Blog a la Cart

Category: James

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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36/52

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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.

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.

Father’s Day // 2016

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I am feeling especially grateful for these kind, caring, loving, generous men in my life who are so very present in the lives of their children. And my heart extends extra tenderness to those for whom today is particularly painful. These holidays are raw and lonely and heartbreaking for many, and I do not take for granted how fortunate I am to be able to celebrate my own father and the father of my children, two men who have taught me so much about love and partnership and commitment to family.

All I can say is thank you for all the times you kept seeing me until I was big enough to see me myself.

I love you, Dad. You have always been there for us when we’ve needed it most, and we will always be there for you. We are so lucky to call you our Doda. Mom would be so proud of your care-taking and nurturing and generosity with your children and grandchildren during these life-altering months. I know it’s not the same without her, but we need you more than ever. 143. Always.

And James, there will never be proper language to capture the gratitude and love that I feel. These past four months you have demonstrated the depth of your love in capacities previously unknown. I found myself re-reading our wedding vows the other night, and you have truly gone above and beyond those words that we promised each other nearly eight years ago. This in particular spoke to me.

Each day, I will choose to love you when I wake, I will choose to love you as we fall asleep, and through all the uncertainties of the future, and the pressures of the present, I will love you.

I will give my deepest care, compassion and understanding, my constant comfort, all my strength and support, all my joy and happiness, to make your life more beautiful.

I will celebrate your triumphs; guide you through life’s stumbles, my hand in yours.

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Snuggles with Sander

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Everyone wants in on the infant snugs.

We are clearly not enjoying this baby enough… our little grunty babe. He has the most ridiculous grunt that is unlike any noise his big sisters made as infants. And it is hysterical, and endearing, and so deep and low and ridiculous. Usually it comes when he is first waking up, or right before a monster poop. And it is unique to our Sander (at least in the Cart family).

Oh we are just so stupidly in love with this little one. All of us.

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Sander’s Hospital Stay

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Here’s a peek at our hospital stay with Sander, the same L&D floor where I delivered Courtland. While the circumstances were far more challenging during this postpartum period, the staff rose to the occasion and treated our family with such thoughtful care and tenderness. I am endlessly grateful for the attention and kindness of the nurses during our stay, and my midwives, who carried me this past month in ways that I didn’t know were possible. Their deep commitment to me and this baby were palpable and I wish all women had access to that depth of care and experience. I feel very fortunate to be one of their patients.

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^^My father gifted my mother that bead for her Pandora bracelet on Valentine’s Day morning, before our entire world changed forever only moments later. I wore it around my neck in the three weeks following her death, and during Sander’s birth, as it was the most recent thing her hands had touched and it felt comforting to keep her touch close during a time when I needed it the most.^^

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Love Letter

I wrote these words for James for Valentine’s Day. I had intended to complete this letter that morning, but instead received that devastating phone call from my father. Re-reading it now, it doesn’t even begin to touch on my gratitude and love for this man. It captures my feelings about him in The Before, and while I don’t yet have the capacity or full perspective to write about our relationship in The After, I know that it runs far deeper than I ever could have imagined. 143, my love.


My James,

I’ve written you many a love note, on Valentine’s Day or otherwise, but it’s been awhile, given the chaos and inertia of daily life with young children. And as our world is about to get all the more disrupted with the introduction of a newborn, I figured now is as good a time as ever to remind you of just how very much I adore and love and respect you. As a partner, a father, a human.

Because lord knows when I’m in the depths of sleep deprivation and leaking bodily fluids out of one too many of my own bodily orifices while also managing the waste and outputs of another being and I haven’t showered in days and the laundry is crawling up the walls and the dishes have taken over our kitchen and OH MY GOD WHY WON’T THE KIDS STOP WHINING AND THE DOGS STOP BARKING AND WHY IS EVERYBODY SO DAMN NEEDY AND LOUD, I may have less than loving, tender words to exchange with you, my partner and culprit in this madness. We’ll be in survival mode, and while it will be filled with many beautiful times as a family, it will also have many of my less glamorous, more shameful moments. But underneath all that disorder and lack of personal hygiene, refer to this and remind yourself that I am in fact a loving and appreciative spouse.

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The Whaley Carts

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Their relationship in an image.

The way her world and her happiness is wrapped up in this person who has the patience and tenderness to crawl into a tiny floor bed night after night when she stumbles in to our room and simply says, “I need my Daddy.” He is always there for her, and it is one of the greatest gifts she’ll ever receive in this life, a person who models such unconditional love, comfort, and patience for her.

And while he complains about the near nightly midnight disruptions, he hasn’t made a strong effort to curb this behavior. Likely because he knows, as all parents do, that this time shall pass, far faster and sooner than we’d like. And while she’ll always need her father, her limbs will grow and spread and she won’t seek his guidance, and comfort, and love in the same way. And oh how he’ll miss that need while championing her growth and independence. And we’ll lie in bed whispering about “those nights” and “that time,” and envelope ourselves in nostalgia for the disruptions and inconveniences of early parenthood – the greatest paradox of this whole wild experiment we call raising a family.

Portrait of Life with a Third Pregnancy

James slides into bed after an evening of scraping and sanding and painting, and aligns himself along the curve of my back. His hands find my belly, home to the moving and shaking and rumbling of our furtive, energetic youngest.

Always wide awake and busy at midnight, huh?

Yup. Like clockwork. This does not bode well for when s/he’s on the outside. At least now I’m the only one disrupted by her evening exercise.

It’s pretty amazing. I know it’s a pain, but it’s one of my favorite parts of the day. 

We lie in silence, focused intently on the waves and ripples and jolts. The few moments of our day where our attention is ever fully fixed on this newest life.

S/he’ll be here in 7 weeks. We really need to find that bin of baby clothes. Though, I fear its contents are only appropriate for LA or summer-born infants. We should probably buy some stuff.

Yeah, and we need to launder them right? Dreft. We should buy some Dreft. And where is all the cloth diapering stuff. Are we cloth diapering this time?

I dunno. I hadn’t even thought about it. Sure. Yes. If we find the stuff… but we’re stopping after we go back to work and this kid goes to daycare.

Another solid jab. A reminder that yes, there is a human being in there. And yes, s/he will be entering our family very soon. And yes, we are sending her to daycare at 6 months unlike either of her siblings.

Gosh, when we were seven weeks from Addison’s arrival her entire nursery was completely finished

We scraped wallpaper, installed molding, and painted WALL MURALS for that kid. Not to mention fully stocked her closet with an unnecessary amount of Dreft-laundered clothing. The changing table was already brimming with diapers at the ready. And that ridiculous round crib. All assembled, with an array of blankets and stuffed animals and mobiles.

This kid gets a closet, with no crib. But let’s be honest. S/he’ll sleep in our bed for awhile. And we now have an Amazon Prime account.

Thank the sweet baby Cheez-Its for free 2-day shipping.

We can let this child know that mere weeks prior to her arrival, we invested all of our time and energy in redesigning our living room. Sunny got cow-themed wall murals, this kid got freshly painted window sills and a sectional sofa. You’re welcome, Third Child.

Thud! Thud! Thump!

Well, it’s clear s/he won’t let us entirely forget about her. I’ll find that bin of clothes tomorrow.

And I’ll finally order that infant car seat…


While this baby may not have the newest clothes or the most fashionable and expertly designed nursery, s/he will be so very loved, by her parents who fully understand how fleeting and precious those early stages of life really are and siblings who already bestow kisses and hugs and “gentle high fives” ubiquitously and unprompted. A home that is busy and loud and filled with dog hair and laughter and (occasional) Cheerios for dinner and dance parties and love. While we have prepared next to nothing for his/her arrival, we’re ready.