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!

The Country Bunny

Did you know that DuBose Heyward wrote the story behind "Porgy and Bess" 14 years before he wrote "The Country Bunny?"

Did you know that DuBose Heyward wrote the story behind “Porgy and Bess” 14 years before he wrote “The Country Bunny?”

Did anyone ever read this book to you?  Someone who loved you very much and wanted you to believe you could be anything you want to be?  Mrs. Carol Fowler read this book to me and I have never forgotten it.  One afternoon a week, our class walked down to the library at Flint River Academy and filed in quietly.  On top of the low shelves filled with children’s books, one book would be lying face down and near her chair–the book she had chosen for us.  Oh, the excitement of that first peek!

We sat in a semi-circle on the thin carpet–back then we called it “indian style” instead of “criss cross apple sauce.”  Mrs. Fowler wouldn’t say a word until we were all sitting down and paying attention.  I can still remember the crackle of the plastic covers that she put on the books to protect their beautiful covers.  She was magical–Mrs. Fowler could read upside down and knew exactly when to turn the page without even looking.  Library time was the best hour of the week.

When I was in seventh grade, long after the days of story hour, I got to assist Mrs. Fowler in the library during my free period.  As I straightened the books in the elementary section, I rediscovered “The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes” and read it many times.  When Mrs. Fowler had first held the book up for us to see, I was a little disappointed because the cover doesn’t look like much.  The colors were too old-fashioned, some book my grandmother would pull out of a dusty box in the attic.

young bunnyOh, the story!  A little brown bunny named Cottontail wants to be an Easter Bunny but no one believes in her.  Those jobs go to the swift jack rabbits or the giant white bunnies.  When Cottontail finds herself all grown up with 21 babies to chase after, her dream seems even further out of reach.  But lo and behold, Cottontail’s experience as a mother translates into just the “skill set” that a busy Easter Bunny needs.  She is selected and gets to live her dream, thanks to the help of her children and her own belief in her dream.   Even when the job seems to be too much, she finds the strength to do the impossible…thanks to a pair of magic shoes.

When I was all grown up, I bought a copy of “The Country Bunny” for myself.  One Easter, when my nephew, Grant, was about two and a half, I decided to share it with him.  His dad was busy fixing something around our parents’ house and asked me to keep Grant out of the way.  We snuggled into a comfy chair and I told him about this wonderful book that I had loved for so many years and how excited I was to share it with him.  Papa was snoozing in the other chair.  I opened the book, read the first page in breathless awe.  Grant reached across my lap, closed the book and chirped “The End!” He slid off my lap and went off to find out what all the hammering was about.  My dad STILL laughs about that moment!  So much for that.

tired bunnyThis is my favorite illustration from the book.  Cottontail has one very special egg to deliver to a sick boy who lives atop a mountain.  She is exhausted from her night’s work.  There isn’t much night left–the pink dawn of Easter breaks behind the mountain.  Cottontail doesn’t want to give up.    She makes it…SPOILER ALERT!

I think I love this painting because I’ve felt this way so many times as a mother.  You spend so much effort trying to get everything done, trying to make the magic happen and there doesn’t seem to be enough time.  You’re worn out.  You just need that little boost of magic.  The night wasn’t long enough.

Go get this book and read it to yourself.  Give yourself the same gift that Mrs. Fowler gave me all those years ago.  I still appreciate it.