Blog a la Cart

Category: Parenthood

It’s been four weeks

They are living pieces of their beloved Momar. She’s been gone four weeks today, and I don’t think I’ll ever stop reaching for the phone to talk to her about her grandchildren. But these faces are carrying me. They keep my head turned forward when all I want to do is go screaming back in time.

She would have loved to see this moment.
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Sanderling Wilcox Cart

Introducing Sanderling Wilcox Cart. Our sweet baby boy, Sander.

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His big sisters are positively smitten and our hearts are finding comfort and healing in his arrival.

Born March 7, 2016 at 1:11am in Bennington, Vermont. Weighing in like Big Sister Sunny at 9lbs 1oz, and arriving Sunny Side up just as she had. His birth was so very different than I had envisioned just three weeks prior, but it was no less surrounded by love. He is here. And healthy. And I am so relieved.

While his arrival has shepherded in a new stage of grief and deeply complicated emotions, he has become my anchor. He grounds me when I feel my most out of control, and I am endlessly grateful for the balance and light he provides during a time that would be otherwise so very dark.

His name, Sanderling, was given to him by his Momar in a phone conversation she and I shared the night before her passing. At the time, we were just touching base about her planned visit to Vermont the following day to help with the kids during their February vacation. It was not an extended phone call, but I am so unbelievably grateful that we had the chance to speak to one another (rather than just exchange a quick text) before she died mere hours later.

We exchanged details about their planned arrival, some thoughts on activities with kids for the week, and then she steered the conversation to baby names. She was absolutely bewildered that James and I had yet to decide on a name for this baby. We had a number of ideas we were considering, but nothing had really grabbed us. And eh, third baby, we just hadn’t fixated on the issue and thought it’d be resolved upon meeting him/her. She found this silly, and wanted to talk through the names on our list, while suggesting some other ideas we might consider. I kept brushing her off and reminding her, “Mom, I’m going to see you tomorrow. We can talk about this in person all week.”

The painful irony of those words guts me every time I relive them.

She finally acquiesced.

Fine, fine. But one last thing, I’m just going to remind you of something I always thought would make a wonderful name… Sanderling.

I think I muttered something like, Yeah, yeah, I know. Alright, I love you. Safe travels. See you tomorrow. 

And that was that. My final conversation with my mother. In that moment, she unknowingly gifted our family with a name for her third grandchild, and got her way in the process. This baby was named before his arrival. She would have loved that.

For some context, Sanderling is the name of a beach resort in The Outer Banks of North Carolina where our family vacationed each summer when I was a child. Since my pregnancy with Addison, she’d mentioned that she had always thought that it would make a beautiful name for a person. While James and I thought it was a perfectly lovely name, we weren’t particularly convinced we were up for such an unusual selection. That phone conversation and all that has happened since has changed everything.

While we were convinced it was the right name for this baby fairly quickly in the days following her death, the idea was solidified when we flipped our calendar to the month of March. Each year we receive the Bermuda Watercolour Recipe Calendar from James’ Bermudian grandmother. Each month features a watercolor highlighting an element of Bermudian culture, complete with recipes and facts about Bermuda. When we flipped to March, we were met with a beautiful painting of none other than a Sanderling, complete with a description of this sweet, little shore bird written on the page.

James and I were both thunderstruck.

I remember whispering, Hi, Mom, and feeling a deep, calming sense of her presence.

Truly, what a gift for our family. And for our son. He will carry the love and light of his Momar both in spirit and name, and forever have a story linking him to his grandmother. She already loved him so dearly. While they will never have the chance to meet earth side, he is an ever-constant reminder and piece of my mom. 

While my heart breaks a little more every day, this baby is building new uncharted valleys and mountains of love to balance the gapping canyon in my heart.

Welcome, Sander. You are so desperately loved.

Two Weeks

It’s been two weeks since our lives changed forever. And it’s two weeks until they change further still.

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Highly Attuned

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A package from a kid’s clothing company arrives at our doorstep. Courtland, eager to see the contents inside and knowing that her Momar always includes something for all her grandchildren, immediately tears into the wrapping.

Inside she finds silky soft cotton infant nightgowns and cozy footed baby jumpers. She then arrives at two fuzzy, furry white jackets, sized appropriately for her and her sister. The look is the stuff of a well-styled and fashion-forward Pinterest kid (think: Quinoa). I find myself wishing for one in my size.

Courtland eyes it skeptically, however.

Do you want to try it on? You can wear it to school today if you’d like.

No, thank you.

Ok. Any reason why not?

Mommy, I think my friends at school might tell me I look funny if I wear it. It’s different. I’ll just wear it at home.

I find my heart crumbling. I know that my children will face insecurity and judgement/criticism by their peers, but I thought it’d be when they hit those tumultuous tween years of puberty and hormones and awkwardness. A time when everyone is uncomfortable in their own skin and projecting insecurity on others. Not at age 4 in a preschool classroom.

Courtland has always been acutely aware of social dynamics, sharing stories of who is friends with whom, and who plays well or doesn’t play well in her classroom, and navigating how she fits in among her classmates.

She’s also highly attuned to how others around her dress and present themselves, and then turns that own lens on herself. She notices if I’m “fancy” or put extra effort into dressing myself in the morning.

Just the other day she said, “Mommy, I like your outfit.” I wanted to understand what she was noticing about the way I was presenting myself and prodded, “What do you like about it?” She responded, “Your earrings are fancy and your hair looks nice. Do you have meetings today?”

I, in fact, did have meetings that day, and it is indeed true that I tend to put in more effort to my outfit/styling/morning prep when I know that I have meetings with someone other than my computer screen on the agenda. How shrewd of her to make that observation – but it also teaches her that I tend to get “fancy” on days when other people will be spending time with me, as though I am dressing for others, and not myself. An important reminder for me as a parent and role model. It’s important that I teach her that I also sometimes dress-up just for me, for no one else’s gaze.

With that in mind, I tried to tackle the furry jacket conundrum later that day when she got home from school.

Kaks, do you like the furry coat? And does it make you happy to wear it?

Yes, it’s so soft and fuzzy, like I’m a teddy bear.

Well, if anybody says anything not nice about your coat you can just tell them that, and tell them that it makes you happy. I can’t promise you that no one will say anything negative, but you can just explain why YOU like it so much.

Okay, Mama, I’ll try.

So she wore the coat to school, and has worn it a number of days since. When I asked her if anyone noticed or commented on her coat, she relayed that her teachers had said she was so snuggly but that her friends hadn’t said anything.

I don’t think anybody really liked it, Mama. But that’s okay, because I really like it.

Now I just need to keep reinforcing that message with her because it will only get harder with age and peer pressure and social norming, particularly for a kid who is so attuned to those things, to resist the urge to conform and lose her own sense of style/happiness. And it’s a reminder for myself to do the same.

Also? I really need to get back in to accessorizing the way this kid does. Such flair and fun!

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Sister to the Rescue

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Yesterday, Courtland came home from school devastated because her light up wand had broken when she slipped on some ice. James and I had little luck calming her hysterics.

Through some sisterly sixth sense, Sunny had a book she’d written titled “Courtland and Ramona” at the ready, along with a picture she’d drawn of Courtland and a snack she’d saved from school for little sister because of its purple packaging.

Sisterhood, man, it’s thebombdotcom.

Portrait of Parenthood // 2

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Sunny’s pink eye raged on. Courtland’s seal bark wouldn’t quit. The Gummy Bear’s bum rested squarely on a nerve. And so we holed up in bed, with two furry black beasts for company, and the antics of a one Ramona Geraldine Quimby for entertainment. And it was the kind of mundane yet comforting afternoon that made us feel like we were doing this right, despite sickness and contagion and discomfort, that this was the life we were choosing and loving. And we didn’t need or want to be anywhere else but here.

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Of note! We changed the arrangement of our bed so that I don’t have to do my most dramatic beached whale impersonation every time I need to pee (which is quite often, think hourly, these days). Also, there’s now room for the co-sleeper to be affixed to mama’s side of the bed once baby does arrive. Bring on the switch from hourly urine evacuation to hourly breast milk expression. Oh the bodily fluids of this stage of life!

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.

Sunny, The Bookworm

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In proper proud parent fashion (alliterative to boot!), I am simply awed by Sunny’s reading ability at this early stage in her life. The fact that she adores it, and chooses this activity over other forms of play or entertainment with much frequency is icing on the cake. She now visits one of the second grade classrooms during Reading period, with her BFF and fellow first-grader who is similarly ready for greater reading challenges, to help keep up this love and progress.

She whizzes through books that I assume will be way beyond her ability or patience. She’ll stumble over a word here or there, asking for clarification of pronunciation and meaning, but never with frustration or resentment. In the evening, she selects one book to read herself and one book for me or James to read to her, and Courtland selects a book of her choosing. Of late, Sunny has opted to read her book selection and Courtland’s, before they both curl up in bed and James and I cap off the evening. We’re re-reading The Box Car Children series, and I’ve ordered the Ramona collection as she is clearly ready and interested in chapter books, without need for much illustration. Both girls have expressed interest in learning more about mythology, so I dug out a Greek and Roman mythology series from my childhood that should also be a great addition to our evening ritual.

I know they’ll come a day where 45 minutes spent curled up next to her parents reading books is the last thing she’ll want to do, so I’m savoring this time (as is Gladdy, Sunny’s ever-constant companion) and delighting in our growing bibliophile, and the positive impact it’s having on her little sister. (Also? How fortunate is this little babe in utero!? So much more language exposure to a variety of voices than either of the girls experienced.)

Book suggestions welcome for growing elementary schoolers, as we continue to explore and expand our household’s collection…

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^^A cute snap of James and Gladden during storytime. A sweet affair for all.^^

My Worrier. My Thinker.

The room is quiet save the burble and hum of the nearby humidifier. I’m idly listening to an audiobook while methodically, mindlessly rubbing my second born’s back. From the still of her body and the heaviness of her breath, I assume she’s fallen asleep. I ready myself to lurch and pull my heavy body from the floor, grateful that she’s resting and thus I too in return.

But I should know better. She who has had fitful sleep since the eve of her birth does not readily, easily, or willingly drift to slumber.

Mama…

MAMA!

I pull the ear plugs from my ears and glance down at her, feeling the twinge of frustration that comes from craving time to oneself while facing the demands of more pressing responsibility.

I have to tell you something so important… I don’t know what I am going to do when I grow up. I don’t know what I want. I won’t know where to drive. I won’t know what to do. How am I going to know?

This four-year old who dwells in the mind of an adult. She who lies awake with thoughts reeling, considering the gnawing worries and concerns of a soul much older than her own. The thing is, I’m 28 years older than her, and I have no idea either.

You don’t have to know, my love. You’re a kid. Let yourself be a kid. Go to sleep now. You don’t need to worry about that. Just close your eyes and rest and let mommy and daddy worry about being grown-ups right now.

I wish it were as simple as words. She is my thinker. My child wrapped up in her head, considering the world around her in ways far more complex and complicated than belies her age.

She has always been complicated. Fierce and strong one minute, and tender and fragile the next. Defiant and questioning. Never-taking our word at face value. Making her parents work for every request, every action, every gesture. She sees and questions the world around her in a way that makes parenting utterly maddening yet her character and the woman whom she will become powerful and wondrous.

While her older sister is undoubtedly a clever and smart child, I see in my second-born a depth of thought, a processing of the world, far more complex and challenging. I see the way she struggles to communicate the way that she feels and takes in all the information around her, and I know that is why she has always been our more “difficult” child. She carries the weight of the world far more heavily than her sister, and my heart aches to make her load lighter, yet I cannot control or change her thoughts. I can only try to alleviate her fears with comfort, and understanding, and if not understanding, openness. I can give her language and space to share and process.

Mommy, who will take care of the baby when you and daddy go to work? The baby can’t be all alone. She will be too little to be without her mommy and daddy.

When you have the baby, I want to go with you, because what if Momar and Doda, or Sharifa, or Justine, or Kimmy don’t know how to find you in the hospital? I have to make sure that you and the baby are okay.

I have something sad to tell you. I dreamed that Sunny died. And in my dream, I wasn’t sad. And that is terrible. Because I would be so sad if Sunny died. But in my dream I didn’t even cry. Why didn’t I cry?

When I die, just leave my body. I don’t want to be burned like T. And I don’t want to be buried like Zizi will. That is too scary. Just leave my body where it is. (This particular exchange left me in a puddle of tears, envisioning my 4-year old’s dead body and horrified that she thinks and worries about the state of her body when she dies. The death of her great-grandfather and the subsequent spreading of his ashes, and requests to understand what the ashes were, etc., etc. were undoubtedly a trigger for this line thinking, but her sister has never expressed similar depth of processing that renders fear in this way).

Are you sure you should be drinking that coffee? Because kids can’t have coffee and the baby is a kid, and the baby eats what you eat, and so I don’t think the baby should have coffee, which means you shouldn’t have coffee.

It’s exhausting. And overwhelming. For all of us. And yet I am awed to see the world through her eyes. And I know that if we can help her continue to process, and communicate, and share, she will be able to use that lens to have her own distinct impact on the world.

It’s what all parents are trying to do for their children.

While she demands it from me most acutely, it’s what I aim to do for all of my children; help them be both child and champion of their own unique minds.

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