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Category: Sanderling

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Hi, Mom.

Your grandson is seven months old as of last Friday, and he is all sweetness. I wish you could see how much I absolutely adore this boy of mine. He is such light. Such joy. You’d be so enchanted with him. I can picture you crooning, “Oh you beguiling little thing,” as he’d gaze at you with those big blue eyes, downy chick blonde hair and opened mouthed grin.

Just yesterday, he learned to clap. He is one of the happiest, smiliest babes I’ve ever encountered, and his face positively exploded with joy when he figured out how to repeatedly slap palm to palm as his sisters sang round after round of “If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands!”

Boy did he know it!

He’s going through some serious sleep regression thanks to runny noses, and coughs, and teething, and a deep interest in being vertical. I know you’d stress and worry that he is showing absolutely zero interest in crawling. Tummy time elicits screams of protest from an otherwise carefree babe, whereas he will stand for what feels like hours with utter pride and delight on his feet. Stick a mirror in front of him, and he could entertain himself all day. The bouncer is a huge hit as a result. His daycare teachers say that he is giving their arms quite a workout, as he so prefers to be held standing upright than down on his tummy. I’m not too concerned about the lack of crawling, but I can picture you worrying this fact over and over with me on the phone. “It’s important they crawl first! It’s a critical developmental milestone!”

As I navigate life on only two-three hour blocks of sleep before interruption, I wish I could call you to commiserate. You were always so good about letting me bitch and moan and whine, and pepping me up to take on another day. I’ll never forget sitting in a pool of tears in my bathroom in LA, while Addison screamed in my arms, with you, on the other end of the line, gently reminding me, “It feels like forever, sweetie. But it’s not. This will only last a short while. You can do it. You’re a wonderful mother.”

When I find myself at my wits end at three o’clock in the morning with a fussy baby in my arms, I call those words to mind, the gentleness and wisdom of your voice, and it helps me find calm.

“This will only last a short while.”

How painfully true.

You would be so taken with this boy. And while writing to you will never be sufficient, I’ve realized it brings to mind what is most pressing, most true, most salient because what comes flooding out of me is what I so wish I could share with you. Moments like the splendor of learning to clap.

You’d have been so proud of him, too.

143 Your Ashley

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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.

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

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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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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Sanderling // Three Months

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My beguiling Three Month Old,

You are our ray of sunshine. Our cheeks hurt from smiling back so unabashedly at your constant stream of open-mouthed, rapturous grins. You are on the brink of the giggles and that is only going to amplify the joy and happiness you so readily bestow upon our household. Your bath time routine of stomps and splashes and coos with Daddy and PINK HIPPO! are arguably the zenith of your joy each day. In the face of our grief, you are our balance. Our light. Our anchor. And you radiate that light outward to those we greet in public – the baristas, pharmacists, colleagues, friends, teachers, yogis, darling elderly gentlemen, are all so smitten with your sweet smiles of connection and contentment.

This precious ensemble arrived from a beautiful French knitwear company, Miou Kids, and I can hardly stand how adorably that bonnet magnifies that round, squishy face of yours. Those bally cheeks (just like your Momar’s)! That dimple! It makes your smiles all the more irresistible. If it isn’t already glaringly obvious, I am positively taken with you, my darling. There isn’t a moment that goes by that I don’t feel humbled with gratitude and love for your presence in our lives.

Your easy-going nature continues, as you have (for now) mastered sleeping through the night. You go to sleep with ease at bed time. In fact, I often lay you down still awake, and you merrily suck your thumb (we hear great slurping down the hall) until you drift off to sleep. We then don’t hear from you again until the following morning. If a wet diaper or a hungry belly awakes you before 6am, a quick change and/or nurse session is enough to welcome another 2-3 hour stretch of sleep. I cannot fully articulate what a gift this has been, for all of us. To be rested. To not have to stress about long bedtime routines, or prolonged middle-of-the-night feedings, or restless, sleep-deprived children and parents is particularly welcome during a time when life feels so hard and confusing. Thank you for that gift.

While I know that your daddy and I are far more relaxed and comfortable now that this is our third crack at parenting a newborn, it’s also a testament to your adaptable, laid back personality. It makes carting you around to all of your sisters’ extracurriculars, school performances, appointments, rehearsals, shows, etc. a breeze – not to mention the slew of activities and errands you find yourself running alongside your mom and dad daily. Securely discovering your thumb this month has certainly helped you manage self-care when needed. You’ve recently shown a tendency to blow out your diaper mid-errand, so we’ve gotten very skilled at stripping you of poop-soaked clothing in the mini-van. But if that’s the most challenging hurdle I have to face with you these days, I’ll take it. Baby poo stained car seats and all.

We’ve survived the fourth trimester, my friend. Two bouts of mastitis (the engorgement from your epic sleep stretches is to blame for last week’s infection, but again, tough to complain given the reason), a slew of challenging milestones in the wake of your Momar’s passing and your mama’s adjustment to life postpartum unmothered – but we did it. And I can’t imagine having weathered these three months without you curled up against my chest, a puddle of drool beneath your chin, and sweet sighs emitting from those lips that suck on air as you dream. You are an ever-constant reminder to remain in the present. To soak in the current moment. And revel in the love and comfort and gratitude it brings.

How I wish your Momar could see how much I am positively delighting in you. But I like to think of her as your guardian angel, and I trust that she knows, even if it’s just in the security of my own heart.

143 Mama

Shop Sanderling’s gorgeous hand knit outfit from Miou KidsCotton Overalls in Teal; Cotton Moss Bonnet in Sea Foam ; Crochet Booties in Sea Foam

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

Sunny: Looking like such a moody teenager at our local Memorial Day parade. She enjoyed it, I swear. And she’s rocking a festive star tee from my childhood.
Kaki: I adore that American Flag dress, also an Ulmer sister childhood ensemble. My mother was a sucker for anything patriotically spangled.
Sander: Baby’s first parade, wearing a hand-me-down from my boss and his four sons. 

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, in 2016.”

Sunny: Our seven year old. She wanted a pool party for her birthday, but our local pool doesn’t open for the season until early June. So instead, we’re taking a family trip to an indoor water park near Lake George. And all spending the night in a hotel room together. Here’s hoping Sander keeps up his awesome sleep habits – or it may be a very drowsy day at the park! Wish us luck!
Kaki: Changing a diaper, tongue out for concentration. The girls are so eager to help us care for their brother, and it’s a reminder of just how lucky we all are to have one another as family.
Sander: Tummy time champ. Enjoying those bugs as much as both of his big sisters did. That play mat was gift from Momar, of course, when Sunny was a baby.

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

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This not-so-little guy is just so round and delicious. Those cheeks keep filling out and there are some pretty serious thigh rolls in the works. At his 2 month check-up, he was off the charts for height (I’m not kidding when I say that he is pushing up the national average) and 95th percentile for weight. While the girls were both bigger and taller than average babies, they weren’t nearly as hefty as their brother. I am so enjoying nomming on all that squishy goodness. And he’s still got room to grow in his overall getup.

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