Tag Archives: mom time

My Dream Lunch

waltons lunchbox

In second grade, my classmate–K–brought the perfect lunch every day.   She set her “The Waltons” lunchbox down on the white formica table in the cafeteria then unsnapped the yellow plastic clasp to unveil her masterpiece of a lunch.  First, a flowered paper napkin, set to the side.  A spoon placed atop the napkin.  Then a matching yellow Thermos with a lid that doubled as a cup for the colorful splash of Kool-Aid.  A perfectly compact Snack Pack pudding, chocolate or butterscotch or vanilla.  A miniature bag of potato chips.  And finally a sandwich, on snowy white bread with the crusts cut off and sliced on the diagonal.


I had a Peanuts lunch box that I loved.  I had had it since first grade because I remember getting sent to the principal’s office that year after conking Scott Greene over the head with it for breaking in front of me in line.  He got sent to the principal’s office too because he HAD broken in line and my job that week was being line leader.  Lo, the swift hand of justice wields a Peanuts lunch box.

My Peanuts lunch box carried a perfectly serviceable lunch, with a sandwich and maybe a piece of fruit.  A slice of homemade cake if it was near someone’s birthday.  The sandwiches were made with that Carl Budding lunch meat that was so thin that you could see through it–now they call it “deli-sliced” and charge extra for it.  My sandwich sported Sunbeam bread or–god forbid–Roman Meal.  My mom believed in whole grains before anyone else.  Sometimes, if Daddy had a client up near Riverdale, he would swing by the day-old bread store and buy an entire toilet paper box filled with Twinkies, SnoBalls, Ding Dongs, fruit pies and jelly rolls.  One toilet paper box of treats could fill up the entire upright freezer in the laundry room.  Each morning, during lunch packing time, we were allowed to pick out one snack cake and add it to our lunch.  The first to disappear were the SnoBalls–a chocolate cake filled with cream, then covered in marshmallow and pink coconut.  HEAVEN.  If they were hard frozen before I got on the bus, they would be just thawed enough to eat by lunchtime, but the cream-filled center remained an icy sweet core to the whole confection.


What I admired about K’s lunch was the amount of time and attention put into it.  Every little scrap of it was thought out and intentional.  It took TIME to make.  K’s mother didn’t have to worry about getting to work on time AND making a lovely lunch.  My mother had three lunches to make and a desk to get to at her office.

I started thinking about K’s Waltons lunch box today while I was in line at Kroger.  The kids start summer camp this week and I get to pack lunches.  So I found myself filling the conveyor belt with tiny bags of chips, cups of applesauce, boxes of organic strawberry milk, popcorn, popcorn chicken bites, petite carrots, hummus, peanut butter crackers, Snack Pack pudding, sliced ham, string cheese, mandarin oranges, and pouches of Capri Sun water.  Holy HELL.

Am I driving myself mad trying to make the PERFECT LUNCH?  Yes.  Yes, I am.

What was your perfect lunch?  What kind of lunch box did you carry?

Bringer of Great Joy

I have told stories about boys for three days now–a boy who filled my heart, a boy who fills the world with art, a boy who left an empty place when he left.  Today, let’s talk about a vivacious pair of girls!  

Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands abdicated this week.  She is now styled Princess Beatrix and her son rules as King Willem-Alexander.  He is the first Dutch king in over a century and will be succeeded by his daughter…let’s hear it for the girls!

The first trip I ever took overseas with my late husband, Richard, was to the Netherlands.  I read everything I could find about the country before we went.  He laughed at me for buying a Dutch phrase book then forwarded me a news story that reported Dutch high school students have a broader English vocabulary than American high school students.  Ah.  I turned to less educational and more atmospheric reading about this tiny country.  Bill Bryson, one of the most entertaining travel writers in the history of passports, tells a story about the great love the Dutch felt for their Queen Bea.  It was her habit to walk freely around the city, running errands and greeting her fellow citizens.  When Bryson heard this, he remarked, “But who protects her?”  His Dutch friend laughed at the silly question and replied, “We all do!”

Our Vivi’s middle name is “Beatriz,” the Portuguese spelling of Beatrix or Beatrice.  I’ve always loved the name, ever since reading about Petrarch’s sonnets to his love, Beatrice.  G and I had already picked the first name and were tossing around ideas for a middle name when I rediscovered Beatrice.  It was a done deal once I heard him pronounce it “BAY-ah-treez.”  The name means “bringer of great joy” and never was a name more aptly applied to a little girl.  Her first name means “vibrant and full of life.”  Yes.  Yes she is.

She is naturally VIVACIOUS

vivi model

Often times AUDACIOUS

vivi dozer

Even sometimes VEXATIOUS

vivi tongue

She’s got a streak of RAMBUNCTIOUS

howl at the moon

And a double dose of LOQUACIOUS

vivi note to g

Even at five, she is SAGACIOUS

vivi geode

And just a touch PUGNACIOUS

vivi wreck

Oh my gracious, I love her so.

vivi asleep

Short But Sweet

My car smells like old french fries.  The bottom of the washing machine is filled with the fine gray sand of the Georgia coast.  Carlos’ little wrists are more tan than they should be.  Vivi’s curls have been tied in knots by the sea breeze.  Yesterday, we woke up to the sound of the surf and fell asleep to the sound of rain on our roof.

My newest happy memories were made with my oldest friends.  It must have been a Road Trip Weekend.squish

It was short, but sweet.  I’ll write more about the art at the heart of it tomorrow.  And maybe I’ll write about the man whose portrait stopped traffic.  There’s a “feet picture” story to tell and Vivi’s lesson on math.  For today, I can only think about the shortest and the sweetest member of our family–my son.

Carlos has been to the beach 4-5 times in his short life, but this was the first time that he was REALLY into it.  He squished his chunky baby feet across the sand and rolled around in rippling tide pools.  The wind blew so hard off the ocean at night that it wobbled his baby cheeks–but he couldn’t stop giggling.

luis and carlos

At our picnic in Forsyth Park, Carlos lolled around under the trees, stuffing himself with a celebratory amount of Chips Ahoy cookies.  If I offered him an apple slice, he shook his head and answered with his curt little “no!”  I handed him a sandwich and he reached for another cookie.  What the hell.  Why not?  He fought off his nap valiantly but chilled on Richard’s old raggedy bedspread (our family Adventure Blanket) for over an hour.  After Tio Luis finished the sidewalk portrait, he and Carlos sat and pondered for a while, like men do.  One of them enjoyed a beer; the other had another cookie.  One was covered in chalk and sweat.  The other in chocolate.


We went back to the beach for the evening.  Carlos learned that the wind is fun as long as you’re dry, but not so much once you’ve gotten wet.  That’s when it’s best to be wrapped up, snuggled up, loved up in a lap.  Even when his lips were blue and he shook with cold, he couldn’t take his eyes off the waves.  I remember a trip I took to St Simon’s on my own when I was about six months pregnant with Carlos.  I walked out into the water to cool down and that baby started flipping and dancing and getting down.  I stood there for so long, bouncing along with the waves, that a school of tiny fish started nibbling on the green skirt of my swimsuit.  That was a September, and the monarch butterflies were resting in Georgia on their long trip south.  Small things–the fish and the butterflies–small things with great journeys ahead of them, making their way across the wide sky, through the deep sea, into our lives.  My boy.

I’m Coming Out

smiling me

Saturday, April 20, 2013
about 4pm on a really good day

Hi, this is me.  

I was trying to edit my “About” page for this blog and I realized that I’ve been hiding.  I can tell all kinds of stories about heartache and empowerment and rebuilding, but I have been afraid to just show ME.  So today I am coming out of the photo booth.  

Most of y’all have known me since I wiped my nose on my sleeve, but some of you are strangers.  Hello to all.  My name is Ashley and I am the Baddest Mother Ever!  

This picture was emailed to me yesterday from a photo booth that I sat in last weekend.  It was Alumnae Weekend at my alma mater (Kathy Bradley, author of “Breathing and Walking Around” taught me that the phrase means “nourishing mother”).  I had a fantastic weekend, filled with stomach-lurching challenges (like leading a formal meeting with 1000 people, fire, and an organist) and breathtaking successes (that meeting, even with a couple of glitches).  I made new friends who graduated before I was born.  I hugged necks of friends I hadn’t seen in 20 years.  I met our oldest graduate, 106 and there for her 85th reunion.  My spirit was nourished.  I challenged myself, rewarded myself, believed in myself. 

And look at how it shows on my face!  Normally, pictures of me make me see wrinkles and gray and extra chins, but this picture…I can’t help but smile at myself.  I LOOK LIKE MYSELF.  

Five Things I Love About This Picture

  1. My whole face is smiling, even behind my ears.  
  2. I am wearing something colorful that says, “Hey, look at me!” instead of something drab that says, “Nothing to see here, move along.”
  3. I went into the photo booth wearing a pair of ridiculously huge, bedazzled sunglasses but I put them on my head so I could see myself.
  4. That necklace is made from my late husband’s wedding ring.  I don’t wear it often because I have a toddler who likes to grab things.  
  5. My gray hair looks kind of like highlights.  

How long has it been since you posted a picture of yourself on Facebook?  Yesterday, I saw Nicki making a muscle she’s worked hard to earn.  Today, Alice was having breakfast with her son.  Lucy had some cute hair going on.  Kimberly’s son is taller than she is.  Felicia is at the paddock.  What are the rest of you doing?  

Your babies are adorable.  Your cats couldn’t be cuter.  And that lunch you had yesterday…yum!  But let’s see more pictures of you!  It’s my challenge to you today.  Post that pic of YOU.  

Word Swaps: “I Don’t Have Time To…”


How many hours does Martha Stewart have in a day?

How many hours does Michelle Duggar have in a day?

How many hours does Serena Williams have in a day?

How many hours does Ang Suu Kyi have in a day?

How many hours do you have in a day?  Yup, 24.  Same as everyone else who has ever lived.

Today’s challenge is a powerful word swap that I learned from my boot camp coach.  She doesn’t tolerate when someone says, “I don’t have time to exercise.”  You have to phrase it, “Exercise is not a priority for me.”  Ouch.  That puts the responsibility on…ME.

It’s true!  We all have the same amount of hours in the day.  Some of us have 19 children to wrangle.  Some of us dedicate huge blocks of time to athletic training.  Some of us sacrifice sleep to fight for social justice.  Some of us have businesses we built from nothing.  Some of us have immaculate homes.  We allocate time to whatever we make a priority.

Claiming “I don’t have time” can be helpful when I use it as an excuse to say no to something I don’t want to do.  I don’t have time to clean the baseboards.  Cleaning baseboards is not a priority.  Yeah, I’m OK with that.  But when it comes to something that I want to do but I’m not doing, using “not a priority” over “I don’t have time” makes me refocus on how I am spending my time.  For years, I said, “I don’t have time to write.”  Now I blog every day and I love it.  I made it a priority.  I quit running when I was pregnant with Carlos and I miss it.  If I keep telling myself I don’t have time to run, I’ll keep avoiding it.  But if I have to say, “Running isn’t a priority for me,” and that feels like an untruth, I better make time.  If I can say it and it feels true, I can let go of the idea that I want to be running right now.

Try it today!  Think of something that you’ve written off because you don’t have time.  Now rephrase it as “that’s not a priority” and see how it feels.  If it feels true, good for you!  If it doesn’t feel true, make it a priority!

Laura VanderKam seems to be the  source of the “it’s not a priority” language.  Her book 168 Hours:  You Have More Time Than You Think is on my Kindle.  Now I just have to make it a priority…

Word Swaps: Should and Can/Choose/Want

Stop Shoulding Yourself

I should color this gray hair.

I should go to church more often.

I should call my friend.

SHOULD comes from outside:  other people’s expectations, social mores, even laws.  SHOULD is about obligation and duty.

CAN/CHOOSE/WANT come from inside:  your desires, your options, your needs.  CAN/CHOOSE/WANT are about taking care of you.

I also like the present tense action of CAN and CHOOSE and WANT.  They are words of doing; SHOULD is a word of thinking about doing.

How about eliminating SHOULD and choosing a word that echoes your choice, your control over your own actions?

If you can’t replace “should” with “choose” or “can,” why are you doing it?  

If you’re thinking, “I should be running,” but you have a stress fracture, you’re setting yourself up to not meet that expectation.  How about “I choose to heal.”  Even if you’re sitting on your butt, these words put you in charge of the decision to sit on your butt!  It’s for a purpose.  But if you are in a place where you can say “I want to run,” that puts the onus on you.  It’s your call!

If the only reason you call your friend is because you should…DON’T.  If you can say “I want to call my friend”….DO!

So today’s challenge is to listen for SHOULD.  You CAN do it!

My Daily Tangle With Prejudice

I had just dropped off my son at daycare this morning.  My heart sagged with that heaviness that it does whenever I walk away from him.  As I was climbing back into my car, I saw out of the corner of my eye someone just a few yards away.  She was walking rapidly and straight towards me, holding a strangely shaped bundle close to her chest.  I hadn’t seen her around there before so she stood out.  I went on alert.

My first response to her was overwhelmingly negative, one that could only be based on prejudice (pre-judging) because my brain had had time to collect the barest facts about her.

  1. She was foreign to the environment.
  2. She was moving too quickly.
  3. She was carrying something that couldn’t be identified.
  4. My baby was inside that building.
  5. Boston.

I felt alarm.

Then I gave her a closer look.  Oh, wait a minute…middle class white woman.  Reduce the threat level.  Professional outfit, great haircut, big sunglasses, neat and polished.

My first prejudice–that she was a threat–dissolved.  Unfortunately, it was quickly replaced by another.  I disliked her on first sight because she was thin.  And pretty.  She appeared to have her shit together and that made me resent her.  Women tearing each other down mentally.  As if it’s her fault that I feel overweight, overwrought and overtired all the time and I would feel better if every other woman in the world would QUIT BEING COMPETENT and take off some of the pressure!  That’s what I was doing, even if only in my head.  The poison of my prejudice against her wasn’t getting to her–it was only rotting my spirit.

weight watchersAt least this time, I caught myself doing it.  Stopped my brain from judging her by forcing my face to smile at her.  And that’s when I connected to her and finally saw her as the person she was in the moment.  The strangely shaped bundle that she was clutching to her chest was a tiny baby, probably 6 or 8 weeks old.  The baby, a sack of bottles, some diapers and wipes.  Around the designer sunglasses, her face was a mask of tension and sorrow.  She looked like she was on the verge of crying.  That baby was so small.

I hope she saw me smiling at her.  I hope she saw how I cooed at the baby behind my car window.  I hope she made it to work and has a good day.

As livid as I get when I see prejudice out in the world–racial, religious, economic, xenophobic–I also have to look for it in my own reactions to people who are a lot like me.