Raspberry Beret

This post has nothing to do with hats of the french variety or the ’80s, but it does have to do with raspberries, and I wanted all of you to join me in having this song stuck in your head to infinity because I’m generous like that. I love you, Prince.

One of the most exciting discoveries about our new house last summer was finding out that our entire property is surrounded to the max by wild raspberries. We’ve got raspberries for days, and mother nature’s dedicated tree removal last summer just made room for even more raspberries. Eventually we will be overrun, but right now we’re totally on a first date with the thorny bushes, and I can’t stop thinking about them.

So on Saturday we put my sweet visiting sister Julie and her equally darling boyfriend Joe to work and we went on a little raspberry picking expedition. Here they are before being sent to the brier patch:

(Clearly Asher didn’t enjoy their company at all.)

We braved the thorns and collected as many berries as we could before the heat made us to knock off and go for a swim. As it turns out, Asher probably doesn’t have a career in berry picking, somehow his mouth kept intercepting his hand, but his stained cheeks and empty bucket told the perfect summer story.

And after eating some and setting some aside for a cake, we spread the first of a couple of batches on a cookie sheet to freeze and then store in smaller batches for the dark days of winter when we’re longing to taste summer again.

That afternoon, I made an angel food cake to take to a potluck (following the recipe and tips in this post, which I found to be really helpful) and then topped it with some fresh whipped cream and some sugar-soaked raspberries. You can check out that post for the cake recipe if you’re so inclined, and I ‘made’ the raspberries by putting them in a bowl and tossing them with a healthy handful of sugar and a little vanilla before letting them sit in the fridge for about 2 hours (more sugar=more syrup, so if you want the syrup to run down the sides of the cake be heavy handed with the sugar). My method for whipped cream is equally strict, I used a pint of whipping cream and added a handful of sugar, some vanilla (a teaspoon-ish?) and a sprinkle of cinnamon to it before whipping it to soft peaks. I spread the whipped cream around the top ring of the cake, added the raspberries and some mint leaves, and called it good. I did all of that, but what I did not do was take a picture, so we’ll just have to imagine it together. It’s so pre-internet 1985 around here today!

If Asher had nicer parents, he would live exclusively on berries, particularly frozen ones, so this was a coup not only because the raspberries are the epitome of summer sunshine flavor happy times, but also because they were 100% free. Win-win!

Happy berry picking, team.

Yellow

Over the holiday weekend, this story from my first pregnancy came up about that only kind of funny time when I sobbed in the Lowes parking lot staring at a dot of drying paint on the top of a paint can because it was dawning on me that I had never considered the possibility that I would give birth to a boy.

In the months leading up to Asher’s gender reveal appointment, I had been telling myself that there was just as much of a chance that we would have a boy as a girl (50%, as it turns out. Funny how that works.) and even though I knew that in my brain, I don’t think I really got it. Consciously and unconsciously, I had worked out a nursery that involved deep raspberry walls with pops of bright green in the room and maybe some greys, we had a girl’s name picked out, and I was mentally working through all of the conversations that I would be having with her through the firsts that lay ahead for both of us. I don’t know that I even had a preference for a girl, it was just where my brain lead me…if I was thinking about parenting a teenager, I was thinking about the challenges that a teenage girl would face. Because, you know, I was one.

So on the day that we went to pick out paint, it’s fair to say that I hadn’t thought once about wall color for a little boy’s room. I was dead set against any kind of blue and impulsively went with yellow. We finished our shopping, but through the whole trip it was all slowly dawning on me that all of those conversations I had been having in my mind with a fabricated 6/12/16/25-year-old girl weren’t relevant anymore. I had to start thinking about all of those talks, those different needs, the different challenges and triumphs through the eyes of a little boy which got the hormone pump churning so that by the time we left the store, I had come to the conclusion that I was completely unfit to raise a little boy. This culminated in a shoulder shaking sob with me choking out, “What if he hates yellow? And I don’t even know what to do about his peniiiiiiiiiiiisssssss.”

In public.

This is what it’s like being me: thinking about paint leads to a philosophical meltdown. Please buy Drew a drink the next time you see him.

Fast forward three years, and on Saturday night, glow-in-the-dark bracelets were being passed around to kids and I heard Asher say, as we always do, “I want that one, because yellow is my favorite!” and that moment in the Lowes parking lot came zooming into focus. Of COURSE Asher’s favorite color is yellow, because I am nothing if not the butt of a cosmic joke or two. I looked at Drew across the fire and said, “Remember the Lowes meltdown? Yellow? Yellow.” And Drew nodded the universal all-knowing parent nod because ya’ll, Asher has a deep devotion to the color yellow. It’s his honest to god favorite color and all that public blubbering that I once did over worrying that I wouldn’t know what a little boy would want? Well that was a clearly a big waste of some good quality alligator tears. Ha ha, Universe. Ha. Ha.

Of course the laser beam clarity of hindsight is shining a light on the plainly obvious almost four years later. Gender aside, I had no idea who I was going to be parenting because this little person was going to come into the world with his or her own agenda and I was just buckling up for the ride. All that time that I spent daydreaming about fabricated conversations with this mythical child was my way of wrapping my brain around one tiny made up version of an unknown future. Now that we’re pacing ourselves through that future, I, of course, can’t imagine it without this little boy and will readily admit to a small sense of relief that we’re having a second boy, because honey, if there is such a thing as knowing this, I know how to anticipate what a little boy will need, and I know that it isn’t really gender specific at all.

But in case you’re wondering, baby number two is getting lovely grey walls. A completely irrelevant detail for the next adventure, and one that thankfully, did not require any public humiliation to choose. Take that Universe. Take that.

POV

Asher has been asking to take pictures lately which makes sense because he lives in a world of people that walk around with rectangles in front of them saying, hold up, I just want to take a picture of this.

He asked to use my phone in the car to take a picture yesterday and at first I said no because I had visions of him accidentally messaging every contact in my phone with something deeply poetic like, sdjghasldkhaoeurywpeuioh sdighsduhgw0397e8hg;SDKGJ, but then he said, “You just look so cute right now, Mama. I have to take your picture”. Asher for any political office 2014.

So of course I handed him my phone and he passed this back:

I’ve posted before about wondering who Asher sees when he watches us because I never feel like the adult that he presumably assumes that I am. And yet I look at this and see a woman driving. That’s Mama in the front seat, taking us places. A bonafied grownup.

I keep waiting for that switch to flip, when I’ll suddenly feel the age that I am and not be aware of the ages that I’ve been or that I think I will be or that I assume that I still am. I’m only 30 (for a month more, at least) and if I take the time to think about it, I become hyper aware of how overwhelmingly young 30 is, and conversely how not-so-young it is. But my young feeling 30 is, through the eyes of a three-year-old, ancient. I’m just part of the glaum of grownups in Asher’s life with no distinction between my 30 and your 40 and her 20. We’re all tall(er) and authoritative up there in the front seat, and god, don’t we look confident.

You know that kind of ridiculous bumper sticker, I want to be the person my dog thinks I am? I have that sense looking at this picture. I want to be the woman that he caught right there, to cross the great divide between my internal juvenile existence and that external perception, but of course, that’s the rub. I am that woman. In fact, it would seem that the only person who doesn’t get that is me. I’m willing to bet that we all feel that way. We’re so short sighted when it comes to our own reflections, and then a three-year-old takes our picture and poof! Existential crisis solved. Or at least moderately chipped away.

So there it is, team. My recurring theme for the month. I want to be the person my child thinks I am. And not to get all Oprah on you, but I think really what I’m saying is, I want to accept myself for the person that my child knows that I am. Front seat driver’s side flaws and all.

 

 

 

The backseat brain

This post is not about my willingness to ruin various mealtimes with treats and is about how refreshing it is to hang out with children.  Somewhere along the lines here I mentioned a conversation that I had with my cousin about no longer saying “I can’t imagine” in every day conversation because it’s not really true and it’s so limiting in its scope. Hanging out with children only drives that point home, and it’s wildly humbling to realize how much I miss it. I think that I’m creative and then I watch Asher, or any other child, for  three minutes and realize that my brain is basically a barren prairie of creative prairie dog holes by comparison.

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So the muffin. Asher was cruising along in the backseat the other day, working on a pumpkin muffin and within minutes I hear him saying, “We have to get our tools to dig that giant raisin out of the raisin cave that it’s stuck in!” and then he told me that his finger was the excavator and went to town making digger noises and digging out the giant raisin from its raisin cave. Once that job was done, he starting taking strategic bites until he had fashioned what looked to him like an airplane and proceeded to fly it into his own mouth. This lead to the demolition of the ‘wings’ (as you can imagine, the airplane shape was highly interpretive) and he announced that his muffin now looked like a boulder which lead to a conversation about how rocks can be shaped like anything. In the time that it took to eat a muffin, Asher did a little spelunking, visited a job site, flew through some clouds, and rolled down a hill, all coupled with a completely uninhibited narrative along the way.

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The thing about living with kids is that we assume that they’re trying to find a place in our world when really, we’re the ones that are getting constantly invited into theirs. I think that my biggest shortcoming as a parent is my persistent desire to manipulate Asher’s day into the blueprint of mine, and without fail, I am reminded that if I just slow down a little, not only does the mind numbing back and forth quiet down, but I get to bear witness to the kind of life that I dream of leading. I would give almost anything to have a day in the imagination land of a three-year-old right now, to see airplane wings in my breakfast, to be able to use my voice to make as many interesting and funny sounds without fear of what anyone might think, to compulsively turn a slow minute into one filled with play. (And who am I kidding? To be forced to take a daily nap.) Where my brain is filled with what ifs and petty thoughts and numbers and self doubt, I can see so clearly in Asher’s eyes that his mind is only filled with absorbing the lights and colors and sounds around him and then using that information to entertain and discern and question.

This is why it’s such a delight to give children something new. It’s why I want to give him muffins and books and toys and sticks and big boxes filled with mailing popcorn, why we take him in the woods and wait patiently as he jumps into the pool again and again and again. Not just because we like seeing his eyes light up or because it’s easy to pacify him, but because I can hand him a rock and in turn he hands me an entirely new perspective…if I’m willing to see it. Lately I feel like I’ve been short on patience and long on the sound of my own voice, so I’m trying to follow his lead back to that place of wonder. Of course my record’s not going to be perfect, but as the far fetched parenting ideals go, I would like the idealism to go down as the majority.

We all know it, but for the record? Kids have it going on. Us tall types are the ones that need to turn our listening ears on.

Here’s to a weekend of play. Of quiet grown up mouths and little kid dreams.

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.

Carnival Tree

Spontaneous Car Conversation June 19:

Asher: Mama, is it Spring or Summer right now?

Me: Well, actually, this week, it will be Summer. There’s a day called the Summer Solstice that is the longest day of the year. That means that the moon won’t come up for a really long time that day, it will stay light until after bed time, and it’s the start of summer.

A: No! It won’t be summer until we decorate a Carnival Tree!

M: A what?

A: A Carnival Tree! We have to decorate a beautiful tree and then it can be summer.

M: Is this something that you guys are doing at school?

A: No! It is something that I know about. We have to decorate a Carnival Tree for summer or else summer can’t happen.

M: Ohhhhhkaaaay. Let’s choose a tree outside to decorate on the Solstice, will that work? We can decorate a part of it and maybe hang some treats for the birds?

A: NO! We have to decorate a WHOLE TREE or else IT WON”T BE BEAUTIFUL ENOUGH. <<getting upset>>

M: Of course we have to decorate the whole tree! We will find the perfect tree to decorate outside. The perfect [previously unheard of, totally fabricated by your amazing little brain, unknown] Carnival Tree. And we will decorate it for summer. Obviously.

And so, I give you our very first annual Carnival Tree:

Aren’t you relieved that it can be summer now?

 

**I highly recommend the $1 section at Michael’s for all of you Carnival Tree needs. The $1 section, and a ball of brightly colored yarn from a basket of random stuff that you’ve miraculously held on to since college for just this moment. Clearly.**

6 things from this (last) week.

Summer turned on this week. The cicadas came out of hiding, singing their urgent and odd song, and just like that it got hot and I got even happier.

Here are a few things:

Drew got kind of obsessed with the perfect cup of coffee a couple of years ago and after going down many roads of home coffee production, he’s landed on the good old fashioned pour over. You can ask him about grind and water temp, he’s thought about it, I’m just happy to be pointed in the right direction every day. We drink pour-over coffee daily, but we only had one filter cup and I drink decaf (I know.) and it was all kind of a production with the swapping of the filter and the one cup and then we weren’t really ever drinking our cuppa at the same time. A solid first world problem. At many of our local coffee shops, they have pour over bars for multiple cups and I thought that our coffee production could really be more produced, and so I headed to the plumbing aisle and picked up an assortment of metal pipes and started screwing things together as an anniversary present for Drew. And then I made this! Is it a little silly and a tad redundant? Yessir. Do we like it? MmmmHmmm. The whole family stands around watching the coffee drip. It’s really cut down on our time spent watching drying paint and growing grass, so there’s that.

***

We had a Memorial Day BBQ last Sunday and this philosophical and/or bedroom note was on the bottom of the pan that Drew used. It amused us.

***

Asher’s been learning about Luna Moths and butterflies at school (they have a student directed curriculum, and Asher asked to learn about Luna Moths. I love that.) and just like that, this little lady (or fella?) arrived at our window for his viewing pleasure. Asher was so absurdly excited, and I’m not going to lie, so was I. We jumped on the couch a little. Because we’re a little weird, I was raised always looking up what it means when various animals cross our paths, and given the production of the luna moth viewing, I had to look her up. I was particularly struck by this passage: [The Luna Moth represents] protection and success. Face your inhibitions as this is a time of abundance and success, and you are greatly protected in all activities. While I can’t suggest what this might mean in Asher’s uninhibited world, it was one of many reminders that I’ve had lately about letting go of my worrying, particularly with regard to the future, this little child coming into our lives, and the wild wilderness of What Comes Next. While I don’t think of myself as someone who worries a lot, the truth is, I’m a ruminator and exceptional at finding something to worry about where there really is nothing. I appreciated the reminded to remember that we really are living in abundance both physically and emotionally, and that I don’t want to miss it by only looking for absence instead of presence. I’m working on this one Luna Moth at a time, you see.

ed: Asher, if you’re reading this in twenty years, feel free to point to this with your therapist and say, “See!? I told you.”

***

Speaking of appreciating what we have, I had to go in for the dreaded 3 hour prenatal sugar test, but Drew was off that day and came with me. Rather than sitting in the dark cooped up office trying not to barf from the insane drink and/or dwell on having my blood taken four times, Drew and I went for a walk and then found a lovely patio to sit on outside for the duration of the test. Lemons, meet ya lemonade. It was one of the nicest mornings that we’ve had together in quite a while. And…I passed! This is particularly exciting because I was told that I had gestational diabetes with Asher. I have much to say on the subject of gestational diabetes and my deep conviction that I did not have it last time, none of which is very productive, so a la the Luna Moth, I’m just staying focused on being thankful for right now, my health, and found dates with Drew. Take that, worry.

***

This guy. Everything. His eyes. The way that he’s saying things like, “I have a great idea! Let’s compromise!” as if the most incredible idea ever just struck him, even though the ‘compromise’ is generally him just having whatever it is that I just said no to. But he says it with such hopeful conviction and then sometimes he may or may not wind up with a popsicle in his hand to eat before bed. Because, let’s compromise!, you know? Life is short, popsicles are sweet…it’s a match made in heaven.

Philosophy 101

Here’s a glimpse of the young Professor Walton’s Life Questions Course that I am currently enrolled in:

1. Why are you driving down this road?

2. Who made me?

3. Why is my toot stinky?

4. If the earth stopped spinning would I fly off and bump my head on the moon?

5. What does a Luna Moth (ant, stink bug, bee…any insect that we see) eat?

6. When am I going to die?

8. Are the tomatoes bigger yet? Are they bigger now? How about now? Are the tomatoes bigger now?

9. Can I sleep in the car tonight?

11. When are you going to die?

12. What does the word ‘gap’ mean? (I answered that it was a space.) What is a space? (I tell him to press his fingers together and then separate them to demonstrate the space between them.) But Mama, what is the space? What’s between my fingers now?

13. Does a caterpillar dream when it’s in its cocoon?

It’s a…

On Monday we went in for the 22 week ultrasound and found out first and foremost that, to the best of our knowledge, this little one growing inside of me is healthy as a clam. WHEW.

We  told Asher on Sunday that the following day was the big reveal, and come Monday morning, Asher was standing next to our bed whispering to me, “Mama, did you find out? Is it a boy or a girl?” It was such a great way to start the day and is one of the many glimpses that we’ve gotten of Asher as a big brother. Apart from starting super late, (why doctors of the world? Just, why?) the appointment went incredibly smoothly and we loved seeing the baby moving around like crazy in there. It’s so wild to be able to feel the baby move inside while watching it move on the screen, just one more ways that pregnancy is very surreal.

We wanted to make it fun for Asher, but of course I hadn’t really gotten anything together, so we stopped by a bakery on our way to his school and wouldn’t you know it? They happened to have a macaroon with a nicely gender stereotyped filling. Conveniently, they also package their treats in boxes, and so my lack of planning worked out remarkably well. We picked Asher up and told him that the doctor had sent home a special treat to tell us if we were getting a little brother or sister (which I didn’t really think through when I said this…we’ll chock it up to a Santa Myth moment and move on) and so Asher sat at the table and opened up his little box.

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He smiled so sweetly at Drew and I and said, “It’s a baby brother!” and then got busy with that cookie. He really liked getting to make the announcement, and frankly, he really liked getting a cookie filled with frosting. I would say that he likes both baby siblings and cookies before dinner equally well.

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Without any prompting, he got down out of his chair to give me a hug and then gave my belly a blue frosting laced kiss. Amazingly, my insane pregnancy hormones didn’t cause me to burst into tears as the angel choir struck all of its chords and the kittens and puppies started raining down from Heaven, but we were busy laughing at just how much Asher was digging on that macaroon. Asher has been saying all along that he would be having a baby sister, so we were very relieved that he seemed so stoked about getting a baby brother given that he had once threatened to sell a baby brother. (If you watch the video, listen closely near the end and you’ll hear it.)

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So that’s the big news! Two boys, brothers for life, a shared bedroom and hand-me-downs on the horizon. A special thank you to Pearl’s in town for making me appear to have my act together, and thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you for this baby’s health. I’ve been saying it all along, but there never seems to be a big enough bucket to capture the gratitude that parents feel for their children’s well being  in all of its iterations. Thank you.