So Loved

Yesterday made Tollie three months old. He had breakfast with G'Rod and G'Ro, buttermilk waffles and a bottle of milk, accordingly. He shared lunch with Poppy John and Grammy Sandy at a local pizza place. And then he helped deliver fried chicken to Grandpa Tim and Grandma Jan for dinner.
At the end of a busy day, the beginning of his fourth month here, I whispered in his ear: You are so loved.


for Hospice

If there's a sadder phrase than "children's hospice," we can't think what it might be.
If there's a better cause to support, we can't think what it might be.
What we do know for sure: The Pleasure Guild throws an awesome party. 
Cheers, to the little one with crimson curls.
Chef Allen, from Chicago.  Best scallops ever.  And new best friend. 
As always, Chef Hubert, thank you.

Jenni & Andy


Painting Heaven

I want to ask Heaven if I can go upstairs to Jesus’ house to see Celia.  Heaven is behind RoRo’s house. Jesus' house is up in the sky there. They have fish and a cage for the muskrat to live in. And stickers, Heaven has stickers. I can go there and say hi to Celia and Colby, then we can play, then I can say bye.

He thinks Heaven is a person.
He thinks Jesus has a street address.
He says goodbye in a see-you-tomorrow kind of way, not a forever kind of way.
Who are we to say otherwise. 

We try to coax memories until the words create the Celia who will live in his mind.  We try to encourage stories, to help whatever persistent little echo keeps him believing she visits our world and he can visit hers.  You can say goodbye to her whenever you, wherever you want, we tell him.  Celia lives in Jesus' house and in your heart, we say.  But really, we mostly listen.  He seems much wiser about all this than we'll ever be.


Oh, this baby.

Either you love him, or you haven't met him yet.

Tomorrow chases today through my head.

My eyes dart hurried glances at half-done tasks, my mind scans the never-ending list of to-dos.  It’s a race against time, I sense the gap narrowing between the feeding he just finished and the next.  No longer a tenant of my womb, the baby is the landlord of my being, not just borrowing my body but owning my chest, my time.  Tollie's domination of the day makes me feel soft and productivity feel hard.
When I let Tucker guide the schedule, when I don't resist his direction, I find peace.  I lose track of tomorrow and I don't even think much about today.  I feed little brother while I sit benext to the tub, Tuck's face submerged to make "turtle noises."  While we dive into books and collapse into giggles, while we train dragons and travel through his imagination.  When I surrender we are, in some sense of the word, productive.  Tuck's agenda, my attention, will certainly yield results, in good time.
And all too soon, all too soon, Tolliver will share a voice in the daily program.  He'll want more than milk, he may not need me as much as he does now, and I might need him even more.   


Used To

I used to have a daughter.
I used to have a dog.
There are things now I just have to get used to.




As Tuck fought sleep a few nights ago, he asked, groggily, if we could go to the library "to find books about crocodiles and iguanas and sea turtles."  Going to the library to pick books - instead of just to see the fish and to play with Legos and to get stamps on his hand - is something I'd like to encourage, so I agreed.  When he woke the next morning he remembered the request and was eager for the library to open. 

He asks that his door be left cracked at night, with the hall light on, so he can read in bed.  And we find him in the morning with books in his sheets, imprints on his face, pages dog-eared and covers bent.
He shares story time with his brother now, retelling the most familiar tales, and he recognizes the word S T O P, whether on a red octagonal sign or not.

Andy and I haven't been able to talk, for at least a year now, about when to go to the 'Zee oh oh' unless we're serious about going right.this.instant.

Tuck takes pride in adding "words" to the grocery list, and wants to label drawings with their initial sounds, like the rectangle he traced yesterday needed an "R" in the middle.
A few days ago while he sat on the toilet and I sat, as instructed, on the other side of the closed bathroom door, he asked me to bring him a newspaper or nag-da-zine.

Tucker likes to talk about whose name starts with which letter, and commercials for things like pizza leave him saying things like "pizza starts with P!"
We found the reptile section at the library the other day, and Tuck pulled books off the shelf with wild abandon.  He sat in the middle of a big pile, flipping pages and flipping out - in a not-quite-library voice - over the animals he'd discovered.  We  carefully chose three books and sort of carefully reshelved the rest. 

All this getting ready to read may be the neatest part of parenting so far.


We all fall

He falls perfectly into the hammock of my arm.
We've fallen into a relatively smooth rhythm of feeding ceremonies.
And I continue to fall forever in love with him.


Son of a Pitch

He says yes to everything.
Except, occasionally, pants.


Lotta Love

If shifts in topic and mood seem abrupt, it's because they are
I'd like to shed any pretense that we handle everything with grace, and to point out that much of the time we feel like we're putting the capital H in both hardship and heartache.  Yet there's still a whole lot of happy here, a WHOLE lotta love weaving it's way through our days, and we're determined to focus on that.



She couldn't recover. I'm trying.

Each day, loss announces itself through shameless novelties – the empty end of the couch, a small spoon untouched.  Like a deep bruise, reminders of her jolt me when I bump against them.  I suspect they always will.  The blender whir is no longer a prelude to pureed meals and without the bathing chair the tub seems empty.  There have been subtle changes too, like a slight shift in temperature or the absence of a background hum I’d only vaguely been aware of.
Nostalgia pulls me into yesterday as I watch used-to-be happy home movies. Anxiety pushes me hard into tomorrow too, and I miss would-have-been happy kindergarten registrations.  It feels as if we're living forward and backward at the same time, excavating details from the past while trying to figure out what to do next, while trying to think clearly at all.  I'm paralyzed by simple decisions, confused with easy directions, forgetful of important details.  And I can't stop thinking about every horrible (albeit unlikely) thing that could happen to the boys.  All this with the very solid realization that when I feel like I might collapse from the pressure of one day, it’s not wise to add the heft of tomorrow’s worry. And yet, I do.



At our house, lab hair has been a constant accessory and an occasional condiment.
And he was a constant companion and an occasional jungle gym.
We were lucky to spend eleven good years with him.
Part of each of us left the house when he did.



I asked the question half in jest and whole in earnest.  Could things get worse?

Yesterday was hard.  The kind of hard that made my limbs feel like sand bags and made my brain turn viscousy and slither down my spine where it became a pool of exhausted desperation at my feet.  When I feel like that, like I’m losing strength and leaking courage, I have to remind myself: I can do hard things.

Today was better.  And I realize life may always be this way, complicated and quicksilver, shifting between imprecation and blessing.


On the Bright Side of Dawn

Enjoying the drowsy quiet of a new day.



The whir of the coffee grinder fills the kitchen, relieving us both of the pressure to speak.  He doctors mine, leaves his black.  My thoughts match the color of his drink, surely just as bitter.

He’s not the only father who’s ever counted on things a father should be able to count on – recitals and pancakes and tussling.  He’s not the only husband who has worried about his child’s mother.  But he is the only guy in this house who celebrated another year of life without his daughter.

Andy worked all weekend.  He did get to watch football with his boys last night.  We visited him at the hospital yesterday, and Tucker gave him the painting he made: "black circles" with water colors.
There shouldn't be too much black right now though, so we plan to stretch the celebrating out through the week with more bright swashes of happy. 


It is February

And yet we found ourselves spending a day at the zoo, and an evening barefoot on the back patio...


I can scarcely think of anything I'd rather record.

When he woke from a nap last week, Tuck said, "Celie talked. She talked."  I hope she continues to speak in his dreams for years to come.
When he finds a container that’s empty, he declares, "There's no something in this box."

When he wants to snuggle, he asks, "Will you sit benext to me?"

When we asked him, for at least the tenth time, to stop plucking the "white pine cones" from the peace lily buds, because it hurts the plant, he replied, "Lily is not sad.  She don't have any face."
When we shared some of his sister's special dresses with friends he saw them and said, "Those dresses are Celia's.  She was a girl."
He refers to her memorial service as "Celia's goodbye party."

He mixes tense, present and past.  He creates his own words, and his own realities.  He verbalizes delight without dialogue. 
And somehow his every expression, his every idea, alleviates a layer of sorrow.
When thoughts gallop through my head like wild stallions, the kind that can trample both spirit and sanity, it helps to take note of Tucker's talk.