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.

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.

Asher1

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.

Asher2

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.

Revisiting

Hiya.

In (belated) honor of Mother’s Day, I thought that I would share a post that I wrote in 2011. I think that Asher was about 18 months old when I wrote this, but I’m pretty sure that I will be thinking about these car window down moments when he’s 40.

Car Windows Down

Yesterday when I picked Asher up I instinctively reached for the AC button, not wanting the car to be too hot or too cold and started to roll the windows up.  Before I clicked the button though, I looked in the backseat to see Asher’s downy red hair blowing straight up in the wind and he had both arms up in the air feeling the wind move through his fingertips with his eyes closed and the biggest grin on his tipped up face.  He was feeling the world, I could see it.

He was so beautiful in that moment.

So instead of rolling the windows up, I rolled the other two down and we drove on for 35 miles in the noisy sunshine filled cabin of our car singing the ABCs a little too loudly (me) and waving arms wildly in the wind (him) and as I was cruising down the highway a thought filtered through my mind that was so striking I had to stop in the middle of L-M-N-O-P to catch my breath.

I’ve known my whole life that this moment with my child was coming.

My mom used to pick me up from Mr. Ron’s (if you want to see my mama get all atwitter, ask her about Mr. Ron sometime) where I spent my preschool days doing the things that kids in Montessori preschools do.  One of my earliest and most distinct memories is of one of those afternoons in the car with my mom, or most likely a lot of those afternoons mashed into one golden moment; memory is broad-sweeping in its desire to distill.  Anyway, she worked as an educator in the hospital and so her workdays were marked in my mind with skirts and suit jackets, but in this memory I see her as I so often did, driving down the highway with all of the windows down in our blue Toyota Tercel (later dubbed the Blue Goose by my brother) both of our hair flying, her skirt pulled up over her knees, jacket off and in the passenger seat, fingers claiming a little of the blowing hair with her left hand and twirling it absentmindedly with her elbow crooked on the rim of the open window, her right hand on the steering wheel.  And that’s it, that’s the extent of the memory, but there we are, two women at opposite sides of the female spectrum, and I remember how free I felt, and I remember thinking how free she must have felt too.  I remembering thinking, we’re in this thing together.

Yesterday, in my own car, with my own son in the backseat, I could see the images of my mother and myself superimposed over the joy-filled bodies of Asher and me and it was one of those halting full-circle moments.  To feel that long-ago formed memory from the child’s perspective, I see my mother that I loved, confidently driving us home to dinner and bedtime kisses, patiently listening to me rattle on about all of the things that I never stopped talking about as a child.  To feel that memory now from a mother’s perspective, I think about my mom knowing that she was going home to an unraveling marriage, that she would have to cook for us, get a little girl settled for sleep, and a budding teenage boy settled from his own brand of divorced heartache, and I wonder what thoughts swept through her mind as the wind filled our car and blew us on home.

Just a couple of years after those car window down drives home, my mom would fall in love with her life-long partner, my brother would disappear into the world of college, we would settle into the house that I came to know as my childhood home, and the car window down drives would be replaced with my adolescent desire to control everything with air conditioning and radio stations.  But.  I can’t help but think that I can still remember a little of that acute observance that young children possess, and that my 4-year-old mind was watching my mom closely to figure out how to be a woman one day.  I can’t help but think that the beautiful abandon that I witnessed twenty five years ago reared its head again yesterday.

Part of parenthood is falling madly in love with your child, falling in love with parenting your child, learning your own thoughts and watching them change as you start to think like a parent.  But another astonishing (and I mean that, I’m not being cute here) thing about becoming a parent is seeing your parents for the first time.  It’s not like I didn’t know that was going to happen as one of the clichéd rites of passage into claiming a child as your own, that I didn’t know that I would one day empathize more with my parents than I ever believed possible, it’s just that I couldn’t have possibly known what it was going to feel like until it happened.  It overwhelms me.  Feeling what my mother in particular felt towards me, feeling the shame of abusing that love 1,000 times throughout my life, having an acute awareness of how potent it is, how fierce it is, how all-consuming it is to love a child, and finally understanding that I am on the receiving end of that love is overwhelming.  It overwhelms me because it’s such a powerful gift, and because I realize that Asher may not ever know the depth of my feelings for him unless he decides to one day have a child of his own.

One of my wonderful friends has been talking recently about her strong desire to be able to genuinely and effectively express the breadth of her gratitude to her husband as they’ve become parents together.  I’ve been thinking about that a lot because the truth is, there’s no gift that says thank you well enough when those are the kinds of the things on the table that you’re trying to thank someone for.  What I’ve come up with is that the biggest expression of gratitude is in our actions, and in this case it’s in the way that we love.  The kind of partner or parent or child or friend that we are and the level of thoughtful respect and care that we charge ourselves with in those roles.  I will never know how to say thank you adequately enough to my parents, all four of you, but I do know how to love my child as much as I possibly can, and I can pledge part of that love as a devotion to all that you have given me in your own ways.  I know that I will make mistakes as a mother, but I hope that in my triumphs my parents see a reflection of themselves and know that they are being honored and that I am, in my way, always whispering thank you.

My final thought is this: when Asher is in the backseat thinking his thoughts, is he observing a woman?  Someone who rolls the windows down and sings badly and looks so grown up?  Does he also see a skirt pulled up to free knees, an arm draped casually, a level of confidence that children assume comes with height?  Sometimes I think he might, others I’m beyond sure that my shortcomings are palpable. In either case, I am reminded of what my little brain knew way back then, which is that if nothing else we’re in this thing together, wind blown hair and all, and then I just turn the radio up a little louder and marvel at my beautiful child and the inevitable truth that we are marching forward, steadily on.

Scenes

Lately:

And my current favorite:

I’m feeling a little cabin fever despite the fact that we’ve been outside more this winter than any winter in recent history. I actually think it’s because of that–I’m so acutely aware of how cold it is all the time because we’re in it. Maybe there’s a little hint of delicious in that, but mostly it just makes me think about how badly I can’t wait to walk out the door barefoot and bare shouldered and relaxed. My zen exercise of the winter is trying not tense up when I open the door. Folks, I’m failing.

But these pictures remind me what treasures come from being cooped up and I think daily about how thankful I am for all the warmth that’s in our lives–I’m not kidding about that one. A down coat, a hot bath, thick walls, 15 kinds of tea, bourbon neat, friends to crowd in, anything at all bubbling on the stove, the fuzziest dog around to sit on my feet…who am I to complain about winter?

Please, please remind me of this. As the great state of Wisconsin so proudly declares: cold nose, warm heart.

Woking out.

Asher will be 2 in less than 3 weeks (what!?) and I have been delighting in the fact that when people start to talk about the Terrible Twos I’ve been able to say, “Well, Asher’s really more of a ‘yes’ man, and so far he’s been a dream”.

Smugness is a social crime, team, and I’m serving my time.

Here’s what our Sunday sounded like:

“YAY! Asher! That’s so good! You’re such a goo—ASHER! PLEASE do not get on the coffee table. That’s right, climb down. That’s very good baby, thank you for being a goo—ASHER! What did mama JUST say? NO sir, you may not—that’s right. Thank you sweet boy, than—ASHER! That is dangerous! Didn’t I just tell you to please NOT get on…”

And then it sounded like this:

“WWWAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHH”

And then I stepped on a toy train and said, “ah shoot! dang! durn! darn!” because I live with a parrot and my sailor days are slowly slipping away.  Durn?  Durn just does not cut the throbbing-foot-mustard, you know?

So it would seem that indeed the terribleness of the twos is the constant constant constant boundary pushing.  I say no, I calmly explain why (you’ll bonk your head, baby) I distract and divert and take a beat and ask myself WWMPD? (What would Mary Poppins Do) and at some point I yell a booming and terrifying NO, right after he bites my arm and smiles at me, and put him in his crib for time out–for both of us–and then when I pick him back up he pats my cheek and asks for the “twains? book? weed?” (Trains? Book? Read?) as if I didn’t just yell at him and close him in his room and I melt and feel like a major butt.

Terrible twos indeed.  The things is, some bigger picture part of me knows that this is par for the course and that Asher has to do all of this but…I don’t especially like looking at the clock and thinking, 45 minutes until bath time.  I know that every single parent out there has made that mental calculation, I know that I have a lot more of those moments in my future, and I completely get that part of parenting is providing boundaries and being the one to keep an eye on the prize as the full-speed-ahead ramming of those boundaries occurs.  But I also get why parenthood drives people to drinking.  You know that tired definition of insanity?  Doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result each time?  Well, I think it’s fair to say that toddlers are insane.  That insanity is mostly awesome when on a less intense scale it’s lovingly described as insatiable curiosity, but there is a fine line between being curious and just being difficult, and for the very first time (though certainly not the last!) I got to cruise that second gauntlet this weekend.

And of course the other completely cliche but nonetheless amazing thing about this whole scenario?  After all of the no-ing, the tears, the redirecting, the endless stream of parenting drivel that I hear myself saying all afternoon, after all of that, Asher will do 30 things exactly right with heart-melting conviction and sweetness and I see the gorgeous child and get all gooey and silly over him because he’s such an awesome kid and because he’s our kid.  He’s our kid that is determined to break his head open super-manning off the coffee table, but he’s also our kid that looked at me yesterday and spontaneously said, “Ashers yuves mama” (Asher loves mama) and told me that submarines swim in the water and birds and planes fly in the sky.  He’s the kid that’s not quite two that started asking to potty all on his own about 3 weeks ago.  And my favorite right now?  He’s the kid that wakes up in the middle of the night begging not for mama or papa, but to be woked, because it feels good to have someone you love slip in in the dark and rock you for a minute before going back to sleep.

How do you describe it as anything other than a roller coaster?   Highs and lows and then….HIGHS!!…and then…LOWS!!…and then…3 tiny seconds of normalcy and then…HIGHS!!…and then…

and I know that some part of me was smiling as I was hopping around holding my throbbing foot and saying, “didn’t I JUST ask you…” and watching the clock because this is my favorite job that I’ve ever had and even though my boss is a little demanding and disrespectful at times, I would sign up for this every single day of the year if asked to do it again.

But Asher, if it’s 2030 and you’re reading this right now?  I’m completely confident that I still enjoy massages and large vases of peonies.
You hear me, son?

Friendship

Have you told you best friend that you love him or her today?  You should, and maybe consider laying a big wet one on them too…

This photo was entered into the I Heart Faces Friendship photo challenge…click the button above to learn more and check out this week’s other Friendship pictures!

 

What’s in a name?

Before Asher was born, I would sit in his “empty” nursery (empty only because it was sans child, but certainly not short on things) and rock in the rocking chair and think my big thoughts about motherhood.  Did these thoughts include what to do when my child starts throwing cottage cheese with surprising velocity and saying no? Not especially.  Did they include dreaming about being pooped and vomited on at the same time? Negatory.  No, I mostly spent this time imagining my life as a sort of nose pierced June Cleaver, which is probably fodder for another post.  Something that I did, oddly, think about during these pregnant rocking sessions, were all of the words that are in Asher’s name.  This is due in large part to the vintage animal cards that used to hang over the changing table spelling out his name.  (I say “used to” because we quickly realized that anything within arm’s reach of said changing table was guaranteed a swift death, and thus the sweet little hanging cards were relocated.)  Anyway, the point of all of this is that in my rocking and staring, I discovered that Asher’s name contains the words share, hear(s), ear(s), hare, era(s), rash, sear, shear, she, he, has, ha, and of course, ash.

Now let me ask you this.  With at least 16 words hidden in Asher’s name, do you think that we call him by any of these things on any given day?  Nope.  Not even close.  You know what we call this poor kid?

Tickles, Britches McGhee, Pickles, Monkey, Monkey Pig, Asher Pig, The Piglet, Long Legs McGoo (really the beauty of the McGhees and McGoos is that they get attached to pretty much everything, so just pop one of those on the ends of any of these names and you’ll be on a Drew and Amelia roll), The Young Sir, Asher Pants, Asher Bean, Piggles, Tickle Britches, Munchkin, Booshka, Love Bug, Butter Bean, Pahdner, Cheeks McGhee…you get the idea.  Of these, the top four are Pickles, Butterbean, Monkey Pig and Asher Pig.  I’m about to bust out a Say Anything reference here and say, how did that “happen”?  The short answer is, I have no earthly idea.  I’d like to hold Drew responsible, but the truth is, he’s not the one running around calling his kid Pickles, so I’m pretty sure that I’m at fault here too.

So I guess what I’m driving at here is, anyone know of a good therapist?  I think I know a 17 month old that’s on his way to an identity crisis provoked by his parent’s complete and total inability to call their child by his given name.  Pickle Pants?  Really?

How about you? Pets, children, loved ones? Please tell me that you have an endearingly appalling arsenal of pet names in your bag too.  Tell me or else I may start calling you Britches Mahoulahan and patting your back soothingly.  Just you wait.

Progress Report.

I know that while all of you were sipping/downing your coffee/tea this morning, you were overcome with the nagging sensation of a burning question that you just couldn’t quite put your finger on.  What is it? You kept wondering…what is that I’m trying to figure out here?

Well look no further my friends.  I’m sure that feeling was just your desire to know whether or not Asher has taken his long awaited first steps!  Hmm?  What’s that?  You just remembered that actually Drew and I and maybe a few select grandparents are the only ones spending time over the rim of a mug pondering this?  Surely not!  I’m sure that you’re all just desperate to see what’s happening in the world of biped-dom at Casa Walton.  Well far be it for me to keep this vital piece of information from you, so without further ado, I will tell you that Asher has taken his first steps…

sorta.

He walks between us, though he’s still not doing a lot of standing on his own (read: any?) and he’s not really initiating going from squatting/sitting to walking/standing, but he has taken steps on his own and I’m rolling with it.

Wanna see?

Watch out Carl Lewis! (And quick shout out to babies in striped one pieces. How old do you have to be before people start calling these outfits unitards?)
***If you’re reading this in your email browser/RSS reader, you may have to click the image to actually see the video***

3.

A few glimpses of just some of the things that make children so cool:

This is our sweet little friend Austin shredding the slopes during our last snow.  Apparently they bundled him up, took him out, and he passed out as soon as they started pulling him around.  This makes me want to write a little love letter to winter and apologize for all of the mean things that I’ve been so thoughtlessly saying about it lately; without winter we would miss iconic moments like this one and the word “cozy” would only apply to something you cover your teapot with.  Sorry Winter, next hot chocolate’s on me, ok?

And not to be outdone, here is Asher, the little box head:(Are your knees twitching a little looking at that picture?  Snips, snails and puppydog tails?  I think not.  Little boys are clearly made of playdough.)

And while this is not my child, or one of his friends, here’s another darling picture to share with you:

This is a little lady named Nella, daughter of blogger, photographer, and mother, Kelle Hampton.  It was just about one year ago that Nella was born and revealed that she has what Kelle calls magically enhanced chromosomes, and what the lay person would call Down Syndrome.  I can’t remember how I found Kelle’s blog, Enjoying the Small Things, but I’ve been reading it for about a year now and I am always so moved by her photography, her grit, her zeal, and her desire to turn just about every minute of her life into a celebration.  In honor of Nella’s first birthday, Kelle and her family have set up a fund called Nella’s ONEder Fund to support the National Society for Down Syndrome (NDSS).  What I love about this, is that Kelle has asked everyone to contribute a little, $5 or $10, to help raise awareness and support for the 400,000 people with Down Syndrome.  And folks, it’s working!  Over the last week, through the support of her readers, Kelle has raised over $40,000 mostly through these small donations and I wanted to give you the opportunity to contribute a couple of bucks (the cost of a latte/magazine/3 pm snack) to this incredible cause, and feel the power of being a part of a whole lot of little that adds up to something really big.

As Kelle said, “The mission of the NDSS is to create a culture that fully accepts and includes individuals with Down syndrome.  Let me say that more clearly. The mission of the NDSS is to create a culture that fully accepts and includes our little girl. Our Nella.” Well, that got me.  Read Kelle’s full post here.

Click here if you would like to make a contribution to Nella’s ONEder Fund, and please feel free to share this on Facebook, Tweetytwiterrer, or anywhere else!

And if you have an extra moment and want to read one of the best pieces of no-holds-barred, honest, and inspiring writing about a birth story, click here to read about the day that Nella was born.  If you have ever given birth, I especially recommend reading this.  Just grab some tissues before you head over there.

So that’s all for today.  Aren’t children magical little beings? 

Baby Steps.

Those guys.  They’re good ones.

A number of long distance friends and family have inquired about first steps, so I thought today we might chat about Long Legs McGoo, and his steps towards walking.  Asher still isn’t walking and tomorrow marks his 16th month on the planet.  I have found that if I say anything bordering on concern or complaint about the lack of biped activity going on, people are quick to point out that each child is on his or her own schedule, which I totally understand and have more or less embraced.  Ok, well most people are quick to say that.  One woman at the grocery told me that I needed to put him down more and just let him walk.  I wish I had thought of that!  She was a stranger and I did not like her.  Anyway, other than that, I get a lot of reassurance that he’ll walk when he’s good and ready.  But team?  This mama is good and ready.  The little budso is not that jazzed about being held when he’s out and about because there’s a whole big world out there and seeing it from your parent’s arms is just not that cool anymore.  However, it’s January, it’s freezing cold down there on the ground, and additionally people think it’s weird if you let your kid crawl on the aisles of the grocery store.  I know that I should think that’s weird too, but I’ve kind of hit the point where I would rather have a happy kid that has the whatever from the soles of 400 pairs of stranger’s shoes than have a crying squirming kid with germ-free hands that just. wants. to. get. down.  I don’t blame him one bit, I would totally hate it if my Mom insisted on carrying me everywhere we went.  My most recent assumption is that Asher has been secretly reading George Orwell after we put him to bed and has bought into the whole notion of four legs good, two legs bad.  (We all know how that turns out, though).  Or maybe he’s so enamored with the dogs, by far his favorite thing on earth, that he would like to maintain their ranks.  Or maybe he’s just a kid with long legs and a wobbly torso that would rather crawl than walk.  But I’m guessing it’s the George Orwell thing.  Probably.

Two legs good, team.  Two legs good.