fumbling along and figuring it out

Most of the time we're just winging it -- dinner, parenthood, my eyeliner.

One day last week the little boys were fighting over a small Playmobil dalmatian, part of the firehouse set. Tolliver grabbed it from Hank, who'd had it first. Andy intervened, reminding Tols that he needed to ask for it. He went on to explain that if Hank refused, Tols would have to respect that and find another toy to play with, like the Lego german shepherd figure.
Is this the very beginning of consent education, I wondered?


From his perch in the stroller on the way to school pickup, Hank witnessed a squirrel, carrying a walnut, get hit by a car. He wanted to scoop up the animal and take it to Daddy at work, to fix. Being empathetic starts with being sensitive to what's going on in the world and this sudden burst of sweetness from a child whose mantra has been "Mine!" gave me pause.
Could compassion be part of his wiring, I wondered, might the boys grow up to be caretakers of a hurt world?


Tucker received a text message from an unknown number recently. It might've been easier to delete the message and move on, to let the conversation and his fingers veer toward Minecraft again. But it felt important to explain why his contact list is short and familiar, to discuss the dangers of communicating on devices with strangers, to remind him his iPod is meant mostly for maintaining relationships with family members, for listening to music and for accessing information.
Is there an app for parents trying to help preteens avoid digital pitfalls?


We tell the boys they are always allowed to say no, and always allowed to change their mind, and so are we. We seek advice from people with experience, trying earnestly to listen to their wisdom through our own worry. We've established our willingness to have messy conversations with the boys, to be askable parents. But I have so many questions of my own... I don't feel sure about much except the solid sense that we are, all five of us, lucky to be figuring it out together.


this is nine

He reads widely and writes constantly
his eyes swimming inside a soup of words 
his fingers flipping page after page
filling notebooks and his brain,
filling my heart.


maybe just assume we'll be late

I got everyone fed and dressed this morning (minus some shirt tucking, apparently) and wondered, on the way out the door, whether I should begin a new policy, texting instead only on the rare occasion that we might actually be arriving on time.



Hank pretends all day, from spying pirate ships with a telescope to playing a piano built from blocks to cannon-balling off the diving board into the pool.

His agenda pretty much looks like this:

Play more.
Play harder.
Pass out.
Repeat tomorrow.


boys will be... good humans

I took a bag of things to a neighbor one street over this evening, and walking back the older gentleman who lives across from us came out to chat. If I'm being honest, I was actually a little worried that he was upset about something. But he wanted to tell me what good boys we're raising. How glad he is that we moved in. How much he enjoys watching the kids play outside. How smart and polite they are, how kind.
And then he told me I was a good mom.

I want to be a lighthouse of a calm, a deserving mother. Someone who is able to focus energy productively. But when sophisticated thinking goes dark and defense mechanisms kick in, it's easy to forget that I am in charge of my own responses.
Sometimes I feel angry, but the news does not "make" me angry, traffic does not "make" me angry, my children do not "make" me angry -- I decide to feel it. Or not.
I want my boys to be angry sometimes. Not petty anger, but righteous anger - there's a place for that, isn't there? How, though, to explain whether it should spill out on the tennis court or the supreme court, the board meeting or the kitchen floor?

Instead of asking them not to get angry, I want to offer the boys practical alternatives, actions that help strong feelings dissipate, that make a positive difference in their day or somebody else's.
Like collecting a bag of October treats to "Boo" a neighbor, or baking apple cake to share with the grumpy old guy across the street. Like getting lost in a good book or finding time to write a note to a relative. Or to the principal / mayor / congresswoman.
It’s like a super power, really, the ability we have to shape our own intentional reactions.
What I've got to offer as a parent feels pathetically scattered. Be brave but don't be reckless. Regard boundaries but don't let go of dreams. Be fierce and opinionated but respect your parents. Don't let the world make you mad but get ANGRY.
Good thing part of my job is to show them they do not need to be perfect.
But mercy, please let them be kind.


among other things


with tremendous success

I'm not sure he could ever pretend to be without preference. 
But I am fairly certain that he will continue to right foot left foot his way into or one plus one his way out of anything.


Most of the time we know exactly what he means.

Puh puh puh church, he said, over and over again. Except the "church" part sounded like tut. And it was fairly out of context, as he sat building with magnatiles. So it took us a long time to understand what he was actually saying. 
When he gets frustrated because we don't understand, he tries to enunciate the initial sound, but it's always with the letter P, whether the word starts with P or not. Like puh puh puh diving board. Or puh puh puh solution
So, not particularly helpful. But super cute.



I only cried once this weekend. I might blame the tears on an accumulation of things, on missing and medicating and re-cleaning and refereeing and who knows what else. Well, maybe the national news.
Mostly though, I spent a lot of time trying to hold it together.
The boys went from co-conspirators to sworn enemies and back again, practicing every single emotion they'll ever use in life on each other. Over the course of one weekend.
My patience evaporated with the coffee I reheated sixteen times and my muscles ached.
I tried using charitable words, tried helping them navigate humanity in the wake of my own, but everybody was crying and everything needed batteries and nobody felt quite right.

So in search of fresh air and improved moods, we went to the zoo. Driving home, I noticed we all seemed a little less tired and a little more optimistic. The boys spent an afternoon smiling, and I had too.


the climber

When his teachers explained that he'd scaled the classroom shelves a couple weeks ago, I was like Really?



Tolliver woke up this morning talking about the scent of fall, how it makes him hungry for s'mores.

It feels like just last week I cut pants into shorts for the onslaught of spring. Most boasted holes in the knees anyway.
Summer invited polka dot shins, little legs marked with bruises and knicks.
Could a mother tell the seasons this way, I wonder, from pale to bruised to tan?

Suddenly it's time to think about cooler weather again, to find pants that will cover longer bodies. This weekend we tackled tubs and dressers and closets, preparing to embrace a wardrobe of light coats and tall socks and fleece jammies.

And then, shelves stocked with sweaters and jeans that should fit for a minute, we headed outside, enjoying crisp air and sunshine, a fresh crop of acorns and a little chocolate graham cracker treat.


bits of the week