the rule of age 10

A current inventory of my ten year old son's brain, as near as I can get:
comics, gross stuff, jokes and riddles, computer code, Dungeons & Dragons campaigns, scientific facts, Mario, Minecraft, Calvin & Hobbes, Christmas lists, piano music, philosophy and snacks
What if what we really loved doing between ages 9-11 is what we ought to be doing, in part at least, for our actual adult jobs?

I am pretty sure I've heard mom recall a time or twelve when my middle grade teachers complained that I COULD NOT WHISPER. And now, when I'm lucky, I get paid to talk. Voiceover is certainly not a career, but it is fun work.

Reader's Digest suggests a person's "inner child," specifically around age ten, may contain his or her source code. This article made me think of Tuck, smack in that developmental sweet spot. Everything that's in him is showing itself all at once. A surge in bandwidth, a reconciliation between what he thinks with how he feels. He is developing tastes and telling blunt truths, solidifying affiliations and questioning policies.

At ten, Tuck is preoccupied with mostly marvelous things, but I'm not real clear about what they say for his professional prospects. I am willing to support who is is and what he loves, whether he follows early enthusiasms or a twisty path.

Tomorrow Tucker will serve as Director of Development for the Greater Columbus Arts Council when his fifth grade class visits Biz Town. Who knows what kind of work he'll be doing ten years from now, but I hope he'll find something intrinsically enjoyable and infinitely meaningful, a job that allows his deep happiness to meet the world's great needs.


full of promise

Choosing the tree is a family ritual full of promise.
We all head into the process with slightly differing agendas: find one that is aromatic with good needle retention, sturdy under heavy ornamentation plus budget-friendly.
Or just: find one that is enormous.
And new this year: find a tiny extra tree, perfectly suited to sit atop a bedroom dresser.



There was a fair bit of baking, a fine layer of sugar across the counter.
There were candles in donuts and pies and cake, balloons and wishes in the air.
There was the music of cutlery, the cramped smell of joy. Car rides passed with borrowed DVDs and raucous games of I Spy, babies coddled and wine poured. A tree picked.
There were hours and hours of together time, and countless reminders to calm down.

Sometimes holidays have a way of magnifying all that is good, and sometimes also all that is not.

At the end of a few days of celebrating all sorts of things, I peer at current circumstances --past piles of sweaters and leftovers and new books, the dishes and dust. The whole lot of it is a gift.
Tomorrow I'll go back to making peanut butter sandwiches on repeat and calling that lovely.
I want to remember to continue to offer thanks for my own smallness, to look at my limits and at the sky and call it all better than fine.



Dear Tolliver,

Happy birthday!
Your arrival - late November, right as the holidays ramped up - was the best gift to our family.
Red hair like a warning label, eyes chocolate box beautiful, we felt so lucky to meet you.
I swear I'm trying not to recycle phrases from every past birthday, but we love you so much buddy, and I don't know how else to say it.

I am eternally grateful for the little infinities I spent with you as an infant, the sky drained of color, the rest of the world asleep, you curled in the crook of my arm.

Somehow hours turned to liquid and melted into days and here we are, eight years in.
I still wake up every morning wanting to be your best mom.

You are so big now! You are super fast on your feet. A neighbor, who is also a track coach, has already tried to recruit you. I stand behind, feeling the wind, watching. Pretending my heart's not beating away, somewhere else, inside your far ahead chest. I feel like this out-of-body sensation is only just the begining.

Sometimes you are still small. Sensitive and insecure. Vulnerability is not necessarily a weakness. It's okay to be big and small.

You have a dazzling, scarlet smile. And you know SO MUCH about Buckeye football. Also about pangolins. I'd never even heard of them, but apparently their tongues begin at their pelvis?

You are constantly teaching me things.
And your life is often providing me amusement. You are infinitely creative, impossibly energetic, endlessly curious, perpetually annoyed. Sometimes I think if I don't laugh I might cry.

There are times when we trade words like Pokemon cards - animated and passionate, rushed and thoughtless.
There are times when what you say pierces my composure. I'm sorry.

Other adults comment about your conversation skills -- you are really good at the game our church friend plays, "Tell me something I don't know." And you ask provocative questions, whether to the person cutting your hair or the visiting great aunt. People notice this, the way you make eye contact and lean in to listen with your whole body.

You are stubborn, with stamina to spare. The story of your age three 'umbrella versus front porch flowers' is family lore. To this day I don’t quite understand how your dad held firm. I do know he happened to be carrying a solo cup of bourbon as he stepped out the door to discover the carnage.
Perseverance is important.

Whatever your shortcomings, I hope you know there's nothing you can't do .
Whatever my shortcomings, I hope you know how much I cherish you.

I love you from the top and the middle and the bottom of my heart. Forever.


pre birthday parties

We celebrated Tolliver turning eight a little early, because his birthday actually falls on Thanksgiving this year. He always picks the best places to celebrate. 
First at Cabelas, with a candle in the fudge, and some fishing aisle shopping. 
Then at Aunt Sally's for tailgate leftovers and a Buckeye football game replay.
Tollie's looking forward to stretching out the festivities through the rest of the week!


we're okay

Mom, imagine if there were 100 Hanks!
Remember when the coffee was underflowing?

Did that toot sound like so much mustard going on your hot dog?!
Age three does not have much respect for modesty.

Brushing his hair: I look so cool. Mom, nobody knows my style.
Handsome, boy does he know it.

But I'm okay! the Blink cameras caught him saying after he fell down the front steps.
He says it often, when he bumps his head or trips on a tree root.
I hear him say it and think I'm okay too.


portrait of real life