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.

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.

Lately

Summer is slowing down, there will be a big yellow school bus competing for road space on our windy roads tomorrow morning and I am four weeks away from running another marathon. And by running I mean not running. And by marathon I mean labor. Same diff. I am slowing down which is remarkable because I’ve been feeling pretty slow already, but the inevitable final weeks of slothiness are upon me and in the evenings instead of picking up and blogging and things like that, I just want to be horizontal and quiet. Technically I want to be horizontal and quiet while a team of elves move around me unpacking the baby’s room and holding up tiny darling socks for me to oooo and ahhh over, but no matter how hard I try, I can’t seem to will a team of elves into existence. I do have a Drew and he’s been doing the lion’s share of the housework while also installing new floors in our basement and painting and getting ready to go back to school himself, and I’m happy to oooo and ahhh over him in place of those elusive elves.

So, I know I’ve been a little silent, but here’s what we’ve been up to:

Dates with this guy:

This is how Asher eats a muffin. It’s more of an excavation than a meal, but he’s happy and muffin eating is not a battle I choose. I’m hyper aware of getting this time with him, and since I’m kind of shot on the fun stuff in the evenings, we’ve been sneaking in little morning dates together. I’ve been looking at Asher’s baby pictures, inevitably drawn back as we prepare to begin again and getting mighty nostalgic for how fleeting that time was with him. He suddenly seems HUGE, but then I watch him eat a muffin, totally consumed in his task, and my little boy is still there.

***

The winding down of summer has looked like this:

And this:

And this:

And don’t look now, but that watermelon up there? That came from here:

***

I turned 31 last week and ate appropriately. When one turns 31 while 35 weeks pregnant, it seems that eating is the best way to celebrate and I took the cake.

Ahem.

I’m not particularly funny about aging other than the passage of time has a way of surprising me. I use a night cream and make an eyebrows-raised note of the changing direction of various body parts, I’m human afterall, but all in all, I generally feel that aging is a privilege and certainly better than the alternative. My birthday makes me a little nostalgic for the passing of time, but it also makes me excited for cake and well-wishes and thoughts of what’s been and what will be, and so it came, it saw, it ate.

Drew will tell you that I’m prone to crying on my birthday, something I’d rather not confess, but it’s not really ever because I’m sad about getting older, it’s more like I feel a lot of things all at once on this day in August. Tell me I’m not alone in this. Last year Drew and I went on a backpacking trip and I turned 30 on the top of a mountain with my best friend, some Ramen, and a nip or two of whiskey. It was sublime and will hopefully be a tradition of sorts once there’s not another person sharing my body with me. Make no mistake, I have great friends who always have a way of making my birthday special and celebratory which I also love, I’m just discovering that with age comes a certain amount of appreciation for a little time to reflect mixed in with the confetti. A nice balance of champagne and water.

***

Asher took this picture of me recently and it’s so spot on.

When I’m not trying to remember why I might have stashed the milk in the oven or where I parked my car, I’m thinking about labor and this child coming and labor and tiny socks and labor and how to swaddle and labor and breast feeding and labor and what to expect when you’re expecting and labor…it pretty much goes like that all day in the old brain. This is it, you know? This time, these last few weeks…the calm before the storm.

Four thoughts on four.

Asher and I had a little date for coffee (me) and milk and a muffin (ok, ok, and a molasses cookie for me too) and he told me things. Things like this:

(in response to a conversation about kindergarten/elementary school/high school and then what’s next?)

Asher: Mama? When I go to college, I’m going to go somewhere really far away.

Mama: You are? I’m going to miss you!

A: Yeah, but you can still drive me to school. You can come too. You can live with me.

M: Can I get that in writing?

A: Will I have to walk up a lot of stairs to go to college?

M: There will be some stairs, but you’ll be big, you’ll be ready for them.

<<<2 minutes of silence looking out the window, thinking almost 4-year-old thoughts>>>

A: Mama? I was just kidding. I don’t want to go to college far away. Not too far.

M: Sounds good. Let’s just think about preschool for now, ok? We’ve got a long, long time to think about getting so big.

A: Yeah, and there’s already a lot of stairs at my school right now.

***

I’ve already confessed that I’m not quite as swept away with the experience of being pregnant this go-round. But in the breakfast buffet of crazy that pregnancy gets us women to sidle up to every morning, it genuinely occurred to me one night this week that this might be it for us. We aren’t making any definitive statements about how many children will be in the Walton family, but just as I’m open to the possibility of one more, I’m also open to the possibility that we’ll start doing life with two and know that we’ve hit our mark. On the one hand, a big part of the reason that I wouldn’t want to have a third baby is that I don’t know that I want to be pregnant again. I was so horrendously sick the first couple of months this time, every day felt like an out-body-experience except not because I was being held captive by my aching skin and turbulent stomach, and I begged Drew to swear to me that he wouldn’t let me forget how much it sucked three years from now when I will have inevitably forgotten. I can’t wait to not be pregnant, right?

On the other hand, I sat on the side of the bed holding my rolling belly and got all weepy crazy-town because I realized that I only have about 6-7 weeks left and I might have taken the whole thing for granted, that just maybe I wanted a do-over. And it made me think that maybe I’m not done and that there is one more little light waiting to join us. And then I shook my head because I don’t want to be pregnant again. And then I shook my head because this experience is, in many ways, what being an adult has been all about for me. And THEN I shook my head because I thought about what all of you reading this are just bursting to tell me:

Shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. Just sit back and enjoy the show, honey. Hush up. One foot in front of the other, one day at a time. Go on and pack your things up, Crazy, we’re settling down here. You’ll know all of these things when you know them. No more thinking for a while. Shhhhhhhh.

***

We told Asher that he could choose a special name for the baby that is just for our family a couple of months ago, which has actually been kind of great, because we’re able to include this little person in our daily conversation as if he’s already here, which might be helpful for Asher wrapping his mind around the baby-sized asteroid that’s headed toward his paradigm. Asher said that he wanted to call the baby Evo (Velcro was also tossed around for a short while), and so now our daily conversation is peppered with Evo. When Evo’s here, when Evo gets bigger, I’m going to show Evo this…it’s been a way to share his presence in our family, and although the name Evo isn’t going to be on the birth certificate, it sure has been a good starter name.

One night we were talking after bath and I was telling Asher that even though I’m super excited about the baby, I sometimes feel nervous, and that it was ok if he felt nervous too. We were rocking in the chair and I may or may not have been feeling a little proud of myself when I carefully asked Asher if he ever felt nervous about Evo coming. He said in total earnestness,

“Ummm, I mostly feel nervous about bears.”

Well ok then.

***

Hey Mama, wook! I drew our famiwy but we’re worms. We’re four worms and we’re trying to get out of the hole into the sunwight. Wook, it’s you, Papa, me, and Evo!

Four.

All signs, all thoughts, all chalkboard drawings, all everything point to just doing what I want to do best: go with it. Just go with it, Mama.

Per my usual, I actually just want to be more like Asher…delighting in envisioning our family all different ways, totally comfortable with the magic number four, and reaching toward the sunlight, taking it all in one day at a time, and only getting nervous about things that can eat me.

Kids know everything.

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.

 

 

 

 

Mug

July 2013:

April 2011:

“Intelligence, goodness, humanity, excitement, serenity. Over time, these are the things that change the musculature of your face, as do laughter, and animation, and especially whatever peace you can broker with the person inside.” -Anne Lamott