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Category: Courtland

XXIX

Hi, Mom,

Christmas 2017 was a good one. But my lord were you missed.

We went to bed on Christmas Eve to a ground covered in green grass and awoke to a winter wonderland. I can’t recall a white Christmas quite so spectacular. We made Swedish cardamom rolls like we did the morning of your last Christmas with us. We’ve really perfected the recipe. Sanderling nearly ate his weight in bulle. We opened presents by a toasty fire. Dad won Christmas by gifting Courtland a karaoke set that provided the evening’s entertainment (and many more to follow, no doubt). We spent the afternoon sledding, before eating boeuf and popping Christmas crackers, and cozying up to a viewing of “Love Actually.”

Earlier in the week, after prepping your wild rice shrimp casserole recipe for Christmas eve supper, I reflected on our first Christmas with Sunny.  That year, I remember feeling such gratitude that all of our loved ones were alive and healthy and together. I remember rolling over to James that night and saying, “I know it won’t always be like this.” I just didn’t realize this would change so quickly. I thought I had years, decades if we were lucky, before this feeling. This forever balance of light and dark.

It’s never going to feel right without you, but we’re learning to navigate your absence and find light in even the darkest places.

143 Mama. Merry Christmas.

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XXV

Hi, Mom,

Yesterday was Halloween. And for the fourth year in a row, we executed another ridiculous team costume. The girls are currently steeped in the “Harry Potter” series, and so they requested that we each pick a character from the books. Sunny was Hermione, with her stack of books and wild hair. Courtland was Ginny, badass and strong and chalked with red hair for the part. Dad was Dumbledore, and ordered the most epic costume to complete the look. The man has never had to manage so much hair and fashion tap! James was Harry, and Sanderling his snowy, white owl Hedwig. And I wore Momo’s epic velvet cape to pull off Professor McGonagall. As ever, you were deeply missed.

143 Your Ashley

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XXIV

Hi, Mom,

Your 1st grade granddaughter is so stinking wise. You wouldn’t be surprised to hear this. You were always her biggest cheerleader. You understood what a thoughtful and sensitive child she was. You saw through her tantrums and tears, and saw a beautiful and kind soul. I mourn for so much, but the loss of Courtland’s biggest fan is one of the most devastating elements of life without you. How I wish she had the privilege of navigating her teenage years with you by her side. It is so fucking unfair that your love and comfort and the safety it provided are no longer a part of our future.

While sitting on the beach earlier this week (yes! A beach day in late October, with Maja and her family no less!), Courtland sat apart from the group, lazily gazing out at the ocean, burying her feet in the sand. After some time, I approached her and asked if she was okay.

“Oh yes, mom. I’m just listening to the waves. It is the most peaceful sound in the whole world.”

While watching Sunny compete at a swim meet, one of her friends bemoaned, “Sunny’s not winning the race!” And Courtland responded, “That’s okay. What matters is that she does her best and feels proud of herself.”

Upon handing me her 1st grade school photo. “Mom, at the time, I thought I did such a nice smile, but now I see that I look like a first grader, with all those missing teeth.” (I assured her that that is what made it such a nice smile, because it represented this stage in her life so perfectly). Admittedly, it is a classic and hysterically awkward school photo awash with awkward, Jack-o-lantern grin, and I love it.

And lastly, she was in the midst of a meltdown after refusing to brush her hair before bed. Full screams and cries and refusal to follow directions. In those moments, I feel so frustrated as this behavior was long gone in Sunny’s world by the time she hit 1st grade, though I know it does no good to compare the two. After fifteen minutes or so, we had both calmed down and she was merely whimpering into her pillow. She turned to face me and said, “Mama, I know you feel so frustrated when I do this. But I just have so many feelings. Sometimes I don’t know how to not cry.”

And god, my heart ached with the clarity and honesty of her words. Her self-awareness so far beyond her years, beyond what most adults ever possess in a lifetime. You would be so moved by the brilliant and challenging and candid person she is.

But you understood that about her, even though you only ever knew her as a preschooler.

143 Your Ashley

XVI

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They all share your darling half strawberry nose.

XIV

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I wish you could hear the coos of comfort as he nestles in to sleep.

I wish you could see the gentleness with which she holds the world.

I wish you could taste the sweetness of sticky cheeks and sugar-dusted fingers.

I wish you could touch the leaves as they dance ’round her limbs.

I wish you could smell the powder and peace on their pillows each night.

I wish you were here, sensing their world and all its simple, broken splendor.

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.

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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.

Ballerina Ladybug

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This weekend we watched our recent preschool grad dance in her inaugural ballet recital. She, with an array of other 3 and 4 year olds, danced on stage in lady bug costumes and stole the audience’s hearts with the level of adorableness. As I said yesterday, this kid loves to perform. And she, along with her fairy godsister, won the award for “Dance Excellence” in her class. I have a feeling that that just means that she is enthusiastic about dance and follows directions well (she’s only four after all), but it made both the recipient and her mama proud. Here they are pictured together almost exactly three years apart. Age 1 versus age 4.

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My dad and sister and my mom’s dearest friend from childhood drove up for the performance, and while my heart ached from my mother’s absence, I was grateful to have this grouping of family together. While it will never be the same without her, we are all trying to celebrate and enjoy one another whenever the opportunity presents, as she would have wanted.

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Preschool Graduation

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Courtland graduated from preschool two weeks ago, and it was as adorable and as heartwarming as one expects such things to be. She wore the dress that Sunny wore to her preschool graduation, a gift from my mother. They sang songs, including a tune in Spanish, as they’ve been taking weekly lessons from a classmate’s mother all year. Courtland, ever our performer, was so very enthusiastic about the chance to sing for a crowd.

Our little bear is all ready for Kindergarten!


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^^Her siblings dressed in their finest for the occasion.^^

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