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.

box stars

While Asher was very excited to become a big brother, and has taken to his new roll relatively well, he’s not overly doting when it comes to the baby. In part it’s because Asher is four (well, five. He’ll be five tomorrow. He’s practically in college.) and the mantra of a four-year-old is, as far as I can tell, what’s in it for me? and when it comes to infant siblings, the honest answer is, not much. Yet.

In the mornings Asher likes jumping in the crib and ‘playing’ with Lucas but by and large, Asher is warming up slowly to the whole big brother gig. And we’re letting him take it at his own pace. Drew and I do remind Asher to say good morning to Lucas, to show him things and share things with him–that’s a real toughie–but Asher seems to be waiting for Lucas to become more interesting, and until then, he’s not going out of his way too much. A friend once commented about the unfair pressure that can be put on siblings to be best friends, and while I certainly make the case to Asher that Lucas might be a really special friend, I’m always aware of that other side too. Their relationship will belong to them, and so I’m trying to get comfortable in my roll as a witness and mediator but maybe not always the brother-love party planner.

Lucas is spending more and more time upright–just about a week until that little squish turns one–and he’s got a rascally sense of humor and purpose which is starting to catch Asher’s attention more often too. Lucas is completely fascinated with Asher, but also content to go his own way, especially if that way includes spending some time surreptitiously splashing in the dog water bowl or eating a variety of small objects, and so I’m just having to be patient (and vigilant–he seriously likes the dog water). We built it, they will come.

There are times though, when I get a glimpse. A little peephole to squint through into the future that Drew and I have cooked up. Times when I can step back completely and just watch them interacting without having to referee and they forget that Mama is in the room. I got a glimpse of it yesterday morning as they trashed our kitchen and there it was: two boys knocking over chairs to make each other laugh. Two boys that are going, for better or worse, to have a childhood together. Of course I don’t want to unfairly pressure my children into a relationship, and of course, nothing makes me happier than the seeing their budding bromance. It’s a little destructive and little bit gorgeous.

I don’t know what’s in store for these two, they don’t either. But if trashing the house helps them get there, sign me up.

Love,

A (still) totally novice mother of two.

 

They are a changin…

The times, the seasons, the morning routines, the bedtime routines, the topography of my baby’s mouth…the season is making its slow descent into the open embrace of its cooler sister’s rise, and it feels like a whirlpool in the Walton house. Come gather round people, wherever you roam, and admit that the waters around you have grown.

It’s kind of a boring image that I’ve basically beaten to death at this point (my writing teachers of yore would beg me to shy away from this one) but I can’t help it. Summer starts and I can feel the sensation of the wind whipping across my bare arms, hair sticking against my teeth as I sing out the open window and push the accelerator down a little harder. Sitting here staring at a screen, I can conjure up that very specific feeling at the beginning of the summer when the longer days are literally making the days feel longer and it seems that this might be the first year that summer really will be endless. All around, legs grow longer under their hemlines, dog tongues unroll to surprising lengths, even the bugs start lighting up. Summer comes not with a sense of change, but with a sense of movement.

And then August rolls around. And the change always catches me by surprise, because I’ve just been riding the open-window current of summer’s time.

Last day of Preschool

 

This year August brought with it a first day of school, bedazzled with a stain-free insulated lunch box, and a backpack with sting rays on it because “they look the most like sea dragons”. In the simplest terms, August arrived with a screeching halt in the middle of it. A break-to-the-floor, ma’am could you please step out of the car, defining moment screeching halt. Kindergarten.

What has not suprised me is how easily Asher has slipped into his new role. He comes home ready to tell us things, talking openly about the day, cooly telling me that it was, “pretty good, actually!” with a tone of voice that implies that he knows to comfort us–his highly unadaptable dinosaur parents–because he’s going there and we’re still clinging to here. He is eager to get out of the car in the morning, cheerfully telling teachers that he knows where he’s going, asking me gently not to give him a kiss any more when I help him get out of the car. In all of these things, he’s not pushing us away or acting like we’re not cool anymore, it’s more like he’s just intuitively untying his boat from our dock and letting the water pull him into the tide.

He’s growing up.

But not feeling that little red-headed boat tethered so close to home? Pardon the overdone metaphor here, but it’s left me a little unmoored.

This kid on his second birthday

What really gets my crazy mom tears going is knowing that he’s still so little. He will be five in a couple of weeks and as with every birthday of his, I see him continuing to clearly straddle the line between the toddler that we once knew and the little boy who is moving in. And it’s that, that simple vision of him being so big and so little, the sound of his raspy kid voice saying such big kid things, the dusting of downy hair that’s popping up on his shins, his half-moon eyes when he smiles, his bed head and stinky-sweet breath in the morning when he still wants to snuggle–it’s these baby-boy juxtapositions that have brought me to my emotional knees over the last two weeks.

Asher has been the big kid in the house for the last year and seeing him at the bottom of the totem poll on the threshold of this next stage of life with 5th graders parading around us as bouncy glimpses of foreshadowing–it’s just been a lot to take in. For me. With Lucas in the mix, I think I was briefly distracted from all of the firsts that still await our first. And so when we arrived at this next big FIRST for Asher, it got me right in the Feelings.

But as the man says, as the present now will later be past, the order is rapidly fading. And the first one now will later be last, for the times…

They are looking a lot like this: 

Happy first day of the rest of your life, little bug. Congratulations on being the only adaptable one around here.

 

Friday Finds

I’m resurrecting Friday Finds! Here’s a collection of things that I found interesting from the week–happy reading and weekend!

“A Harlem school teacher attempts to catch snowflakes while leading her students to a library, on Jan. 10 in New York City.” From NBC’s Week in Pictures

  • 20 unexpected pictures of Andre the Giant, including one with this kind of wonderful quote: “I don’t like to speak badly of people. I have grown up being told that if you cannot say something nice about someone, you should not say anything at all. But I must break that rule in this case because I hate Hulk Hogan very much. He is a big ugly goon and I want to squash his face.”
  • Asher has brought so many things into my life, but of particular note is his borderline-encyclopedic knowledge of dinosaurs. Apparently it’s infectious, because I actually made some kind of awkward happy noise when I came across this Nat Geo article about reconstructing dinosaur battles. If you like paleontology, archaeology, or Dinosaur Train, you will like this.
  • This video of Yo-Yo Ma and dancer Lil Buck is weird and wonderful:
  • I haven’t thought about American Eagle or its sister company Aerie in many years, but I saw their new ad campaign featuring real models that haven’t been photoshopped. Their hashtag is #aeriereal with the tag line, because the real you is sexy. It’s a small step, but considering they have the ear and eyes of the tween-teen set, it’s a move in the right direction. It still bums me, and likely you, out that this is revolutionary.

And on a person note, we’ve had a snowy week, but more than that, it has been COLD. Dreaming of warm mornings and green leaves, but still having some fun in the snow in the meantime.

 

Back At It

Well team, we have a baby.

He’s three months old.

Let’s blow off some cobwebs around here, shall we?

First and foremost, Lucas Harkins Walton. He was born four years and one week to the day after his brother, and shares his birthday (and middle name) with Drew. He was minutes away from making his grand entrance in the hospital lobby, but we were able to get into a room with about eight minutes to spare before he arrived. A story for another day.

He is loved.

He sleeps. He squeaks. He eats. He rolls over. He coos. He melts me. To the core.

I tried to write while I was on maternity leave and ran into two problems. The first was that Lucas really really liked to be held for those first 8 weeks–more than I remember Asher liking. And as it turns out, I was happy to oblige, but my hands-free moments were few and far between and they were largely spent doing really exotic things like showering or visiting with the company that had come to hold the sleeping baby who really liked to be held.

The second is All The Feelings. I have them all. And with All The Feelings, sometimes it’s easier to take a picture for Instagram than to type, coiffed in greasy hair and one handed, about how life is changing.

The third reason I took a little hiatus isn’t a problem at all, it was basically just joy. I experienced some kind of postpartum euphoria this time that felt, at times, a little manic but it was a welcome alternative to other postpartum scenarios, so I just rolled with it. My pendulum is swinging a bit more in the middle these days, my hair is starting to fall out (WHY can’t we just keep pregnancy hair forever and ever? My stomach will permanently look like the remains of a tiger’s afternoon snack…would it be too much to ask to just keep the amazing pregnancy hair?) and my jeans are slowly entering the picture again. I’m back at work, we’re finding a rhythm, it’s the New Year, and I feel good. Lucas feels good. Drew feels like he has one semester of school left, and honeys, that feels real good. Asher feels like today would be a good day (the best!) to bring Christmas back to the future.

I’m joining the masses and kicking off a year-long writing project here starting next week. It’s going to be bonafied and in keeping with my resolution to ‘complete’. More to come on that, but I felt like I couldn’t start that without first bringing Lucas to the blog and getting back on the horse.

Horse? What?

Anyway, the happiest to you and yours and a very, very hearty welcome to this futuristic sounding land of twothousandandfourteen. Be here now.

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.

This day

“Hey Mama? Did you know that I’m four years old today?”

Four fingers waving proudly in my face.

A family of three that’s waiting for any minute now when we become four.

Four years of life on earth, of questions big and small, of sounds and colors and actions and firsts and lasts. Of a baby coming and then fading into a toddler and now into a professor.

Asher asked for two things for his birthday: A claw truck that can pick up logs, and an aquarium. The little boy scientist who tells us that he’s going to be a paleontologist, who loves looking for worms and gets excited when it rains because “the plants need sun AND water to grow.” The petite red head who said to me the other day, “Mama, it’s so hard for me to see right now because the biggest star in the solar system is shining in my eyes.” It took me longer than I’m proud to admit to realize that he was talking about the sun.  Of course Asher would ask for a fish tank, something living that he can ‘wook’ at, a source for a thousand more questions with the best that we can do to answer in return.

And of course we obliged.

I re-read Asher’s birthday letter from last year, and thought about how I kind of don’t need to write another one yet because his essence is so much the same. And I wonder if I will read it when he’s 15 and again at 25 and one day at 40 and think about all of the stories that I can tell about his life–our life–but also think about how little has changed since he turned three that one time. At his core, Asher is fundamentally sweet and curious above all else. Drew said it perfectly last night when he said that Asher just has a nugget of sweetness in his core and it’s so very true. His name means Happy, his eyes crinkle when he smiles.

And on a slightly different note, this:

On the night of September 10, 2009, Drew and I were in bed and I was rubbing my massive belly kind of jokingly telling the mysterious baby inside that he might want to skip being born the following day because I didn’t know about having September 11 as a birthday. You know the rest of the story, and at 12:50 p.m. on Friday, September 11 another little light clicked on in the world.

Asher asked me for the first time this year what it meant that a plane crashed today and I did my best to talk to him about it in the way that seems appropriate to me. The truth is, we know what that day felt like 12 years ago. We, as individuals and collectively, we all know. We’ll never not know. But honestly, today is a day of celebration in our house. We spent last night taping up streamers and balloons in the dining room, talking about labor starting, and marveling at the time that has passed between that night and this night. I think that we were more giddy this morning thinking about sharing this day with Asher than either of us have been about own birthdays in years. That’s in the forefront. But under that is that little thing that lives in all of our guts since 2001. The rock that can take us back instantly to the sickening moment that we heard, or saw. That moment.

This is the first year that I’ve written about our family sharing such a special day with such a sad day and in some ways I think it’s the natural order of things that there is happiness sharing the space with the other memories. In the proverbial order or doors closing and windows opening, time has marched on steadily, bringing with it new life, new days, new chances, but always with the weight of the memories of the past tethered close behind. Much like the various scars that criss-cross our bodies, this day tells a story of hurt, but also one of healing. The two narratives can’t exist without the other, and so the question becomes, which side of the story do we focus on?

Asher will grow up hearing about how I stood in the landscaping shed lot at Warren Wilson with my backpack dropped to  the ground listening on the radio as the second plane hit the second tower. In much the same way that I know where my parents were when Kennedy was shot, he’ll know the broad strokes of that story that happened 8 years before he was on earth and he’ll know its impact. But he’ll also know this story:

And so when people ask me if it’s weird that Asher was born on September 11, I just say that it’s a day for remembering.

This song from 12 years ago is for all of us, for the hurting and the healing. For remembering.