looking for a second wind

Some days I feel like I spend most of my energy trying to wrangle a tornado.  Or three.
I haven't chased many storms, but just like the boys, they are awesome and powerful and there is usually a rainbow at the end, right?


trying words

I wish I were better able to catch Hank's language on camera. These video snippets are from over the course of about a month, but they don't capture everything.
Not recorded are things like the way he talks about vitamins every morning, and pumpkins all day long, the way he calls everyone in the house by name, all six of us, and says some cousin names even better than his brothers'.  The way he says please now, as he signs, and talks about giraffes and zebras and dogs and babies and bacon. And most recently, the way he tells us to sit and shhh.
He is trying words and cobbling together phrases, something different every day, naming a world that looks just as new to me as it must to him.

bye bye
pop (toaster)
thank you
knock knock


on not giving up

Last week Andy took Tucker on a solo trip to the Columbus Museum of Art, Tuck's choice.
Tuck was fascinated by the portrayals of a simple, clear glass by an artist who painted that same still life more than two thousand times. Tucker came home and carefully relayed what he'd read about Peter Dreher, pointing to the value of his project, the way it can be worthwhile to look at something again and again and again.

I took the older boys to the Ohio History Center one Saturday several weeks ago, at their request.
We learned, among other things, that dinosaur remains have never been found in our state. (There probably were dinosaurs roaming in what is now Ohio, but the rocks that held their bones have long since eroded away.) Tolliver seemed slightly defeated by this piece of information, as he pretty much hunts for fossils on a daily basis. After his initial shock, he's resumed looking for triceratops skulls that might be hidden along the riverbed, just in case.

I'm afraid I spent lots of museum trips as a child (and let's be honest, as a young adult) sitting on a bench with my arms crossed, rolling my eyes like the exact opposite of a young lady who was sweetly grateful for a special day out. Sorry about that, Mom.  But thanks for never giving up.  


slow and steady

But mostly slow.
Or maybe we're just too close to the project to appreciate how much has changed.
Wait a second though. A lot has changed. And we are grateful.
We last wrote about the new house in July:

The original structure was built in 1941. Over the course of decades a few slipshod additions were made. We've tried to undo some things that made the space feel chaotic and closed off. And to replace some things that were old or inefficient or unsafe.
 ^ the window on the left here, in the old kitchen, looked out over the small flat roof
(middle of the photo above)
same windows, below, plus rotting floor boards
^ now this corner has stairs to the master bedroom, above the garage
both windows are gone and new build is behind them
the window opening on the right can still be seen, above, framed in

In the process of replacing windows we lost a few but added several more, along with an extra large back door, to maximize natural light in the main living area. Previously the kitchen was in the center of the house, but we've moved it to the very back near most of the aforementioned light.
We also rearranged a few walls to achieve a more open floor plan and to encourage efficient flow.  The garage leads right into the mudroom which leads right past the pantry and into the kitchen. We opened what was a small covered front porch and gave that space to the living room. We eliminated one of two hallways to the boys' bedrooms and added that square footage to the bedroom that will be shared.
^ from what was the old kitchen, looking toward the back of the house (then and now)

We've also tried to hang on to a few parts of the original house. The fireplace and surrounding cabinets in the living room will remain. In addition to saving much of the original hardwood parquet, our contractor reworked what we assume was the first front door, and salvaged the linen closet frame, complete with mid century copper cabinet pulls.  Speaking of, we're not really sure what is happening era-wise, except at this rate it might look like the decades exploded inside. Fingers crossed picking our favorite things will prove to be a fine strategy, and finishes will come together.
^ the front room gained a little space near the door, and much of the fireplace surround will stay
we did not opt to save the old wallpaper, above, but we did salvage the linen closet frame, below
This week they're working on drywall. We've ordered tile for three bathrooms, and the kitchen cabinets are in production.  There's new hardwood in the master bedroom and the exterior has cement siding and a fresh coat of white paint.
We have some serious decision fatigue. But we also feel tremendously fortunate to be doing something like this at all.
It's so easy to get ahead of ourselves, to feel like the choices we're making are not for the day but for the decade. To forget that the choices are not actually life or death.  Like, we'll move in and forget that we ever thought door hinge color mattered. So for now it's just one choice until the next one, slow and steady.


wild fire

I walked with Tollie's class to the fire station today, the first kindergarten field trip.  
It wore us both out.

He loved the whole thing - walking in the rain and snooping around the firehouse kitchen and crawling under smoke to escape the pretend fire.

It was fun to watch him with his peers, to hear him ask thoughtful questions and see him making good choices.  



more moments of science

A hot cup of coffee in hand, I'm simultaneously waking up and surveying our good fortune. I mean, I didn't sleep at all last night and I'm not really ready to discuss the Big Crunch Theory. But it's okay to feel both extraordinarily grateful and admit I'm exhausted? And also admit I have no idea what Tuck's talking about?

I hear Andy's voice from one room over, where he's cooking breakfast for the child who actually does sleep, calling for him to come eat. Tuck wonders how old the universe might be and together they sing the ascending notes of the day. They start with the Big Bang and visit the idea of Hubble's Constant and decide that the age of the universe might always be open to question.

On Friday, Tolliver's name was drawn from the classroom beaker, so he got to be the helper scientist during the kindergarten class baking soda experiment. He knew exactly what would happen when he added the vinegar!

The boys have been collecting various materials to create bugs - Q-tips and foil and straws and bottle caps.
And they recently pored over an article outlining the praying mantises' ability to feed on hummingbirds, incredulous at the insect's scant regard for food chain decorum.

Although Hank is not yet quite as scientifically advanced as his older brothers, he is pretty much the best gravity checker around. Entered as evidence: Andy had to glue Hank's cheek shut last week, after a serious trip and tumble episode.

Neighbors with older sons sent a text yesterday, telling us there was a big box of books on their porch for their "favorite non-fiction readers." Tucker was so mad that we made him go to bed before he could read them all.

Today the boys went on a water walk with cousins and grandparents, and came home with pet worms and mollusks and crawdads.
Tonight, I'm still surveying our good fortune. And I'm still tired, but I'm drinking bourbon now. And basking in the silence.


Good boys grow here.


little letters

Dear boys,
I'm sorry we've been spending so much time at our computers. And at the tile shop.
I've said it before and I'll say it again: we love you so much.

Dear apple cake,

Dear naps,
I'm sorry I was a jerk to you as a kid.

Dear fall,
Thank you for making Ohio look like a dream.

Dear Andy,
Have I told you lately how much I love you?

Dear walks at the Park of Roses,
Thank you for keeping me sane. I like to cry happy and then sad and then happy again tears. And to look at the trees and the leaves. You're always one of the best parts of my day.

Dear Mom and Rod,
I'm sorry we've commandeered your entire dining room table. And your driveway. And your washing machine. You guys are way too good to us.

Dear coffee,
I love you. That is all.


carefully taught

My fingers have spent a decade hitting publish here. And also a fair amount of time hovering over delete.
Sometimes I struggle desperately to find a way to say something hard and make it come out soft. 
I mentioned to a friend recently that I wish I had the courage to write more, to say more.  
Her response was on point : It's hard to feel brave in a world where someone might shoot you for having an opinion.
I'm not really afraid of being shot. But I am afraid for the people who are.

These days, I live in fear mostly because my children have none. 
They are the boys jumping on the roof of the bounce house. 

I want our boys to follow rules and to break rules, to have opinions and to seek advice. 
I hope that as they grow taller they do not grow smaller, that they gain experiences and perspectives and increased preferences and confidence, but not so much that it makes them too cynical to listen to others. 
I don't want them to pick fights. I do want them to pick flowers.
I am not afraid of being shot, but I am afraid our country is being led by a lunatic. 
I am not afraid to stand up in support of same sex marriage, but I am afraid I might sometimes accidentally think I'm thinking when instead I'm just rearranging my prejudices.  
I am not afraid to eat pizza rolls and ignore gender roles, but I am afraid I might inadvertently kick the next person I run across who is small-minded and proud of it.
I am not afraid to share that I am firmly pro choice, but I am afraid I am not always a good example for my children.
We can always, all of us, do a little better in our interactions with people who are different from us, can't we?

I want our boys to believe in God or in good, to take actions based on grace. 
I want them to filter coffee, not people. 
The boys are inherently fair, and they are learning that when we take time to talk to strangers they don't seem so strange.
I want them to be brave, to declare opposition and to take bold steps, but to always, always remember person over point.



a moment of science

You know their necks can rotate 180 degrees?!
They're actually carnivores. They eat crickets and stuff.
The females decapitate the males after they mate!
I remember they're related to cockroaches. And termites.
Also, they only have one ear.  On their belly.  
I forget why they pray though?


chiseling happiness

There are a LOT of things I admire about this kid.
Lately it's the way he consistently chisels happiness out of pretty much any sort of rough-edged circumstance.



Not the absence of light, but the evidence of it


watching them take off

We do not spend long, fraught evenings dissecting our children’s educational paths. We do encourage engagement with learning. We do spend some time wondering about the boys' budding character, wondering how we might help them take responsibility for their actions, wondering whether they'll get into the colleges of their dreams and whether we'll be able to pay. But mostly wondering whether we can possibly ever let them go.

The boys memorize periodic elements and state capitals and Pokemon characters and not the phonetic alphabet. They remember the fireplace in the Denver hotel suite and the specific granola snack we had once at COSI and the names of the tenth planet and the eighth continent and the new toy that so-and-so opened at his birthday party two years ago.
And we are humbled and challenged and exhausted and inspired.
Tuck is eight and a half, a third grader now. He’s a marvelous young man -- eager, curious, affectionate, funny and full of empathy. He’s most interested in Minecraft and coding, prehistoric man, his own music playlist, the piano and infinite numbers. He asks curly questions like, Going back from zero, what’s the very first number? and Are apes still actually becoming humans? He wants to make an engine and to invent all sorts of things; he collects pieces for projects in his ever-dirty pockets and talks earnestly about multipotentialities. He regularly has his nose in a book. He is a confident swimmer, a kind friend and an almost endlessly patient older brother. The only thing bigger than Tucker's sense of humor is his heart.
Tollie is nearly six wonderful years old. He’s an incredible character -- determined, thoughtful, exuberant and opinionated. He’s a bit of a chameleon, soft and strong, loud and quiet, confident and not quite sure. He is this or that, himself or someone else. He dresses up in costume and has us all in giggles. He loves bedtimes stories and our special X Marks the Spot back scratch routine.  He adores Hank, and manhandles him as much as Hank can stand. He is also astoundingly thoughtful, sharing special things like arrowheads and favorite mini figures with cousins. At the moment, Tols is mostly into Legos and the high dive and this one specific dance move that he's been asked only to do at home. He is full of wonder and opinions and plans.  He has six new best friends, and pizza is the circle of his life.
We spend very little time worried about the boys falling behind and hold more concern over trying to help them press ahead in the right direction. We drag them to the food pantry and walk to advance brain tumor research and make them write thank you notes. We encourage them to save money and force them to do chores and take them on big adventures, but mostly we try to address learning in the tiny nooks and crannies -- hiking along the riverbed we stumble across new words, listening to the radio we discuss with candor most current events. In the kitchen we do mental math, doubling measurements for zucchini muffins, and in the back yard we shoot baskets and bust open rocks and observe humming bird habits and gaze at the shadows of the eclipse.
We hug the boys tight and kiss them hard and gradually let go of the back of the proverbial bike.
We smile, watching them take off.


18 months

Hank is a year and a half old now.
He is not interested in diaper changes or leaving the playground or saying goodbye to his bothers; he shakes his head ridiculously hard, his fine blonde hair swishing furiously back and forth across his forehead.
He throws one hand out in front of his body, sort of like hitting caps lock, screaming NO or STOP.
He has several other gestures which he uses to mean all sorts of serious business - thank you and all done and OUTSIDE!
He uses quite a few words, some of which he even puts together into short sentences.  He talks about socks and buckeyes and MINE.
He finds the bottle of vitamins and holds up his first finger, Vitamin! Just one!
He's able to identify body parts, poking eyeballs and tickling toes and checking on Aunt Kate's injured knee.
He loves pears and apples and berries and bananas, and he carries the stool around at RoRo's to reach the fruit bowl. There are currently five honeycrisp apples lined up on the butcher block, one small bite taken from each.
He frustrates easily and throws top notch tantrums, but he short circuits back to happy pretty quickly.
He loves backpacks.  He points to the empty seat next to him in the van and says backpack, reminding the boys that's where to put theirs on the ride to school.
He imitates a dozen animals, elephants and snakes and cows.
He uses a spoon and brushes his teeth and helps unload the dishwasher.
He doesn't sleep through the night yet.  No one's good at everything, I guess.
He turns switches on and off and opens and closes cabinets, fills and empties buckets, stacks and knocks down blocks, and in general, occupies plenty of time with repetitive practice.
He's very curious but not especially cautious, and insists on doing things like walking up steps without rails and sitting on bar stools without backs just like his brothers.
At the OSU tailgate over the weekend, when he wasn't eating cupcakes or celery or cheese puffs, he used the lid of a veggie tray to slide down the loading ramp of the vehicle next to us. Over and over.
He is full of energy and affection and wonder.
He has generous thighs and glittery eyes and a mama who doesn't mind overlooking a little sleep deprivation, because baby Hank has a way of opening our eyes to so many other good things.