The Beanstalk

Record of a writer, a family & an adventure.

Month: March, 2014

A letter to Jack, on his first birthday.

Dear Jack Marshall,

Today is your birthday and we are celebrating your first year on the planet. I am celebrating the best year of my life. I didn’t know when you arrived on Saint Patrick’s day it was because I was the luckiest girl. You are the funniest, most enjoyable, best looking person I have ever known, and I never want to go back to life before you.

You have grown so much. I thought you looked enormous when you came out because you had rolls on your arms, that’s what I remember. When I held you the first time you felt heavy, like a solid paperweight, and that was a relief because you never seemed fragile. Everyone wore green beads and hats that day, and your Uncle Buddy brought a backpack of Guinness to the hospital. It was rainy and very cold, and when we were alone in the hospital room with your dad asleep on the plastic table they called a sleeper couch for just a moment, when there were no doctors or dietitians or photographers or family, I snuggled my nose into your head and counted all of the wrinkles on your face and neck.

You’re not into snuggling, even though I try to force it on you. If you aren’t sleeping you’re usually trying to scramble away from me, unafraid of heights or the hardness of the ground. I’d like to blame the time I dropped you on your head on your being squirmy, but it wasn’t that. You were wearing a slippery track suit and I lost my grip. I wasn’t standing up straight though, so there’s that. You have a sense of humor. Sometimes you make a new face for the first time, surprise yourself, and then make it again. Usually it’s when you’re eating in your high chair. You look at me, make the face, then smile and laugh. I didn’t know that some people were naturally funny! You are. You make me laugh, laugh, laugh. You love the dog–climbing on her back all the time. You try to grab her teeth, which scares me half to death, but she just rolls over and licks your head so your hair, which I think is coming in curly like mine, sticks out from behind your ear. You’re a good boy, Jack. Always on the move. You army-crawl. The comparative mom dragon in me wants you to crawl upright, walk, grow into a higher percentile, but the intuitive part of me knows that you are just fine. You are happy.

You are teaching me a lot about myself. I was afraid to be a mama because I wasn’t sure if my heart was big enough. I didn’t know if I would have the affection, the patience, the kindness, the space in my heart that can be so selfish and dark sometimes. And there have been so many times in my life that I was sad and felt so small, and that made me afraid that if I felt like that, how could I ever teach you to be brave, kind, confident and strong? I thought maybe your daddy would have to teach you that, and that I could get by with cooking you dinner and waking you up in time for school. But this year as you grew and grew, my heart grew and grew right alongside you. In some mysterious generosity you brought back the carefree joy I had when I was just a child, something I wasn’t sure I’d ever have again as a grown-up. I’m sitting here, writing this letter to you, crying. That’s how happy you have made me.

My favorite thing is rocking you to sleep for a nap. You rest your head in the crook of my left arm and let me wrap you up in a blanket. You sort of buck until I start singing. Usually I sing Long Ride Home, and then Sweet Baby James. You watch me with those blue saucer eyes, and then when you start to get sleepy you close them and hum along with me. You rest when I sing, and you love to sing yourself, and this brings me joy upon joy. Here is a secret, Jack: after you fall asleep, I just hold you and rock you. Sometimes I hold you for a few minutes, but sometimes it’s longer. Half an hour. Forty five minutes. An hour. Sometimes I fall asleep holding you in the rocking chair your great grandfather Jack bought for you. Usually I watch your face. When you twitch I imagine what you could be dreaming. I trace the ridge of your eyes with my nose and kiss your forehead. I do this every day, usually twice, and it never gets old.

This year did not go by too fast. Three hundred and sixty-five days with you that I soaked up like sunshine. You’re the best for me, Jack. For your dad and me. You’re making us better, helping to refine us. Thanks for being so darn sweet.

This year was perfect to me, and I want you to know that even though you won’t remember a second of it, I’ll never forget it.





Life in photographs.

It has been quite a while since any pictures made it up on The Beanstalk, if I recall correctly, since before Christmas! I have a written post coming at the beginning of next week, but in the meantime, here is a window into our lives of late.



Christmas cap from Baloo and Erin.



First sight of snow (and chunky legs, good grief)



(most of the) Evans family ski trip to Snow Shoe. Never got above 9 degrees…



Sam (Hannah’s third) catching up to his best friend, Jack!



Better-than-restaurant Valentine’s Day dinner with Kellers. That wine,



This time (Feb.) the entire Evans family was together!



(because it’s super sweet)



Lucky Charms poster child, getting ready for his 1st birthday (St. Patty’s day – March 17)



And this, just so I never forget!


Come visit on Monday for a birthday post!




On waging war and lent.

I made a promise to myself (and in turn, to you) over a year ago that my blog would not be turned into a parenting forum or soapbox or platform for kid stories just because I became a mom. For the most part I think I’ve kept up the agreement, but I am a parent now so some kid talk is unavoidable. It is the most time-consuming, thought-provoking, awe inspiring, mind numbing, game-changing hat I wear and this role informs more of my daily life than any other.

Mark was away this weekend for business, God love him, so Jack, Sidney and I were camped out at 2337. We fared fair to midling, as they say. Mornings were early but relatively cheerful, there was sun, today the temperature hit seventy. Here’s the thing: call me a wimp, but by Friday I’m usually toast. Jack is a great baby, I am well aware that we’re lucky, but after five days of working at home, feeding him, chasing him, cleaning the house, cooking and generally existing at a pretty basic level, I need a drink (s) and a wife. Fortunately a husband usually does the trick, but this weekend he had to leave. 

Jack’s latest practice is to resist having his diaper changed. He can slam his head off the wall, be trampled by the dog, close his finger in the cabinet and not make a peep, but my child will raise hell in an effort to prevent me from changing his diaper. I can’t change him on the table anymore because he is so fast to flip over I’m sure he’ll fall. I sit on my knees on the floor and lay him in front of me and he loses his mind. It’s as if I were torturing him. The moment his back hits the floor his face is red and he is screaming, trying to turn over while I hold his feed up, clawing at the carpet, banging his hands against the floor, scratching his face. I am an adult, I can handle it.

I really can’t handle it. 

This morning I went in to get him, he was all happy and babbling, smiling up at me with that red post-sleep stupor face, but it stank. I knew he’d pooed and it filled me with so much dread. I stared at him for a minute. I would rather run a half-marathon than change your diaper. That’s what I thought. So I lay him down on the floor and chaos ensued. It was just not pretty any way you cut it, but add this disgusting situation of human waste (I’m sorry, that’s the last I’ll mention it) to the situation. The violence of the tantrum he threw was so extraordinary and his screaming was so loud that the dog came around the corner, peered through the door, than walked away. And I’m holding him down with one hand, trying to convince him, we are both crying, and I’m thinking I cannot do this. I can’t. I can not do this one more time.

I’m stronger than he is – he weighs 24 pounds max – so I got the diaper off, butt cleaned, diaper on. Stuck him back in his crib with some toys where he was immediately deliriously happy, and crawled back into bed because it was only 6:20 a. and the sun wasn’t up. I lay there with my eyes open, feeling completely spent, and wondering if that diaper could possibly last him until Mark gets home tonight. 

Last week at church the sermon was about Psalm 131, this idea or hope that we could live and grow out of a place of peace and quietness in the midst of a loud, raucous, unquieted world. I drank that sermon, that scripture, down like water, and have spent the past week trying to figure out the how. If there is a secret to composure, I’d pay to know it. And is it even real? Are there really people walking this earth feeling calm, joyful, trusting? I have a feeling there are. 

Lent begins on Wednesday. I don’t always participate in the practice of lent, but I read an article that explained the forty days preceding Easter as a time for preparation, a time of genuine repentance for the dark places and habits of our lives. So this lent I’m going to pray that my heart will be quieted, that I’ll uncover a bit of that reservoir of peace and start to stake my tent there. That I will learn to trust God’s authoring, because that is truly what it boils down to, isn’t it? I want to prepare for Easter this year because I have a feeling that there is a whole lot more to this season than I’ve yet to experience.