Weathering the emotional aridity of the married-with-small-children desert may be difficult for any couple, and is likely complicated by disease.
But September smiled on us today.
And this evening the forecast says fancy with a chance for late dinner adult time.


Dump Tuck, II

We tend to measure mornings by the length of afternoon naptime that ensues.
Given three hours, we'd like to declare supervising heavy machinery a resounding success.
Original Dump Tuck here.



Tucker:  Grandpa Rod came back (from Florida) just like Mama always comes back.
Andy:  Someday Celia will go away and won’t come back.
T:  Where is she going?
A:  Heaven.
T:  What's that? Are there playgrounds?  She will swing on the swings and slide on the slides.
A:  Yes, she will. And Colby will be there with her soon too.
T:  Maybe go see her?
Our mornings are fairly routine, but on this day, since Celia was awake when Tuck got up, he wanted her "all the way downstairs on the red couch with me."  He arranged pillows and covered her up, crawled under the quilt with her and requested The Fox and the Hound.


Kitchen Aide


Save Her

She rests like she means it, purring occasionally, noise like a distant tractor engine.  Her rest is very different from the unrest I get hung up in.  My attention spans out in slender threads, my interest distracted by the tiniest of vibrations.  
Sitting with her, I am able to gather the momentum of my own thoughts, to reign in now without a thought to next.  I lower myself by the fine silk of focus, back into the present.  She helps me find slow in the midst of fast, hear quiet in the noise.
Seconds pile on top of each other, like quilts, resting gentle in my mind.  I breathe deep, put everything away, save one.  Her.



I often feel like there's a tightrope stretched between brilliance and insanity.  Some days we teeter toward the wrong side, the place where her illness screams in the silence and my own throat is sore from the effort of not yelling back.
We've felt our way through a full-spectrum, situations in which we've discovered the biggest sorrows and the purest joys.  These experiences have given our lives shape and depth, grown us into things wise and wonderful.  Most of all, though, our hearts have been trained to look for bright sides.  It can be exhausting prospecting for joy, even when you’re certain it’s there to be found.  It's work, but with rewards.  Drilling down through moments proves it, every time.  For us, the camera and the keyboard guide perspective and glorify truth.  And the truth is, brilliance is bigger.


Gets to Go

There is none of the stale “I can’t believe my baby is going to school.”  None of that, which I find particularly irritating and only slightly relatable.  There's just pride and gratitude.  Our little boy is growing, and gets to go to school.  There is certainly some anxiety mingled with the delight, and a lot of please take care of him whispering in my wake.  But mainly there is gratefulness.
He took a bite of apple before he could share it with his teacher.  Oops.


Time and Change


Of Note

There is so much goodness here.  Enough to note.  Too much to note.
Just some of it:
Two local fundraising events, in October and November, have been scheduled to benefit BDSRA.  Learn more under the "Current Fundraisers" tab.

Researchers at Cornell University have established a gateway through the blood-brain barrier.  (Journal of Neuroscience, Sept. 14, 2011.)  Therapies to treat Alzheimer's disease, multiple sclerosis and cancers of the central nervous system - and even lysosomal storage disorders like Batten Disease - might eventually be delivered effectively this way.

Homewatch CareGivers of Central Ohio selected Grandpa Tim as the local "Family Care Giver of the Year."  Read more about the honor here, or in BDSRA's newsletter, The Illuminator.


Six Feet

These two busy feet - and the sparkly toed ones that rest in my lap, and those of the tiny tenant kicking my insides - remind me to step back.  To slow down.  To look up.



There's not much of a privacy fence around Celia’s story, although we do try to avoid details that make the typical mommy memoir look like a discourse on a day at the beach.  I struggle some with the mix of real and embellished, a complicated ratio.  I admittedly remember big -- blurring lines, twisting truths, downplaying the rest.
She is not a vertical participant in the ongoings of our home, but she's here, part of what makes our home ours, our story shared.  And I write about the ongoings anyway, a task that checks my emotions and focuses my thoughts.  A way to, more than anything, magnify mirth.  
Most children move out of the sphere of their parent's story and into their own.  I'm not sure we ever had a story until she let us into hers.


Play at Home Mom

There are days when I feel like the worst version of myself, when I wonder who gave me stewardship over two (almost three) little lives, when I wonder whether he'll remember the five minutes we spent painting with our toes, or the five minute heated conversation about why the freezer door must stay closed.  When I'm certain someone else could do a better job.
Why are we so quick to beat ourselves up, to forget the million and one ways we are incredible?  How is it so easy to ooze ugliness about decisions, our own and those different from our own? 
It is not a contest, this parenting thing.  It doesn’t matter who stays home and who commutes to work.  Whose child has the worst illness or whose has never had an ear infection.  Who pulls all nighters and who naps at naptime.  Who's dog-eared more child-rearing books or who’s never needed to look at one.  Who copes best with a nightmare or who lives a dream.  Who pays for the best nanny or who relies on grandparents too much.  Who makes repeated PB&Js on white bread and who shops organic and serves fruit with every meal.  Who fills their children with formula or who contributes disposable diapers to landfills.  Who holds themselves to the highest level of perfection or who is comfortable with mediocrity and without guilt.
Mothering is more than milk.  It is more than advocacy or discipline, more than money or time.  It is definitely not a contest.  And anyway, as soon as your baby is born, you win.
And then you keep winning, in a million and one ways, every day thereafter.


more on two

He is an enchanting child. And it has been a magical two and half years.
Despite recent descriptions of the preschool edition of what seems like a confused adolescent, there is not a day – maybe minutes, but not a day – that passes when Andy and I do not note how lucky we are to travel the twos with Tucker.  There are minutes that are hard, and occasionally we complain, but mostly we delight in following the path he takes growing into himself.  Much of the time he leads the way, creating and executing activities -- lining up rocks, for example, or building towers with found objects (today it was make-up and bar soap from the bathroom cabinet).  His style feels slow, but his message is clear: we have all the time in the world.  And I wonder whether we do.  I hope so.
Tucker is primarily in the business of being awesome (for brevity, approximately 823 awesome anecdotes have been omitted from the blog this month alone).  He is also in the business of trying to share and trying not to whine and asking lots of questions and using the toilet and saying thank you and cleaning up his own messes.  And we’re in the business of rejoicing in his happy smile, the one he seems to calibrate especially for us, the one that makes up for whatever he lacks in other emotional mechanisms. 
At two and a half he’s still built a little like a side of beef, heavy as a sack of Quikrete, Grandpa says.  I can hear his footsteps two rooms away and know by the rhythm they keep whether he’s glad or distressed, whether he has a fever or is hungry.  I tilt my head and snag his gaze, listen to him speak, try to meet his request without being distracted by sparkling brown eyes, by brows that practically float up to his hairline.  I stroke his head and kiss his cheek and think about all the ways he'll forever work his magic on me, but mainly I just revel in the great joy of calling him my son.


This part

She's shown some stubborn retention, at four and half years old, holding her soul in her body long past the point at which she may have surrendered.
For us this time is the best and worst part, holding her in our arms before we must bury her in our hearts.


Zero to Frustrated

The two's are known by only one name.  Whether it's design or coincidence that the moniker alliterates may never be known.  But as any parent will tell you... terrible it can be.
Sometimes Tucker seems two going on wise and other times he seems two going on an infinite loop of awful.  He tests our patience moment to moment and answers his misconduct with "Sorry" and a kiss.  And then he acts terrible again.
Anyone who has seen a two year old prone in the center of the cereal aisle knows how frustrating terrible can be, for everyone involved.  The child's ability to accelerate the emotional machine is unparalleled.  Much of the parental recoil comes from the inability to understand the child's irrational behavior.  If the adult's response were equally unreasonable, one might think him appallingly egocentric, rude, unclean, and dimwitted.

I was a very patient young man.  Cut, perhaps, from the cloth that adorned Job, little fazed me.  Readers familiar with Job's story will find the humor in this.  Looking back, it was a charmed existence. All was well and all would always be well.
My wrinkling eyes now see a different world.  A world changed by cruel disease, rising costs and political unrest.  It's a world known to many throughout existence but it seems new to me.
I still have patience. It's just not natural -- it's manufactured. My coworkers see it. My in-laws see it.  Celia feels it.  It seems hardhearted, but Jenni and Tucker are usually the last to benefit from it... aside from myself.  I rarely find patience with myself and I have no tolerance anymore for my own mistakes.

This blog has been a wonderful exercise in self realization.  I started this post with just a title, the result of a little breakfast meltdown this morning.  As the words came through my fingers this afternoon, I discovered the irony.  It was supposed to be a story about a toddler, but through writing I realize I often mirror my two year old's reaction to little wrongs.  I'm inflexible, impatient, short-tempered, selfish.  My version of face down in the grocery store is a clenched jaw, wide eyes and a racing heart.  The words that follow are always regretable and the recipient is rarely deserving.  "Sorry" and a kiss don't usually come next but, inevitably, remorse does.
Maybe we can grow out of this together.


Passing Calendar

Early summer brings cucumbers and backyard gatherings, while late summer sees lit chimeneas and more toasted marshmallows.  Food makes such a lovely way to mark the passing calendar: strawberries in June, sweet corn in July, peaches in August, ice cream all summer long.  We've already enjoyed a few early apples and are looking toward evenings that call for hot cocoa.

Without a classroom to prepare, I realize I no longer think of seasons in terms of new crayons and holiday programs and report cards and spring break.  And with age or wisdom or children, or as a result of an appreciation that comes from all of them, I find myself noticing seasonal shifts with a new lens.  One that appreciates seasonal produce and chalk drawings washed away by rain, that notices withered potato vines calling quietly to be replaced by mums.  One that shapes contentment through each switch, filters urgency with each stage.

A long holiday weekend, and with it weather that would agree, marks summer to fall.  But today I’m thinking neither too far forward, nor too far back, not about lesson plans or farmers markets.  Instead I go to bed having snacked on the best peach cobbler I had all day, with a goodnight kiss for a little girl who's never been more beautiful.  It doesn't matter what symbolizes the cache of sentiment now, or what's around the bend.  It's enough just to know there is sentiment.



There's that old saying that goes something like you can't have a rainbow without rain. 
We've had our share of gray days, and have come to believe they do make the good days even brighter, the red-letter days special treasures.  And as may be the opinion of many Buckeye fans, we really can't think of two colors that go better together anyway.
We're gearing up for football season, hoping for the kind of happy times that might appear even more in memory than in life, ready to stash a few more in our trove.