finding out

The boys are basically full blast from dawn to dark, no chill at all. They fill the day with magic and mischief and mayhem. And questions. So many questions.
Most mornings they don't even finish a bowl of cereal before they begin interrogating the world. Often their queries startle us with their unanswerableness. We've gotten pretty good at saying I don't know. Let's find out. And they've gotten pretty good at finding out.

This year, for Brain Blast, Tucker dove into Addiction and Tolliver studied Animal Architecture:




Dear Hank,

You are three! But you are still my baby.
My stinker. My thinker. My sidekick. My slapstick. My tiny engineer.
My linguist. My dance partner. My wake up call.

My adventurer.
All I have to do is grab a coat or rattle the keys and you're the first one at the door wondering Am I going too?
We spent your birthday, today, in the woods. You wore rainboots and carried an enormous stick, until we spotted a flooded area, at which point you threw down the stick and dove in. You are a true Pisces, always ready to swim.

One of my favorite things to watch is the way your hair runs with you, the top bouncing with each step.

You like magnets and peanut butter and blue and bacon and shapes and scootering and letters and cantaloupe and making your brothers laugh.

You are a talker.
You jump ahead to the second sentence before getting to the period of the first, bursts of thoughts so impatient to get out.
You often comment on the weather. Sitting at the kitchen counter or in the back seat, you'll say What a beautiful day, like an invitation for more dialogue. Today, on the way up the hill and back to our house, boots sloshing and pants soaked, it was What a muddy day!
You want to be involved, to be included, to have a voice in the matter.

You have an affluent imagination. You make soccer balls out of pentagons, rainbows out of cones. You make snakes with ribbon and basketball hoops with kitchen colanders. You make us all so happy.

You are always reaching for answers. You want to know how things work, down to the smallest detail. You want to know why. And why again. You want to know how and when and if.

You are inefficient for my schedule, but good for my soul.
You, more than anyone, help me notice the startling abundance, the way good fortune becomes glaringly obvious when we stop wishing for more.
You breathe wonder into simple things.

You have impeccable manners. Seriously. Your No sank yous slay.

I hope some piece of three stays with you always, keeps you young at heart.
May you always remain tethered to the child carrying sticks and so many dreams, promoting curiosity and spontaneity and whimsy.

You are a huge part of our world, Hank, and you are everyone's favorite littlest brother.
You are deeply, and forever, loved.


double digits

Dear Tucker,

I spent a number of years managing an entire class of ten year olds.
And now I have my own.

It seems like yesterday that you were tiny and new, and I was a nervous wreck, bringing your small heart into this large, unsafe world. I slept curled around you like a treble clef, like I could protect you from everything, anything.

I was, and still am, grateful and astonished that you're here.

You give a solid, proper hug, both arms lingering like you mean it.
Unless we're in public, and then it's usually sideways and quick.

You are a stand up guy, adding jokes to your school presentations, speaking in puns and making lists of happy thoughts inside condolence cards. You are mastering the bridge between playful and poignant.

You are learning to say, when you walk into the kitchen, “Put me to work.”

You stand next to me at the sink, peeling carrots, asking three questions in one breath.
Why do people repeat the names of things : puppy dog, kitty cat, bunny rabbit, baby doll?
Have you ever noticed how certain books have a funny smell, kind of an old scent? 
What if compound words were reversed: finger chicken, pants sweat, paper toilet?
You sit quietly next to me on the couch, each of us lost in our own reading material.
You vacillate between talking in stream of conscious mode and not talking at all.

I wonder if you ever turn toward an empty space, looking for a sister, someone to tease or adorn or begrudge or protect? I think you do, and I think that means your heart is working.
I mean, I know your heart is working, even when you don't quite articulate the ways.

You treat the world with curiosity and respect, look at usual things with unusual eyes. For example, swinging your feet into boots at the back door, thinking aloud: I wonder why glue doesn't stick to the inside of the glue bottle?
You live outside any whirlpool of streaming urgencies.

You are so perceptive and intuitive.
Often you share weird, random facts - about the human body, or a hot pepper, or the reason cacti have ridges. When I ask how you know, sometimes you cite a source, but often you just shrug your little shoulders, smile slightly and say, I just know.
Raising an old soul can be humbling and daunting.
I often wish for half as much confidence in myself as I have in you.

More than confident, you are courageous. You know that you don't have to know what you're doing to try, you don't have to be good at something to enjoy it.

There are things you don't yet know, too.
You still ask me to help match clothes, to double check answers, to remind you of things.
I hope you call me on the phone a decade from now, asking for advice or a favorite recipe.

I want to build walls around you and your brothers, to live inside the blessings of right now forever.
But you want to be in motion, to move forward and up and out, they way you're supposed to go.

At ten, Tucker, you are clearly launching away from us, the way growing kids are meant to do, beginning your ascent into adolescence. May the world be open to your rise.

I love you more than words.


shouldless day

There are a lot of days when I wonder what I've accomplished, wonder where that other sock is. Sometimes I aim for a day when nothing actually needs to get done. Mostly to remind myself that my only goal, really, is to raise happy, kind humans.
Mostly to remind myself what a luxury it is to face long stretches with few transitions. Time to actually look at the faces I love so much.
So we eat apple slices in a cardboard box, name birds out the back window, bundle up to smell the static in the air, shake hands with new ideas, play with pantry staples.
When I relax enough to let go of what I should be doing, I tend to feel calmer and more engaged, imaginative and resourceful, even competent, maybe.


lately, like it is

Over the past few weeks, parenting has felt a bit like the bar scene - everyone is yelling and somebody is fighting and everything is sticky and the same song keeps playing over and over again and occasionally someone throws up.
And somehow it all feels mostly fun.


illuminating the night

None of us have been getting enough sleep.
I have been doing my best to provide warm pillows and cold washcloths, to clean snot rags and sheets and ibuprofen syringes. Almost everything is survivable, I remind myself, including exhaustion.
Still, awake in the wee hours for weeks, snuggling feverish children and scrolling social media, I wind up wondering how we can raise boys in a world where it may be easier to get their hands on an assault rifle than a plastic straw.
I am not sure I'm thinking clearly, though.
I am always at least one step behind, probably since....well, Christmas.
Maybe Christmas 2008, actually.
And there is always something I am forgetting. My keys. My composure. My good sense. My humility. Always something.

I picked up the boys from school this afternoon, stopped at the library to return overdue books, and headed straight to piano lessons. From there we grabbed a quick dinner before attending First Grade Latin America Night at the elementary school. Afterward, at which time we'd ordinarily have teeth brushed and be reading books in bed, we sped through the dark cold and piled into the van, all five, and I asked, just to be sure, Who are we forgetting?

Hank responded immediately, from his place in the middle row: Celia. We don't have her.
His older brothers were quick to say she was with us, just like they've heard us say before. To say that we won't ever forget.

And that's one of the things about waking with a jolt, about brushing hair from foreheads and readjusting quilts, when I pull back from the full catastrophe of nighttime parenting, I sometimes feel her presence, an existential flash. I am often tempted to apologize, not so much for what happened, but for what did not and never will.  To her, and to her brothers.

Instead I try to harness my mind in the moment, try to look for neural centers of hope and rational thinking and remembering, to be thankful for all of it.


another gala

Brimming with gratitude for the boring, precious dailiness of our lives. 
Also for the once-in-awhile escape from routine, for time with friends and without children.



Hank asks me to retrieve the cradle from the mantel, the one that is at least 200 years old, promising to just rock it gently with one little finger. 
I spend the better part of most days following him around, convincing myself this must be the work that I need to do now, before all that other work I have written down and want to cross off.

His sock drawer is a disaster, because he insists on wearing mismatched sets, pulling pairs apart and bringing me one of each, argyle and stripes, red and purple.
The sock drawer situation has been exacerbated by all the recent "sock races," in which all four boys run from one end of the house to the other, sliding at a specified spot. When Hank is not complaining about a sock being loose, he is commanding brothers to scoot even backer at the starting line.
This game leads to inevitable injuries. Hank stumbles often, and usually yells, before he's even hit the ground Oh no, I forgot to watch out! But I'm okay! Good thing I'm tough!

He enjoys doing work on the computer. I want to do a document. I want them to be super big letters. Can you please spell my name for me with your words, and I will push the buttons?
He is obsessed with patterns, talking about them incessantly. Except he calls them "patterings."
He jumps and spreads his legs and then scissors them together, out, in, out, in.
He lines up cucumber slices and carrot sticks across his plate, green, green, orange, green, green, orange.
He arranges foam shapes in the bath tub, big square, small circle, big square.

He has a small circle-shaped scratch near his left wrist, which hasn't healed quickly because he rubs it when he's tired.  He calls it his "new watch" and checks it all the time. Wait! My watch doesn't say it's time to brush teeth yet! Wait, let me set my watch to say it's time to pee! Oh wait, it's Grant calling!

He loves to paint. After crafts - and meals, and restroom breaks - he likes to stand at the sink.
I need to practicing washing my hands.

I know that he'll tip toe up to my room bright and early again tomorrow, with an agenda that does not match my own, but I want to practicing clearing space for his plans even if they clash with my own, to live by the pretend clock on his arm, to paint and do patterings and refold socks, to remember how lucky I am to follow his lead.


checking the knots

One of the things about nurturing a child is that you're forever tethered to a surprise ending.

Tucker volunteered to accompany me to the grocery store this morning, pushing the cart and cheerfully gathering items on the list. We chatted about choosing cucumbers and the Scoville scale for peppers.

After we put away food we took a walk together, bundled up and heading along a path neither of us have taken before.
He told me about the fish prints they're making in art class, with octopus ink and paint.
He talked about spiders in Terraria and we found an icicle arrangement along the river bank that looked like a chandelier.

I listened all day, mindfully committed, impressively present. Tying one end of my time to his heart, checking the knots.




I'll stop the world

and melt with you.