so many pictures

And now that the big boys are back in school, they're mostly of Hank...


a bushel and a peck

In the fall, as the sun starts to close up shop on summertime, we head to the apple orchard, hoping to pick our fair share of Honeycrisp. Hank was a good helper this year!


go outside

Instead of X boxes, we've aimed for tackle boxes. Or empty boxes.
In lieu of new toys, we've hoped for more outdoor play - imaginative games born of boredom, sibling squabbles in the hammock, high hopes four square tournaments, chalk drawings on the dead end street, biking with neighborhood kids.
Highlights of a recent play date included breaking open buckeyes and front yard sword fights with art print mailing cylinders. Last week the boys tried to float leaf boats in a cooler filled with water, aiming to find a leaf that could hold multiple acorns. I'll be honest though, by the time Andy pulled into the driveway after work, the boys were *in* the cooler themselves, fully clothed. 
One day, Hank and Tols colored a cardboard box and called it a pizza truck, before it became a cozy place to read. Tuck and Tollie designed a game using found objects from the woods, and battled for the better part of an hour, while Hank and I kicked around the rubber ball he bought with his commercial earnings.
Most often, after this kind of unstructured play, we come inside refreshed and inspired. And this seems as much a gift to the boys as it does to myself.

Dear Cathy in Missouri,
You have no idea how many of us were texting each other, friends and family - OMGoodness, can you believe it?! Cathy came back! - and how many of us cried over your kind words. There are a million ways we can lose ourselves in the demands and the doldrums, aren't there? Thanks so much for taking a minute to come back here. We do see Celia's shadow behind the three bright faces of her living brothers... Thank you for shining a light our way again, for letting us know you remember her, too.


imagine that

To me, sitting with the computer at early o'clock, my first hot cup of coffee in hand:
Do you have lava socks on? The floor is lava! Imagine that with me!
If you only have on computer socks then you need to get your feet off the floor right now!!

Next, showing me his flexed biceps:
Know how I grew my muscles? From hugging people!
Imagine a world where that actually worked, I think to myself.

Him, staring down at the end of a bowl of cereal, after being encouraged to finish up:
But all of the Rice Krispies keep chasing my spoon away! I need a better cereal catcher!

Random thoughts, out loud, all day long:
Forehead is like four. I could call mine a five head, or a six head! 
What if I had four penises? Imagine that. 
Which do you like more, a butterfly or a rabbit? What if they were both together?!
Let's look in your closet. Can I wear one of your flower shirts, so Siri can play music and I can spin?
Now, I am the pilot, you are the passenger. Where do you want to go?

My own imagination is powerful enough to invent thousands of scenarios where I fail, or my children suffer. I am looking for coffee as strong as his imagination, and hoping he continues to lean toward things like lava shoes, coming up with ways to make good things happen and embracing the whole world in the process.


I see

Look, Mom. Do you see?
A thousand times a day, tugging at my sleeve, calling out in the rearview mirror, yelling from upstairs, downstairs, around the corner, from the other room – Look! Watch me! Come quick! You have to see this! You have to see!
Times three.

I see you. I see you. I see you.
Look at you, interrupting me. Look at you, wanting food, attention, answers, love. Can’t you see I was working? Can’t you see I was doing Important Things? Why are you asking me to stop? Why are you asking me to go? Don’t you know I had plans, ambition, direction, control? Don’t you know I wanted the day to go my way? Look at you, asking me to slow down, take notice, back up, turn around. Look at you, seeking my surrender in a thousand quiet, clamoring ways.
Thanks for helping me see.
Witness is part of parenthood. We watch a child becoming before our eyes. Awakening to the world at first. Alert for longer stretches each week, searching around the room with brand-new, blinking eyes.
We watch for the baby to smile, to laugh, to coo. Then to roll, to crawl, to creep, to cruise, to totter, to walk. We clap and coax, we capture on camera. At some point we go from passive witness to attentive audience. With toddlers we are beckoned, called, commanded to pay attention. Playdoh, coloring page, cardboard box-turned-rocket-ship, basement fort, stuffed animal zoo, leaf collection, sand castle, soapy sink, spontaneous dance party. Bigger boys do tricks from the diving board, build Lego cities, draw comics, create habitats for inchworms in plastic cottage cheese containers, decorate gingerbread houses in the middle of August. And my job is to admire all of it.

Come, the boys will call me a million times - if I'm lucky - before they leave this house for good.


Oh my gosh, my golly

that's my brother Tollie!*
With the big boys back in school, we've arranged lots of play dates and park adventures and pool trips, even put him to actual work on a commercial set, but Hank basically lives for the moment we head down the hill to pick up his middle brother.

* Hank made up the cheer last spring during baseball season, but still recites it



Tucker walked with me last week while Tolliver took his piano lesson. He talked mostly about a book he was reading, The Infinity Year of Avalon James, in which a pair of ten year olds believe magical powers may present themselves at that age.
And then later in the week, Tuck found me in the kitchen, hoping to discuss a plot twist.
The boys have all learned that I will stop what I'm doing to read a book. Often I am busy, and say as much.
My hands are busy, I will play Candyland in a few minutes. My hands are busy, I can help build a marble run in a moment. My hands are busy, can you find something to work on by yourself for a bit?
But I will invariably drop whatever I'm doing for at least one book. Of course I can take a break and read a book with you. And usually, once we're cuddled on the couch, we end up reading half a dozen.

Recently, another more experienced mom asked Why:: You don't have to stop for them, they can wait...
I don't know why, I just decided a long time ago that I could never be too busy to read a book. And that has evolved into not being too busy to discuss a plot twist. It may not be a failsafe strategy, but I do treat books like they're magical, and the kids seem to be growing up believing that too.
Tucker and Tolliver both love to read. Parents sometimes ask me how we did it, how we helped the boys connect with books. And I am quick to say A) I'm not entirely sure and B) I don't want credit.
I know lots of adults who are avid readers but whose children just haven't clicked with literature. One mom told me recently that her husband established "family reading time," so both parents sit down together with their son, play classical music, and read. I loved hearing this idea. I'm not sure we'll do it, but it did make me think about whether the boys see me reading. Not often, as I usually pick up my own book after they're in bed.
But their grandparents take them to book stores and pay for magazine subscriptions and save newspaper articles to share, and the boys understand that our family values reading. And the boys' teachers, thankfully, have not put them under the kind of pressure to read that can overshadow the joy of doing it.

I'd estimate that we have, on average, about 75 library books checked out at a time. Many of them never get read. We keep some in an outdoor tub for after school reading in the treehouse. I've learned that although most of our library books get plopped into a basket in the kitchen, laying a few out in plain sight - on the dining table, for example - has a way of sucking the boys into a story, when otherwise they might've been bored.
The boys read a lot in the back seat of the car. And they fall asleep reading in bed most nights. They take books to the pool to read during rest periods, but usually find friends to play with instead.
Some of my parenting fantasies - children who are impeccably mannered or perfectly behaved, children who actually eat whatever I make for lunch - haven't quite come true yet, but we do feel lucky that the boys devour books.