Nothing Lasts Fir Ever

I turned the tree on last evening, something I might have been ashamed to do Januarys past.  It is the new year, after all, and Christmas is over.  There hasn't been much time for undecorating here, and not a lot of pressure to do it anyway.
I felt a crescendo of anticipation leading up to celebrations last month, but I didn't let the holiday season breathe down my neck the way I have before.  And I've continued to usher adagio days, welcoming twenty twelve at an easy pace.  I won't be listing resolutions in some New Years manifesto, but I will acknowledge a desire to find purchase in each day, to make time for the things that matter.
 Tollie's learning to roll over!
There's a common notion that doing nothing, or very little, is somehow bad.  Confronted by rushaholics caught in the grip of urgency, I want to remind myself that slowing down is a noble alternative.  With three small children, doing nothing, or very little, is hardly an option.  But days with soft edges and shiny spots, prosaic days when we're all happily alive at the end, are the goal.
 Tucker's learning that stamps are meant for paper...
Plenty of things serve to remind us that children grow up and leave home.  Plenty of things serve to remind us that not all children grow up and leave home.  Right now rolling and stamping matter, and we just can't be consumed with the future much.  We'll get the tree down eventually.


Looks Like

We're not sure whom Tolliver resembles, where his dimpled chin came from, or whether his eyes may stay blue. But we do have a vague idea of what he might look like were he to end up with red hair:
*Andy's idea.



Tollie is already one month old.
He stretches and snuggles and coos and smiles.
He sleeps, sometimes.
He eats and grows.
He spits up.
He rolls over.
He squirms out of swaddles and pushes out the pacifier.
He cries and poops.
He fits right in here.
It's astounding, really, how something so little, relatively speaking, can already occupy such a big space in our hearts.


Christmas Past


Christmas Present

It's fair to say there are moments of being overwhelmed.  Overwhelmed by how much we take on, give out, let in, heightened by the busy holiday season.
But then, just then - a minute before utter panic sets in - a moment like this one occurs.  A sliver of peace, a clear sign of love, the strong feeling of family.  Stress is quieted and doubt is overshadowed by the reminder that time we spend together is the gift.
May it be yours, too.


Ice cream

I do kind of want to scream.
Maybe he's hungry.  Or tired.  Or just two, my head registers.
Throw in the terror of losing love, the anxiety aroused by competition, the disturbing shape of envy.  He's hungry and tired and jealous and two.  
Maybe I've ruined him another voice whispers, the stupid part of my brain, the part that ponders words like severe, irrevocable damage.
We gave him a brother, I tell myself.  And I let the rest melt away.


Santa Baby


Yule not be sorry

It’s one thing to live your life, and it’s another thing to make it matter.  For many (if not most) of us, the former is often all we can manage.  But she reminds us to do both.
Being involved in advocacy, in raising funds and awareness, gives us a sense of purpose.  And knowing that so many of you want to help - in whatever ways you are able - means so much to us.
It is hard not to absorb some of your passion, and impossible not to aspire to some level of her strength.  So we're asking, again, that you consider giving something that means something, something that gives more, something that really matters.
BDSRA has $43,000 in dollar-for-dollar matching fund grants through December 31st.  Can you give in the name of someone on your list this holiday season?


For Tuck's Sake

Tucker is irrefutably cute.  But there are things about him that may not be so obvious, that can't be captured in photographs.  During this time of transition for our family he has seemed particularly fragile, crying when his brother cries, apologizing profusely when he's afraid he may have disappointed us.  He goes from lacing Christmas tree patterns to tearing the paper, from assembling floor puzzles to throwing the pieces.
In the space of a second his face morphs from calm complacency to impervious belligerence.  And then, after fireworks flash from his eyes, those same dark brown orbs seem to whisper I love you, and I hope he knows that whatever our eyes say, our hearts are always whispering the very same thing.
Tuck has such a vibrant spirit, it seems perfectly natural that it's exhibited not only in sweet, gentle gestures but also in the occasional colorful outburst.  His attempts to adjust have not manifested as hostility toward Tollie; instead he has new default settings - yelling and whining, tearing and throwing.  It's certainly common for an older sibling to feel jealousy toward a newborn and to react to the upheaval, to the feelings of displacement, by acting out. 
Really though, Tuck's fondness for Tollie seems as primary as his resentment.  He is interested in and affectionate toward the baby, and he takes delight in helping care for his new brother.  It is very clear to us that genuine love resides alongside rivalry.  Tucker still needs to know where everyone is - Celie is on her couch, Tollie is in his "basement crib," Colby is at RoRo's...
And I see it in his eyes again, the very same I love you, when he looks at his new sibling.  Perhaps the skepticism will go away, perhaps the yelling and whining will too, but I sure hope the tenderness, the protectiveness, never does.  For Tollie's sake, and for Tuck's too.


We're Happy Tonight


Let your heart be light

Tollie joined me for Book Club this evening, and I watched him being passed from chest to knee to shoulder to lap, hands unwrapping swaddled cloth to peek at tiny fingers, faces making exaggerated imitations.
There's something about witnessing people love your babies, especially this time of year, that brings with it a cozy feeling of warmth despite temperature.


A Thrill of Hope

This weary mama rejoices... JEB


This Minute

There've been a few minutes like this one over the past several days, and they make my heart incandescently happy.


From the Department of Obvious Truths

He is super adorable.


He Ain't Heavy


Party of

We're home today.  Although all of us haven't been together at once yet, when the baby moved from abstract to tangible so did the idea of the five of us.


Tuck & Tollie

Thomas Everett Betz meets little brother, James Tolliver Betz.
James Tolliver Betz "Tollie"
11.28.11, 8:09 PM
9 pounds, 2 ounces
21 inches


Hello, Tollie

Well hello, Tollie.
It's so nice to have you here where you belong!



I still have one.



I woke up this morning and while I begged for a birthday, I felt the day desiring to be Thanksgiving.  With deep breaths I determined to just be here, in the middle of provision and enough, in the prologue to even more.  Deep breaths smell so much like thankful.
Today we will be giving thanks.
Soon we will be giving birth.  And then giving thanks some more.


So Little,

So Loved.



This baby doll is about five years old, purchased at a discount store by Grandma as an acclimation device for Colby when we were expecting Celia. 

Celia learned to hug and kiss the doll, but was never especially interested in caring for it.  When it was time for her little brother's arrival she wasn't able to learn about how we'd need to take care of him.
Tucker became intrigued by the doll recently, without much encouragement from us.  He wants to give the doll milk.  And change its diaper.  And paint its toe nails.  He asked RoRo to make a beez like Tollie's for the doll. 
This evening Tuck stood at his little kitchen and cooked dinner for the baby doll, mushrooms and a donut.


Toward Three

Fall bends inevitably toward winter and little boys grow into big boys.  If we’re lucky.  Tucker leans away from two and stretches toward three.  Inchstones add up to milestones, and we're not even aware that it's happening.  It's amazing, really, that so much endless effort, so much surprise, can fit into the interval between car tuneups, can happen in the span of one season.
We quietly thrill to his early morning voice, dazzled by the way he wakes with a smile as wide as the new day.  Discharging words in a cannonade, he thanks us for rescuing him from too-high spots, describes things as very interesting, says I gotfor (forgot) my pants or I broked my beard.  The up and down cadence, the music of his stories about school or swimming, the zoo or the playground, told in his little boy register, sounds like the sweetest of instruments.  Occasionally a sweep of panic steals his breath, and he resorts to the default action of kids everywhere, when confronted with a situation beyond his scope of experience -- Mama!? Daddy!?
But he is two going on three.  He performs poorly on tests of family harmony and cooperation on too little sleep (though don't we all?).  Too often soon can't come quick enough, and he treats a delay like a human right’s violation.  Similarly, he treats lost toys like a sign of the coming apocalypse, bedtime like an affront to his human dignity, certain requests as attacks on his intelligence.
The seasons shift, my boy grows, and my heart brims with a complicated mess of emotions.  Much like I expect Tucker to continue to do, gratitude rises to the top.


His Name

We've been calling the baby "Tollie" for several months, planning to give him Grandpa Rod's name, Tolliver.

Tucker knows his brother's name, and uses it to talk about him:
"Tollie is still browing."
"Baby Tollie will drink milk."
"Look at what Tollie drawed all over the floor."

So, we already have a bit of finger-pointing to discourage.
But also, we have a name.



Sometimes I'm afraid to give certain things voice, that with the words I’ll fall into an abyss.  But there's a sense of relief and release through writing them.  Most posts are positive, not in a manufactured way, just positive – because we are.  Mostly.
Writing about the opposite, though, can squash it.  Writing about the bad times helps keep the negative from growing and festering, lets those thoughts break free and fly away, taking the burdens we carry with them.
And anyway, even when she cries and even when we're tired, no matter how uncongenial our circumstances feel, this house is full of so much love.  



When she’s having a bad day, the tension inside the house feels worse than the temperature drop outside the front door.  Tension present enough that we can almost touch it, elusive enough that we don’t always acknowledge it with words.

Her crying, like a battering ram, assaults my being, a hot bloom of outrage burgeons in my chest.  Listening to her cry is agonizing.  While sadness spills from her eyes, pours from her mouth, mine begins in my heart, reaches down past my stomach, touches my toes. 

When tension and tears hover in the air like an ugly mist and I feel like a weather vane blown around by the winds of turmoil, I head toward laundry needing folded, counters needing scrubbed, problems I can solve, small surmountable tasks, although I’d really rather curl up on the couch and let the day pass without my participation.
And when the days with her are limited, worse than all the sadness is the shame that follows those feelings of a simple, temporary escape, a guilt that is similarly difficult to acknowledge with words.