Blog a la Cart

Kindergarten

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She awoke Tuesday morning with claims of a tummy ache. Our usual firecracker had lost her spark.

“My tummy just hurts. I think I have to stay in bed.”

“Do you think maybe you’re just nervous about your first day of Kindergarten?”

“NO! I’m sick! I have a tummy ache. I have to stay in bed. I’m not nervous, MOM.”

We informed her that she would be going to see her pediatrician if she chose not to attend her first day of school on account of the tummy woes. Frustrated with this predicament, she opted for school, though she was mopey and out of sorts until the bus arrived. Sunny took her by the hand, and encouragingly led her up the stairs of the bus. They sat side by side, and waved enthusiastically to me, James, and Sanderling as the bus pulled away.

She told me that she did not want me to meet her at the school to walk her from the bus to her classroom.

“My teacher will do that, Mama. I don’t need you to.”

Ah, and that pang of parenting pride and nostalgia struck so hard. To see your kid embrace her independence is both a beautiful and heart-wrenching thing. It’s hard not to hear, “I don’t need you,” when I know she simply means that she trusts me enough to have her back that she can take her own bold steps forward.

As we walked home from school that afternoon, she regaled me with expressive, excited tales of her first day. Her wild hand gestures reminding me so very much of her Momar.

“And we got a tour, and I got TWO recesses. I saw Sunny at lunch, and Ms. Dingman let me play in the block area, and she read us a funny story. This person was nervous about the first day of school and we thought it was a kid but then at the end of the book we found out it was a teacher. A grown up was nervous about the first day of school, Mama. Isn’t that silly? I guess I was nervous this morning and that’s why I had a tummy ache. Now I’m just excited. School is so so cool. The gardener is coming tomorrow and we get to pick carrots! FROM THE GROUND! And give them to the cafeteria to make our lunches!”

She has been all smiles and sunshine every morning since, and she expressed great dismay that today is Friday, which means she has to suffer through an entire weekend before her next day of Kindergarten. Momar was always her biggest fan and champion – she wouldn’t be surprised in the least to hear just how smoothly her second grandchild has made the transition, despite being one of the youngest in her grade. I am so proud of this passionate five year old of ours. She is ready to soar.

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“A portrait of my children, once a week, every week sometimes, in 2016.”

Sunny: A portrait of friendship. She’s had a wonderful time reconnecting with friends from preschool at her new elementary school. And making some new buddies along the way.
Kaki: Diving into Kindergarten like the bold, brave kid that she is.
Sander: Our final dip in the pool this past weekend with our waterbaby.

More details about The 52 Project here. To view all the portraits in the series visit here.

All my babies are off to school!

And like that, they’re all transitioned to their new schools. Now, it’s my turn. Next week, after a seven month leave, I return to work for the first time since my mother’s death. Whew. Lots of therapy, yoga, massage, and deep breathing in my near future.

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Second Grade

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And like that, she’s got her first week of 2nd grade under her belt. (My mom’s childhood bestie has been equipping our kids with the sweetest gifts in Momar’s absence. The bee backpack to match Sunny’s bee lunchpack is just one of many thoughtful gestures from Mich!)

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“A portrait of my children, once a week, every week sometimes, in 2016.”

Sunny: Our second grader. For James’ birthday, she took him camping on a beautiful hill overlooking the mountains near our new home. The two of them had such a wonderful evening together – James is just happy to have a female in his life who is willing to sleep in a tent (a camper I am not!). And despite some nerves on Monday night, she has had a wonderful start to her new school. So much change. I am endlessly proud of and inspired by this girl.
Kaki: On the brink of Kindergarten. She is so ready. The Kindergarteners start a week later than the rest of the school, so she’s been hanging with me this week. For someone who thrives on routine, we are all looking forward to the steadiness and calm that the beginning of the school year schedule will bring.
Sander: Sitting up on his own. Eating solid food. And thanks to group think and the whisperings of his infant room teachers, napping like a champ. 

More details about The 52 Project here. To view all the portraits in the series visit here.

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Kaki, Sander and I surprised James and Sunny with coffee and hot cocoa on James’ birthday morning atop Stone Hill.

Sanderling // Six Months

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Darling Boy,

Today is your half birthday, and you have fully transitioned from infant to baby. You are moving and grooving and eating and sitting and fighting sleep and grabbing and rolling and rocking like a kid that’s got six months of life under his belt.

You’ve started daycare, and, no surprise, social creature that you are, your transition has been smooth and delightful. You beam for your teachers and friends, and while you’re the youngest in your classroom by over three months, you’re by far the biggest (running theme for the Cart kids). Nothing brings you greater joy than sitting at the kid table eating food. SOLID FOOD! You freaking love food. It didn’t take long for you to get a handle on being spoon fed, and everything to which you’ve been introduced has been met with great enthusiasm. You literally quake with joy when you see the bag of frozen mango come out of the freezer. You kick and squirm and squawk and do this little head wiggle to show your delight that it’s meal time. While your sleep has been rocky ever since returning from Bermuda, I’m holding out hope that it’s a result of so much change (new house, start of daycare, solid food, sitting up on your own, etc.), and that as you fall into a nap routine at daycare, sleep at home will follow suit. And in the meantime, we’re… surviving. (Sleep deprivation sucks so hard, please remember how to sleep 10 consecutive hours again, soon. PLEASE!)

Your personality is revealing itself by the day, and I’m struck by your very notable “coo” that you do when nursing or when you’re just waking or winding down from the day. It reminds me of the noise the polar bears in “Balto” (the 1995 animated movie about a sled dog, ha! Throwback!) make when they talk to one another. No one but your Auntie Kimmy will understand that reference, but man, it is so unbelievably sweet and affectionate. You also love to grab the back of my neck or hair with both fists and violently tug your your mouth to my face and “nurse” lovingly on my chin. While it is a wee bit aggressive and hicky-inducing (you are far stronger and capable of causing discomfort than you realize), it is your way of greeting me when we’ve been apart or when you’re feeling particularly needy. Your teachers call it your kiss – which is a very kind way of characterizing the behavior. But I find it endearing nonetheless, because it seems to be a behavior predominately reserved for me.

Over our anniversary dinner last night, your daddy and I were reflecting on just how truly enamored of you we are. We realize that we are experiencing your babyhood with a more mature lens, and it’s clear that we’re able to appreciate and enjoy and relish all of your developments, milestones, and everyday moments more deeply because the girls are a living demonstration of just how quickly the stages fly by. (Worth noting, your sisters are still positively obsessed with you and constantly overwhelm you with love and attention – but most of the time, you don’t seem to mind in the least! In fact, they still elicit the most righteous giggles from you).

I love you, sweet boy. And I am endlessly grateful that you are my son, and that I get the privilege of being your mom. Our family wouldn’t be complete without you. Happy Half Birthday!

143 Mama

8 Years

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Eight years ago, James and I were married atop a stormy mountain with our parents beaming by our sides. My mom and dad taught me everything I needed to know about how to nurture a marriage rooted in respect and affection and, above all, love.

In our wedding program, we wrote:

Many thanks to …

… Rick Spalding for his beautiful words and guidance.
…. Dave Senft for his creative vision and putting words to song..
… Auyon Mukarji and Harris Palestiner for setting the mood.
… Maja Hellden for making Ashley look and feel like a fairy princess.
… Our siblings for keeping us balanced and providing a lifetime of friendship, support and laughter.
… Our core for being our second family, and for understanding why standing in an aisle in matching outfits didn’t quite do our friendships justice.
… Our parents for loving one another and us with such unconditional ferocity. We will be stronger in our union thanks to your stunning example.
… All of our guests for celebrating this special moment in our lives and especially for making the trek to the Purple Valley, the place where it all began…

An extra special thank you to Allison Ulmer for making everything in our lives beautiful, especially today.

Everyday, I strive to emulate that light and beauty in her absence.

James, thank you for sharing in her vision with me. And for being the one true constant in my life these past six months. You have stood by me during the uglier, scarier, harder parts of marriage as we weathered so much heartbreak and change, and I’ve never loved you more deeply. 143, always.

I don’t want to do this anymore.

That’s how I’ve felt about this space since my last post in early July.

I don’t want to do this anymore.

There has been so much. So much change. So much transition. So many moving parts these past six months that, recently, the thought of attempting to capture them here has felt daunting, not therapeutic. Overwhelming, instead of celebratory.

Since I last posted, we’ve found new homes for Penelope Pig and our flock of chickens, as part of a much larger picture to simplify our lives and conflicting demands of time and energy.

We’ve spent a full week of summer vacation on Cape Cod without my mother. It was filled with beach lounging, ocean swimming, bridge jumping, corn on the cob eating, movie watching, sand castle building, sand island playing, and sunset boat cruising. So much time in the water and sun. With family. And there was so much joy and memory making, and yet everything is diminished by her absence. Forever, diminished.

We packed up and sold Cartwheel Farm. A decision not easily made, but solidified when we found buyers in under 72 hours of listing. In the name of simplicity and convenience, we needed to let go of our dear farmette. We had to say goodbye to the place where I buried my sweet Ursa, where I last saw and held my mother, the last home in which she ever knew me living

We weathered a week of homelessness in sending the dogs and girls off to my in-laws, while James, Sanderling and I relied on the hospitality of friends, and mentally prepped for our move into our new home.

We moved into our little village, walking distance to school and work and daycare, and most significantly, loved ones, our support network. Upon filling our 1875 Colonial with all of our worldly possessions, James and the girls boarded a boat to Bermuda with their Bermudian great-grandmother and Sanderling and I flew over and met them island-side. A tropical, gorgeous, breathtaking break from our chaotic reality back home.

Sander became a teething, squawky five month old. Courtland turned into a Kindergarten-ready five year old. We marked six months of life without my mother’s.

And now, I sit here typing with breast pumps attached to my chest as I attempt to physically and mentally and emotionally prepare for Sander’s introduction to daycare tomorrow morning. The first of my children to be sent to full time daycare before age one, and a symbolic demarcation of all that has changed in such a short period of time. From the beginning, he has been my anchor, and the thought of being apart from him for an extended period makes my gut turn with nausea. I’m not sure how to weather a day without him by my side, providing perspective and comfort and presence. It is a necessary step in my grief as we prepare for my return to work in September, but for now, I feel raw and exposed and unsettled. I know that he will be fine, social butterfly that he is. It is me about whom I’m concerned.

Last night, I had my first visceral, ugly, hysterical outburst of grief in months. I screamed and sobbed and moaned, “I don’t want to do this any more. Please, I just don’t want to do this anymore.”

And by that I mean, I don’t want to exist in a world without my mother another day, another second. I want this grief to be over. I want this hurt to stop. I want this world without her to no longer be my reality.

The foreverness of it undoes me. Trying to make sense of forever, to wrap my head around that, is so physically devastating that my whole body aches and yearns and mourns. I need my mom. I just need my mom.

I don’t want to do this anymore.

I was called to return to this space thanks to a beautiful, loving email sent by a fellow member of the Dead Parent Club (one of the shittiest clubs to join). It was a reminder that these words can be helpful, not just for me, but for others who are navigating a similar devastating forever.

I may not want to do this anymore, but I can. And I will.

Lake Tour // 2016

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Any creative energy I once had is pretty zapped these days. As if parenting three children, including a breastfeeding baby, weren’t exhausting enough, grief is an entirely different level of trying and tiring. Between the exhaustion and the anti-depressants, my creative mojo is nil. And so, I have little interest in or ability to inhabit this space. I trust my therapist when she says that one day everything won’t feel so devastatingly terrible all the damn time, but for now, I’m moving through the awful as it comes.

On our recent vacation, I opted not to bring our dSLR camera as I knew it would go largely unused. Fortunately, iPhones are pretty darn great at snapping the action, and in two of our destinations, we had friends with great cameras who snapped photos on our behalf.

Here’s a peek at our Lake Tour 2016, right before we head to the coast for some much needed ocean therapy.

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First stop, Lake St. Catherine in Poultney, Vermont. Here, we celebrated the 4th of July with plenty of tubing and swimming and fireworks. It was a house filled with children and adults alike, so the girls had a blast playing with friends, while James and I had the chance to catch up with our own college pals.

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^^Boating and breastfeeding FTW!^^

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We then headed to New Hampshire to Silver Lake. It was a quieter scene, but equally filled with water fun and dear friends.

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^^One morning, my friend Kendra and I attempted some Stand Up Paddleboard Yoga, and I haven’t laughed so hard or had such fun in quite awhile. There was plenty of falling, but also plenty of zen among this absolutely breathtaking scenery.^^

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Next, we stopped off for an afternoon with friends who recently purchased a summer home on Lake Winnipesaukee.

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And finally, we hit the coast of Maine to introduce Sanderling to his great-grandparents. Which was simultaneously wonderful and heartbreaking as he’ll never get the chance to meet his grandmother.

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This photo kills me. I swear we had a great time at York’s Wild Kingdom, despite what the above two images suggest.

“THERE’S ALWAYS MONEY IN THE BANANA STAND!”

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Our final stop was to the Hubble Lighthouse, for Lobster Rolls, as Momar would have wanted. Lobster was far and away her favorite food.

Sanderling // Four Months

My darling Kewpie Doll,

This letter comes nearly a week past your Four Month Birth Day, and that’s kind of a metaphor for life as the third child. While I’m doing my best to keep up with marking and noting your milestones, it’s admittedly far less frequent and detailed as it was for your sisters, particularly your oldest sister. But rather than feel guilty about this, I find myself far more present in your babyhood than I ever was with your siblings. It’s perspective and wisdom that have taught me to slow down, enjoy, and just be in the moment with you. Because it moves far too quickly, and if I don’t stop and take in that delicious baby smell, or the comfort of that soft, fuzzy peach head, or the way you gaze up at me with those insanely blue eyes and greet me with those big, open-mouthed, drooly grins, it’ll be gone before I blink.

You’ve gone from being a grunty, wrinkly, cross-eyed infant, to a strong, social, busy baby. You grab with such intensity, often causing your female house mates to lament the epic fistfuls of hair that find their way into your grasp. You roll from tummy to back and back to front, and hold your head with such steadiness for a babe of your age. You arch and kick and flap and it’s clear that you are one adept and strong little one (little is relative, given that you are off the charts for height, but that’s no surprise given your genetic history). Which makes you all the more capable of handling the onslaught of hugs and squeezes and cuddles from your well-intentioned but overly-enthusiastic second sister. Both of your sisters love you so much, and they often quell your cries far faster than mommy or daddy. They coo and smile and sing and dangle toys and find as much joy in you as you so clearly find in them. It is so deeply meaningful for me to witness your connection and bond to one another, and my only wish is that you all continue to bring comfort and happiness to each other throughout your lives.

We took you on our first road trip as a family of five this past week. We visited friends at their lake houses in Vermont and New Hampshire, and then capped off the trip with a stop along the Maine Coast to meet your great-grandfather. While we’ve hit a bump in sleep thanks to the unwelcome four month sleep regression, you were amazingly adaptable as we dragged you from house to house. You road on boats so your sisters could go tubing or your daddy could go canoeing. You saw your first fireworks. You delighted everyone with your raspberries and giggles.  You’re like a cartoon character, your face is so very expressive like your dad’s. And it never ceases to amuse and bring smiles, even when I may be feeling low or having a hard grief day.

Staying at your great-grandfather’s nursing home for an evening was particularly challenging for me, as I couldn’t help but feel resentful that you get to meet him, and yet will never meet your Momar. Being surrounded by a community of people in their 70s, 80s and 90s made me ache with yearning and disappointment and anger. How is it possible that I’ll never know your grandmother as an old woman? How unfair and cruel it all feels.

But you have a way of pulling me from my darkest thoughts and shining light when I need it most. Our country needs so much of that right now. It is a scary time, both personally and nationally, and I’ve felt such anxiety about the state of the world in which I’ve welcomed you. But everyday, you and your sisters are a bit of hope and light and goodness that my life, this world, so desperately require. Thank you for continuing to be my anchor in the storm.

Happy Four Months, my Sanderling.

143 Mama

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