charlotte | in which pumpkin carving is "us-gustin."

this is charlotte, in october.

luca is three years. jack is five weeks.

i've been traveling to charlotte each month since luca was born, and maybe it's the newness of jack that has me thinking about what that looks and feels like now, compared to when luca was his tiny self.

i think i've gotten into something of a rhythm with my visits. what used to feel like a tough balancing act of splitting time between cities now feels more natural. perhaps it's because i'm no longer struggling to feel settled in nashville while consistently leaving every four weeks, or because i've now had three years of practice, or because my life looks different now and the things that used to weigh on me about leaving so frequently (or not frequently enough) are gone. this is what i have, these visits matter, and nothing really stands against that.

and then jack was born, and suddenly these four weeks felt more like four months and i had that thought process all over again –– you know, the one where four weeks is a lot but also not enough and how do i be in two places at once. is it just harder when they're smaller and changing by the day?

but i don't have the same kind of anxiety about it like i did before, because the anxiety comes from feeling like what i have, all i have, isn't enough, except the truth is that it is. because on the day i got there, luca sat next to me and leaned in and rested his head on my arm. because when we're in the car, he sometimes reaches out to hold my hand when he's feeling grumpy and he whines about the inconvenience of having to let it go when it's time to get out. because, in the middle of playing rescue bots or legos, he will look over and ask to snuggle and we will pause what we're doing to do that.

i think about it a lot, living far away. do i visit enough? does he know who i am? do i know who he is? is what i'm giving him enough? should i, can i, be giving more? i feel pretty established with luca. i don't wonder about these things as much, especially when he calls my visits "special treats," but jack is new so now all these questions are pointed in his direction.

but my visits are enough for luca, and i kept noticing all the reasons why and how it means they will be enough for jack too. i think the thing i took away from this trip is the way luca is constantly teaching me about myself. how strong i am, how much love i have, how i am enough.

that, and how it's possible that i don't explode from all the love and joy that exists inside me (and grows bigger by the day), just because they exist. it's impossible to funnel all of it into words, but that's what it feels like when i see that photo of my matching nephews and me at the pumpkin patch. like i might explode.

the thing i thought about the most when it came to having another nephew was the split time. how do i play with luca and snuggle with jack? when luca was a baby, i fed him and burped him and changed his diaper and sang him to sleep––but how much of that would i be able to do with jack when luca also wants to chase me and play hide and seek and build legos and put together puzzles? i've babysat kids where the older sibling wanted me to put down the baby and only play with her.

fortunately, luca is an incredible big brother and pretty inclusive. though he will clarify, when he invites you to sit on the floor to play legos with him and you ask if jack can come because you're holding him, that "jack is to widdle for wegos."

jack is too little for a lot of things. like staying asleep through the night or not peeing on you when you change his diaper. but he gets all the heart eyes because i can't even with his sweet little face and his middle-aged-man hairstyle. i could (and do) just stare at him all day and night.

i arrived on a tuesday. the family i work for went out of town for the week, so i did too. it's always the best when visits are longer, because they feel less structured, less like rearranging schedules for a rare occasion, and more like doing life together.

i got luca out of bed almost every morning and we developed something of a routine. we'd play, color on his art easel, change him out of his jammies, and then go downstairs for breakfast (mostly because i was hungry, not because he had any interest in stopping to eat).

art by luca michael goodin, ambidextrous artist.
medium: "markets" (markers)

one morning, while playing hide and seek, i hid under a blanket. of course, luca then wanted to hide with me, and i decided we should probably just built a fort. after explaining that a fort allows us to hide under a blanket without having it draped over us and asking if he wanted to build one, he said "okay! i'll go get my hammer!"

and then the fort never got built because i died right then and there from the cute.

just kidding. here it is.

i didn't notice he was smiling through the window of the teepee when i took this. it turns out, he kept thinking "the fort" was the teepee, until i explained the teepee was more like a 'back bedroom' and we could still play in the front 'living room.'

after breakfast, lee would bring jack down while T finished getting ready. luca would play and i would hold jack until T came down and fed him.

our snuggles mostly look like this. me, taking selfies with him or closeup photos of his face or, when i wasn't trying to capture it or put the fawn filter on him, just staring at him.

or, they looked like me walking around or doing squats with him in my arms, because you do what you need to do when he's upset.

it felt like a seamless transition, at least for me, to go back and forth between luca and jack. it seemed to work out. i could snuggle jack when luca was doing something else, like brushing his teeth or eating dinner or napping. and i could play with luca when jack was eating or, well, mostly eating. because, let's be real, that is like 90% of his life right now.

there were a few times, though, where luca wanted someone to play with him, and i was eating or getting ready or helping bathe jack, and he would look at us with sad eyes and furrowed brows and say, "who's gonna play with me then?" and my heart would fall out onto the floor. sometimes i couldn't help it, and sometimes my coffee was cold by the time i drank it, because i would choose playing with luca over drinking warm coffee any day.

we colored with sidewalk chalk one day. luca taught me how to mix colors, and then i traced him and he traced me.

you can see the comparison of the two here.

it's fairly obvious where i traced him. the markings below his, and what he is still working on, is how he traced me. and you know what, i think luca is the most creative person i've ever met.

granted, this probably has a lot to do with the fact that i'm his aunt and i pay attention to him more than any other kid i've nannied or babysat, but i do think kids, in general, are so full of creativity, because they have no boundaries. we look at things they make and teach them how to do it correctly, and maybe it is only because he's my nephew that i look at what luca does and see art. i watch the way he draws lines or takes pictures or plays with playdough and the way he creates feels more intentional and less accidental, like he's doing it on purpose and not because he doesn't know how.

later, we went on "a widdle walk," all the way to the end of the road and the end of the sidewalk.

he told me about how he would be "going to halloween" (like it's a place and not a day), that i should dress up as a ninja, and when i told him that my birthday came before halloween, he said "my birthday is on sunday!"

and even as i recount our conversations, i still can't believe he is so big and that i am lucky enough to be his auntie and hear his stories.

another day, we went to a pumpkin patch. and here what our car selfies look like now.^ TWO nephews and an auntie.

i love them so much.

we got pumpkins and went on a tractor ride and wore grey.

i'll be honest and say i sort of missed being able to sit next to luca in the car, and i think maybe he felt the same way.

also this happened later the same day, and you might notice jack is wearing a different onesie and i'll go ahead and admit that it happened on my watch, but it's not my fault T and lee have a "risk it" policy when it comes to changing diapers. i was trying to move quick, but apparently not quick enough.

on saturday, we celebrated my birthday at my mom's house by hanging out, baking pumpkin chocolate chip cookies, and eating breakfast (pancakes) for dinner.

the thing about having a nephew who is three is that when he unwraps your presents and blows out your birthday candles, it sort of feels like he's giving something extra to you instead of taking it away. it brings me so much joy to give him something he's excited about. so by all means, unwrap the presents and blow out the candles.

as long as you keep making me pancakes and calling them "pantakes."

(related: the next morning as i ate leftover chocolate chip pancakes for breakfast, instead of my usual oatmeal, while luca ate his oatmeal, he kept telling me that i couldn't eat them. that i needed to "go make oatmeal" because "pantakes are a snack. mommy said pantakes are a snack.")

and then, there was this. the carving of the pumpkin, which i was not actually present for (i'm not sure why?), but i feel like i was because i've watched this so many times.

the only thing i can say about this is that it's a pretty accurate representation of my reaction the first time i carved a pumpkin, at the age of 23.