with you. While the mirror hasn’t outed me just yet, I completely resonate with the feeling when it comes to how I feel inside versus how life all appears to be happening on the outside. I’m starting to think that the internal life of adults is ordered in reverse dog years. It seems that we are all, at a minimum, 10-15 years younger in the way that we commune with our internal monologues and how we feel, and yet, in the eyes of our children (and the IRS)? We’re bonafied. Real life, breathing, walking, legit grown ups. Some of you might even look at me and see a grown up. (Don’t be fooled.)

It seems like that’s the gist right now. Reconciling the outside with the inside. Walking around feeling like we’re all playing make-believe to a certain extent, bumping into each other and saying, do you feel 33 or 36 or 40 or 43? Do you know what those ages are supposed to mean? My girls and I talk about this feeling–not so much an internal-external imbalance, but just a sense that we’re driving around in one life, bundled up and concerning ourselves with child care coverage, while our internal lives are 17 and lounging with tanned legs next to a body of water somewhere, talking big about what we’ll be when we grow up. We talk about this universal feeling and wonder if the internal dog years will ever meet up with the external life years. My sense is that no, they probably won’t, but perhaps like the crinkling skin around our eyes, this becomes one more thing that we learn to graciously make peace with.

I wrote this post a week ago and now there is snow falling down heavily outside the window. Drew just put a log on the fire, we’re listening to Sam Cook on the record player, and both children are blissfully, quietly sleeping. Although I would skip every single cold, grey day of winter if given a choice, this rare moment of tucked in warmth is reminding me that winter is not all that bad. Perhaps it too is wondering what the hell is going on out here, because inside Winter is planning its summer garden and laying on a blanket under a warm sun somewhere. Maybe Winter is like the rest of us, trying to make peace between reality and fantasy, muscling through the the day dream and the commute.

And so, that’s the quick news from our little hill. Two parents, one hog, and one boy. Back at it.

the other side of the rainbow

1. Daylight Savings came, and it’s not dark at bedtime anymore. Asher is plagued with fears about bad guys and unlocked doors and the very real feeling that comes along with realizing what it means to feel vulnerable, without the words to say, I feel vulnerable. He can’t fall asleep.

We bend around him in his small bed at night and move through two books, two stories: Once upon a time, there was a boy named Asher, his little brother Lucas and their big dog Louie. One day, Asher rode is shiny red bike up the side of the biggest, brightest rainbow he had ever seen…

We wake up with him in our bed almost every night. He slips in silently most nights and curls against one of us. I wake up with my head craned up against the pillow, slowly realizing that there’s a tuft of red hair pressing into my nostril or Drew’s elbow against my rib because there’s been a move on our bedtime real estate. It’s kind of obnoxious, this new habit, but the motivation is alarmingly sincere. He’s afraid of being by himself, and there we both are, being so quiet and comfortable, with plenty of room between us.

Why do you and Papa get to sweep together but I have to sweep awone?

***

2. The summer before we got married, Drew took the MCAT and was volunteering in the hospital to pad his Med School applications while we were living on my family’s farm in North Carolina. He’s kind of a silent soldier in the way that he does these things–at the time I remember him studying vigilantly in my father’s barn for his test, tucked into a make-shift desk after his labor-intensive days as a carpenter. He would write in his endearingly tidy cursive as he took notes under an industrial wall-mount lamp that my father had once used to carve birds under. Ten years later, the image is stark and rich to me still: notebooks open, the Carter Family warbling about the unbroken circle in the background, the rough barn walls and dust that filled that living space, and Drew hunched into the corner of it all, setting his own standard. Drew would make a cup of coffee and get to it, learning all of the things, silently filling his mind and his notebook, preparing to make good on the hundreds of times that he had told people that he was going to be a doctor.

One day during that year, he came home from his volunteer shift at the hospital and said that he wasn’t going to get the kind of medical experience that he longed for as a doctor. (To the doctors that might be reading this: you rule and we love you. This is not a statement about doctors, this is a statement about Drew. Carry on brilliant life-savers!) He had scored well on the MCAT and was preparing his applications, but he knew that he wasn’t going to get what he wanted from that. He said so clearly, so surely, in his perfect Drew way, I want to be a nurse. And so we reset the compass and my tall drink of water set his sights on nursing.

***

3. Lucas doesn’t sleep well either. He’s eight months old, and maybe like his big brother, he’s realizing that the world is too big of a place to spend your nights by yourself. Or maybe he’s eating all of the solid foods and they’re turning his stomach into a tornado at 1:00 a.m. Or maybe he just wakes up and it’s dark and WTF WHERE ALL MY PEOPLE AT. Or maybe it’s a Lucas-ism, something that we’ll talk about casually as another bread crumb of our family lore. Honey, you never did like sleeping at night. Babies are deeply mysterious and charming little creatures.

Though macabre, perhaps, I have been reminded too often in my freshman years of motherhood that we are inviting in a kind of vulnerability when we add Parenthood to our life CVs that is hard to stomach. After losing a child, a dear friend of mine told me that she never, ever, ever took having to get up in the middle of the night for her children for granted ever again. It didn’t make the loss of sleep any more convenient, and she still grumbled as she padded down the hall, I’m sure, but forever she sees it as a blessing to stand over them, pushing back sweaty hair and wiping the tears away. I think about this every night, and though I complain during the day, and though I cannot wait to know what three nights in a row of uninterrupted sleep feels like, I stand as that witness over Lucas in the dark and briefly mark the fleecy hump of his sleeping back with the palm of my hand. I silently say the the same words that bind parents together across centuries, oceans, beliefs, sensibility, and divides. Keep this child safe. Keep him here.

***

4. Drew has watched more people die than he can count over the last six years. He’s held weeping wives, washed cold skin, completed the transaction of moving an empty body from a room, to a hallway, to its next destination. He never brings that home with him, or at least not in the traditional sense. If anything, his coping mechanism is that his pendulum only swings up and so he comes home jovial, content to just be with his family, relaxed that he’s alive and his life feels good. I see that in him and I am reminded that living in my delicate world of picture-poems and analysis is a luxury. When Drew says thank you, he says without skipping a beat, thank you for our health.

He walked across a stage at UVA two weeks ago with a smile and a brand of humility that is inherent in him down to the pores of his skin. He shook a hand, bent low to have a hood hung around his neck, stood for a picture, and smiled up to his family. He was one of many black robes with big smiles and proud families, one of many that have given up Christmas mornings and sleep and time with family and hobbies and more to chase this calling. We knew that it was all a little silly, that the reward will not be the declarative piece of paper on his wall, but the sense that he will have for living a fulfilled life. He’s going to be a Nurse Practitioner, he’s going to continue to help people sort out the unreliable mechanics of our hearts, and for the first time since sitting under the solitary lamp in the dusty corner of that barn, he’s going to get to spend some time not being in school and just enjoying the fruits of his labor.

We’re kind of beside ourselves.

We’ve been having a lot of fires outside at night, talking through the smoke to each other about what this next chapter means, waiting for one child or both to wake up realizing that the world is too big of a place and call us back in. Of course I’m talking big, always pressing on the temple of the future, impatiently knocking to find out what’s next. Drew is much more quiet, quickly diverting the conversation back to this night. To this feeling of gratitude. To what is now, I realize, his simple genius in contentment. He’s thankful for our health. Thankful that we’re all still here.

***

5.

Tell me the one about the bike and the rainbow.

Well, Asher rode his bike up to the top of his driveway, and when he got there, there was a giant rainbow, the biggest that he had ever seen. It’s colors were so strong that Asher realized that if he pedaled hard enough, he could shoot right up the side of it. So he started pedaling fast and soon he was cruising up the side and up, up, up, up across the arch until he was waaaaaaaaay up in the sky at the very top of the rainbow. From up there he could see his whole family far down below–Lucas was playing with Mama, and Louie was chasing the ball that Papa was throwing for him. Asher wished in that moment that he could fly down to them, and just like that, his bike turned into an airplane. He flew off the rainbow, through the clouds and…

And what?! Where did he land!?

In his yard, at home with his family, on the other side of the rainbow.

 

 

 

The final countdown

Have fun singing that for the rest of the day…I know that I am. (Truth be told, I woke up with Ellie Gouldings’s Anything Could Happen–there’s a lovely acoustic version of it in this interview from the World Cafe–and I think that’s the mantra for the end of pregnancy. Or for life. But right now pregnancy. And I don’t even know if I’m really a fan of hers? But anything could happen. I digress.)

So, where was I?

That’s another thing about the end of pregnancy–I don’t really know where I am at any given moment, but man am I in a good mood. I might not seem like I’m in a good mood when I’m huffing up a hill or setting the pathway to the various bathrooms that I frequent on fire, and if you saw me at night flopped out and looking puffy and grim you might not think, “Good Lord, that woman’s in a good mood!” but my internal life has always been robust and so my brain and my body are singing two totally different songs right now, and that’s cool. There’s something about knowing that it’s all coming to an end, he’s almost here, that has flipped a mental switch for me. I’m happy. I may not have a lot of physical energy, but I’ve got mental energy for days. I like going to bed at night and thinking that I better fall asleep as quickly as possible because…anything could happen.

There’s this thing about the end. Where you constantly look at your stomach and think, you could be out here right now, little one. As they are in there, so they’ll be out here. There’s just this pesky layer of skin and one very wild ride between us, but that moment is coming. The moment when they’re in the air but only moments before they were in this impossible-to-fathom darkness. For days after women give birth we say, this time yesterday, 3 days ago, last week you were…trying to wrap our minds around the strange reality that a person was in our bodies and now that person is in the world doing all sorts of wild, normal, wordly things. It’s also so funny to me that he seems larger than life, huge and mature in there right now, having come so far from his microscopic start, and yet tomorrow? Next week? He’ll be in our arms and we’ll all be saying he’s so tiny. He’s so new. He’s a glimmering minute speck in a massive universe. The perspective that new life brings is a hard one to hang on to, but even getting to sit with it for a few weeks is a game changer. No matter what else I do in my life, incubating these two lives will always define me.

And mostly, Asher. The final weeks are so bittersweet for me because despite the excitement about the new baby, I want to just absorb Asher and protect him and make every moment the best moment in his 4-year-old world. We stretched his birthday out over two weeks kind of intentionally and unintentionally and he’s been shamelessly spoiled and loved on. The reality is that I’m a sloth by the end of the day and so I feel like I should be or could be doing more? But if it were someone other than myself saying that, I would tell her to stop being ridiculous, so there’s that. Where I can’t use my legs to run with him, I use my words to fill the gap, and he’s definitely the calmest member of the family when it comes to talking about the baby. Something in him just gets it. All of that being said, The Young Sir had a sleep over with his grandparents Friday night so that we could sleep. Drew was up with the sun to head to the hospital, and I was…not. So to my parents I say: THANK YOU. And to my guilty conscience I say: shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.

So there it all is. That’s why I’m repeating myself and having to make 16 trips back into the house in the mornings for forgotten things and laying down a little too much and waxing poetic about minute shifts in the breeze and crying about anything and everything. Because I’m waiting for something to click on in our little Walton universe and it’s hard to be normal when that’s filling my brain. Unlike last time, there’s not a perfectly organized room waiting for this guy (though it’s almost there) and I haven’t exhaustively researched strollers and baby wipes. But in some ways, I like this part even better this time because I KNOW how sweet it’s going to be when the labor ride is over and the heavy weight of the next stage of our lives is in our arms, and we will be sharing it not just with each other, but with Asher. It won’t all be a teacup ride in cotton candy land, but the big picture? Knowing that I’m going to be looking back on this fleeting time one day as an old woman with a feeling that will always defy words? That’s worth getting re-aquainted with the middle of the night and living in a foreign body for.

So let’s do this thing.

Anything could happen.

Testing, 1,2,3…

One of my favorite things about Drew is that he unapologetically loves what he loves. I often joke that he’s still analogue, preferring to do things the slow way, inherently resistant to the digital world, proud of knowing all of the long cuts whenever we get in the car. In keeping with this, a couple of years ago (no! Not a ‘couple’ of years ago…I think this memory is circa 2006. What are you doing to us, Time??) Drew declared that he was taking his music back. He went on a trip of reclaiming songs and albums that he loved from various times in his life no matter how over them the world had become or how overplayed they once had been, which of course made him the coolest in my book. He started building up his music library from high school, getting taken back to sweaty Baton Rouge summers in a gold Jeep Cherokee when he had 6 tapes in constant rotation. Of course I loved this because you know what? Life is too short to worry about people making fun of you or even thinking about you for loving what you love, particularly when you’re just connecting with a feeling you once had through a song. No apologies for harmless loves! None!

So this weekend I was thinking about our music collection and what a wreck it is. We have CDs with nothing but car radios to listen to them on, various iThings that play Pandora and Spotify, but only after a seemingly lengthy log-in process, a dead computer with half of our music loaded on to it, a turn table with no receiver that we both want to play, I only listen to the news on the radio, but with no radio, I now do that daily through my phone…we’re in musical chaos over here. Somehow all of the possibilities of the 21st century have made us manic in our storage, and all we want is to be able to walk into the kitchen and click on Joni Mitchell’s Blue to wake up to on Saturday mornings.

I bring this up for two reasons. The first is to say that Drew’s genius has always lived in his ability to love simple things wholly, and I want to foster that simplicity, and the second is to solicit suggestions. Great wide Web of clever world thinkers, what are all of you doing to solve this music situation? Teach me your ways!  What does your music collection look like? How is it stored? When you want to make bread and listen the kind of music that a girl might make bread to, what device are you turning on? I’m going to dedicate part of my maternity leave to cleaning this mess up, but I want to know where to start.

Love,

Missing the old days in Virginia

The Perfect Summer Day

We had it yesterday–friends, swimming, naps, family dinner, picking wild raspberries in the yard, trying to count fireflies through the bedroom window as PJs were put on. I finished the day with a big bowl of watermelon and this song. I want to be thankful just for this day, but shameless gluttony has me wishing for a million more just like it. Oh Summer, you saucy minx, you.

Confession

I’m about 26 weeks along with this pregnancy which means that I’m closing the gap on my third trimester and getting ready to enter what is arguably the most arduous part of being pregnant. Except for that first part where you’re barfing all the time and the only thing that sounds edible is crackers with mild cheddar cheese. Or you know, a doughnut from that place that you went to on the other side of the world that one time that was sold out of the back of a red van and wrapped in newspaper. Definitely either crackers or that doughnut, but nothing else. Barf.

23 weeks

I’m the kind of person that should be really really into being pregnant. Pardon the double entendre with my food reference above, but I love cheesy things and I get really swept away with the mystical nature of this world and I can’t believe that a human being is rolling around in the depths of my body right now. Someone who wasn’t here is on his way, a little bit of our art to be shared into the world is on his way, and that is mind boggling. I talk to plants, and look up what it ‘means’ when the same Red Tailed hawk keeps flying past the end of our driveway, and wink at the moon when I turn out the lights. I should be all over being pregnant, espousing poetry about in the morning/the curtains are grey skies hanging/but I only see a backdrop for/one more day/between me and you:/the inside coming out. It’s in my very nature to be this way, and I should be all over pregnancy like white on rice.

But ya’ll, if I’m being completely honest with myself,  I’m not feeling it like I was the first time. I know that I’ve said this before, but I’m already ready to be at the babe-in-arms stage, ready to not feel lumbering and slow, ready to not have swollen feet and a lower back that feels like a knife block. Somewhere in between the part that should be poetic and right now, I’ve said maybe more than once that I see pregnancy as a necessary evil. I feel huge (blah, blah, blah) and out of sorts and creaky and stinky in weird not supposed to stink places, and I’m not crazy about any of those feelings. As I’m typing this, it feels like my ribs are separating from my skin and I’m having some kind of hot flash despite the air conditioning being on, and although I can tap into the mystical place where I’m connecting with the little life that’s inside of me, it can be hard to hear that conversation over the din of my screaming body.

25 weeks=Muppet face

But even reading that, I’m tempted to delete it. The part of me that’s bigger than separating ribs and fat feet knows that this is a sacred time, no matter how strange it may seem, and one that I will always be grateful for. I’m internally chiding myself for complaining about an experience that so many women are longing for, for one that I spent my own long months wishing for, and know that it will be over and then I just might find myself looking into the tiny face of the next love of my life and thinking, it wasn’t really that bad.

Come here.

Go away.

Isn’t this the way with being a woman? We have all of these different contradictory pieces of ourselves co-habitating, lounging around and arguing all day in there, crying into each other’s shoulders, telling the younger bits to stop drinking so much and hang up their wet towels, while the compassionate voice is telling us to take it easy, she’s young–right on schedule, and the complaining bits are storming around and shoving the rest of us off our chairs. The motherly part is offering hugs and here, sit on my lap, and the free spirit inside is pushing her away and turning up the music, while the community organizer is making a list of people to invite to dinner and the self conscious one is saying, no, the house isn’t going to be clean enough. The poet instinctively can’t stop running her hand over the last place that the baby kicked and the vain one is thinking with terror about stretch marks and Nat Geo boobs. The critic says, dear god, don’t publish this drivel, and the self righteous one is nodding along to the sound of clicking keys. It’s a potluck of women in there, a cacophony of all of the things that I am composed of, and adding pregnancy to the table just catapults the whole thing into a technicolor velvet lounge. And honestly, that’s the best way that I can think to describe being pregnant: it’s like being a sloth at an insane opium den party inside my body every day.

And it’s beautiful.

And uncomfortable.

So that’s my confession for today. Pregnancy is hard. I’m the very first person to ever write that, so if you ever hear another woman say it, make sure I get my propers, because no one ever in the history of the child-bearing world has pronounced this before.  I love that I’m making a baby in my body, but I’m not really in love with the process. Not today, at least.

I hope that I read this in my seventies and laugh a little (hi!) because even then I’ll know that I’m right. Rising to the challenge of being pregnant and delivering a child will be one of the marathons that I look back on with pride, and I will also know that I took it for granted and shake my head a little at motherly youth being lost on the motherly young. But for now, the 30-year-old me who is writing this just can’t wait until September.

Father’s Day

October, 2009

Asher’s Father’s Day card for Drew that he dictated to me:

Dear Papa,
I love you. Can I go to school with you tomorrow? I really want you to stay home whenever you have to go to the hospital. That’s all I want to say. Happy Father’s Day.

Love,
Asher

Oh! Mama? Can I say something about dinosaurs? Oh no, I was just kidding, I don’t want to.

We love you, Papa Bear, thanks for being the coolest–