Blog a la Cart

Month: November, 2015




“A portrait of my children, once a week, every week, in 2015.”

Sunny: We capped off a very very busy holiday weekend with Christmas tree selection. Bring on December!
Kaki: She wears that formal purple coat every opportunity she gets. A hand-me-down from Auntie Kimmy’s childhood.

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




“A portrait of my children, once a week, every week, in 2015.”

Sunny: Such a 1st grade mug! She lost her 5th tooth – her first top tooth. She’s hoping that the other wiggles its way out shortly so that she can truly say, “All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth.”
Kaki: Very proud of her turkey center piece for Thanksgiving dinner. Also? We just completed a bunch of work on the north side of our home – including finally finishing the fourth side of exterior paint (our home is officially one color!), re-roofing, and installing a functioning door out to our deck (we bought the home with the door broken. Nearly four years ago). I am obsessed with all this amazing light from the new glass doors.

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


We have been singing Adele’s latest single ad nauseam chez Cart (I have a feeling our family is not alone in this). This SNL sketch absolutely killed me. While my family of liberal, Vermont socialists will likely be on the same page during Thanksgiving supper, we may just break out in song for the love of Adele.

Cart Family // Fall 2015


These photos arrived in my inbox at the start of a week all about gratitude. Very fitting indeed. Many thanks to my dear and talented friend Kate Drew Miller for capturing our family in our beautiful Vermont town during its best season. I mean those views from Kate’s property! *jawfloor*




















Week 24 (and some body talk)

I began writing this post earlier this fall, and an unsolicited comment on my burgeoning baby belly by an acquaintance this morning at drop-off has prompted me to pick up the conversation and finish the post.

Thoughts from August…

The kids have been commenting that I already have a big belly because of the baby. At seven weeks gestation. I explained that mama has always had a bit of belly bulge since carrying two prior pregnancies. And that my belly is actually pretty much the same size it’s been since I stopped breastfeeding Courtland back in 2012.

I relayed this story to a friend, and she responded, “Well, at least now you have an excuse! You are pregnant, so it’s okay to have some belly bulge.”

Sigh. It’s always “okay” to have some belly bulge.

I don’t need an excuse (although creating two prior humans is certainly one) and am perfectly comfortable with my belly that reflects this fact. My friend’s comment was truly intended as harmless… nay supportive! Because we are so conditioned to assume that a woman would be embarrassed by her body if it were anything but rail thin, that we leap into protective mode to help justify or explain a body that falls outside that parameters so as not to feel guilty.

And more recently, two examples of the broader cultural problem of people feeling like it’s acceptable and a-okay to blithely comment on another person’s body (most frequently, female bodies, especially when they’re making life)…

Back in late September/early October, I strolled into a work meeting with six or seven other colleagues and one woman blurted out, “Oh my goodness! Ashley! You’re HUGE! You really ARE pregnant.”

Why yes. Yes I am. I was not lying.

I responded, red-faced and flustered by such aggressive and unwelcome statements about my body in a room full of people, “Well, you ain’t seen nothing yet. I’ve got a long way to go.” I didn’t know what else to say! I wanted to crawl under the table and cry.

And then this morning, while dropping Courtland off at school…

Morning, Ashley! Wow, how many weeks pregnant are you?

24 weeks today, actually.

Geez, you look WAY more pregnant than that!!

… oh… well, I’m not…

It didn’t feel great to be told that I look larger than I am “supposed” to look at this stage in the pregnancy, but it honestly would have been just as miserable to be told that I look smaller, because either statement is anxiety-inducing for an expecting mom. We carry enough self-imposed stress and worry when we’re pregnant about whether or not we’re “making” the baby right, that any comment that implies that our body is somehow outside “normal” expectations feels terrible.

Too small? Am I not nourishing the baby? Does she need more from me? What if baby isn’t thriving?

Too big? Am I on track for gestational diabetes? Am I going to be supremely overweight after having the baby? Is the baby going to be unhealthy? (Our cultural equations of weight with health are doubly-toxic for pregnant women).

It’s daunting to be responsible for creating another human being, particularly when we have absolutely no control of the process. Our body is doing it and we’re beholden to it 24/7 for 40 weeks, but while we can exercise, and sleep, and try to eat well-rounded meals, there’s very little control we have over what is happening inside and to our bodies and the living person that is growing inside.

Even through this third experience, I am floored by what is happening inside of my own person. It is mind-blowing and miraculous and uncomfortable and overwhelming and awe-inspiring and a giant pain in the ass and the most humbling experience I’ll ever know. Motherhood, from conception to a lifetime of parenting, is a deeply complex and contradictory experience. Adding fuel to that already muddled emotional terrain by infusing unsolicited commentary from seemingly well-meaning but a painfully insensitive public can feel maddening at best and debilitating at worst .

If you must comment, ask how the woman is feeling, or tell her that she is glowing, or that she’s doing a wonderful job. Affirming, empowering statements make a world of difference in a society that is so prone to lay judgement and inappropriate commentary on the experiences of women and their bodies.


This afternoon, to get out of the negative head space about my body (annoyed that I even let those comments have that impact), I did a little self-portraiture. Just me and baby. And it was empowering, dare I say sensual (during a time when it can be VERY hard to feel that way), and uninhibited because I was completely unburdened of anyone’s gaze but my own. And it felt good to experiment and play and reconnect with this amazing process and my badass body that’s making it possible. However cheesy it may sound, it worked. And so here we are at Week 24.



The Peace of Wild Things

“When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.” – Wendell Berry


This poem really struck a cord given everything that is happening in the world. I feel so much gratitude for our slice of comfort on a little dirt road in Southwestern Vermont. Sending love and peace into the world around me.

Children and Grief

When it comes to death and dying, James and I have been upfront and honest with the girls. We had to decide how we wanted to talk about death when Ursa was sick, and so three years ago we began figuring out how we was a family wanted to explain the inexplicable. To try to help our children understand the incomprehensible. And it isn’t always clear or perfect or the most consistent. We agree to always answer their questions honestly but minimally, giving them answers to what they need but without offering more than they want or can bear. We don’t want death to be scary, but need to navigate the ambiguities and unknowns that all humans carry about the end of life. It is okay if it makes you feel sad, or angry, or confused. Because every person feels all those things about death and loss. We are truthful about its finality. But provide comfort with the idea that through our memories and love, we carry those that have passed with us in our hearts.

Sunny, the evening of T’s death last Monday, reflected, T is now in my heart playing with Ursa.

And oh how our own hearts ached with the beauty and sweetness of that image.

We wrote a book as a family about Ursa’s death, titled “In My Heart,” and it’s provided comfort (and, admittedly, many tears) since her passing. Since T’s death a week ago today, we’ve been re-reading the book and reflecting on our most treasured memories with T and the stories that we’ll each carry with us in his absence.

Courtland was very worked up on Monday night, sobbing and sobbing in bed before she wailed, WHO WILL TAKE CARE OF ZIZI? AND WHO WILL BRING ME MY JUICE BOXES?

Such an unbelievably wise, heartbreaking question followed by such an innocent preschool concern. She, at such a young age, recognized the partnership between her great-grandfather and great-grandmother, forged during 58 years of marriage, and mourned the disruption and end of that mutual care-taking.

She also worried about her juice-box consumption as T was always quick to bring both girls a juice box and English biscuits upon arrival at his house. It’s likely one of the only, and certainly the strongest, memory she’ll hold of her great-grandfather, and in processing his death, she had to process the end of this juice box ritual.

It’s been a sad and humbling but also thoughtful and tender time in our household. Such are the juxtapositions entrenched in life and death.





“A portrait of my children, once a week, every week, in 2015.”

Sunny: Realizing our years left of family tub time are fewer than the years that she’s been on this Earth. It really does go too fast.
Kaki: This sweetness. So unbelievably insightful of late.

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



Today the world lost a wonderful storyteller and historian. Our family lost a beloved (great) grandfather.

I am grateful to have spent time with T this weekend, as he sat next to his wife of 50 years in the home his own father built, and to have had a chance to say “I love you” and “Thank you.” James lived with his grandparents every summer for over a decade, and so T in many ways was like another parent. T taught James how to shoot one hell of a round of trap, to fly fish, to play a mean game of Skittles and an even fiercer game of Backgammon, and to love the outdoors in a way that has shaped our very lifestyle in Vermont.

My first time meeting T over a dozen years ago, he mixed me my first true Dark n’Stormy during a cocktail hour in his Bermuda home, and yikes, I couldn’t keep up with his 1-to-1 ratio of ginger beer to Goslings rum. I still can’t. He and his wife welcomed me into their family so unconditionally and warmly, and were like second grandparents to a woman who lost hers at a younger age. James is so much the man he is today because of his grandfather T. And I feel exceptionally fortunate to have known him and had him in our lives for as long as we did.





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I can’t help but look at these images and reflect on how lucky my girls were to know their Great-Grandfather. These last two images were taken this 4th of July, the last time we saw T as we’ll remember him. We miss his ascots and storytelling and stiff Dark and Stormies and love of wildlife and history and family already.

Weekend Away


James and I are headed to his family’s cabin in the Poconos for a weekend with two of our dear college friends and their partners (and pups). Momar and Doda are on kid/chicken/pig/Hanna duty, while we venture west for a weekend of delicious food, conversation, and time spent by a roaring fireplace. We started this “tradition” last fall, and I do hope it’s something we’ll be able to maintain for many years to come. The opportunity to reconnect with loved ones with whom we don’t interact regularly in our now adult lives is such a gift. And this scenery sure ain’t hurting the vibe! Really, this post was just an excuse to re-post this glorious scene from last year’s adventure. Happy weekend, all.