Well spent

There are lots of things this house needs, but the one thing it needed most was another baby.
There are lots of things I could say about Tollie at five months, but I said most of them about his brother
from the top: Tucker watches the cement truck, Tolliver at five months, Celia at five months


age three, average day

We use tape, leftover from one of the projects happening here, to make another race track.  He spends much of the morning vrooming.
His little brother bounces nearby, lulling himself to sleep with the two beat rhythm of his feet.  He naps suspended, head pressed into a cold teething ring, despite the occasional car crash occurring just inches away.

I pause to check e-mail, to catch up on my favorite blogs.  One admonishes me for allowing the breakfast I ate to determine exactly how much self-loathing I took into the shower.  Another makes me long for my little girl; I quickly click the x, closing the window and quitting the thought.  The third reminds me to see the boys with both eyes, to avert my gaze from nonessentials.  I shut the computer.

We have applesauce and roast beef dipped in hummus for lunch.  It's rainy, so we don't play outside. We do make a quick trip to the grocery.  As I pull in the lot from the back, Tuck points to the drive thru pharmacy and declares it "Celia's store. That's where we got her medicine so she don't be sick."  We sit in the parking lot, still buckled, and shed a shared tear.
Home again, he spreads alphabet blocks across the floor, stringing a long line of letters together.  His "word" begins with I.  "Look, Mom, I spelled i-i-i-OhioState!"

The boys nap, overlapping just a bit.  I hard boil eggs for tuna salad, wash and cut strawberries, run a load of laundry, pick up my book.

He's not awake long before he discovers a box of brownie mix in the pantry.  He wants to bake - for himself, and for David and John, who are done in the basement and who "did good work."  He carefully mixes ingredients, and colors a quick thank you note while the oven warms.
After dinner, he and Daddy unload the dishwasher, making a banjo out of the egg slicer to accompany their traditional pot lid cymbals.  They build a marble machine, sing a showtune, read a book about spiders.  They tickle Tollie and wrestle on the rug, watch Looney Tunes and chase a bouncy ball.

At some point he has chosen his favorite necklace from my jewelry box and when he's hesitant to take it off I ask him to hang it on his bedroom door knob where he can find it when he wakes.  He dances around the room in jammies before I fly him, and his beez, into his big green bed.  He thinks ahead, asking for mango for breakfast, and watermelon.  And maybe a brownie after he eats healthy food.  He wants to go to the library tomorrow, to trade Word World for Rio.  
I lie benext to him, thinking about today and tomorrow too, grateful for an average day, hopeful for a million more.




I find myself looking at him in a way that searches for flashes of who he may become, wondering what this baby will be like as a boy, a teenager, a father, a friend.  It will be interesting to see how the pieces of the him he is right now fit together in the future.


With photos of two of the BETTER things

I find myself focused on things like crushed hydrangea bushes, a result of concrete demolition out front, and sawdust piles downstairs that need serious shop vac attention.  Silly things.  Really silly things.  Each item on the agenda seems to vie for my attention though, the things that need mended all a magnet for my thoughts.  The list feels forever long and impossibly impossible.  And I know better than to waste energy worrying about things like forgetting to use the coupon I'd carefully clipped, or fretting over how we'll ever get the house back in order.  There are plenty, PLENTY, of better things to think about. 
We spent most of yesterday in the garage, installing some of the water-damaged cabinets and countertop that had been torn out of the basement laundry room recently, in an effort to organize strollers and balls and outdoor cushions.  We’ve both been feeling a bit tense lately, anxiety that snaps into anger and melts into sadness and feels almost like a fifth presence in the house.  Some of the tension is a result of so many necessary home-improvement projects, but keeping busy with those has benefits too.  It’s difficult to do productive work and fume simultaneously, as the labor dissipates any righteous steam.  Sometimes writing has that same therapeutic benefit.  Right now, though, the shop vac calls.


lately, from Instagram

1. enjoying dutch oven bread. delish.
2. visiting the zoo.
3. shopping with daddy.
4. learning to jump.

5. rolling over.  and smiling a lot.
6. making wishes.
7. remembering C's curls.
8. basking.


even with the worms they find

Our primary play space has been out of commission with the basement under construction.  Tuck likes to keep track of what "the guys" are working on down there, but he likes spending play time outside even more.  With lilacs blooming in fluffy waves of purple, with spilled milk clouds and with sunlight kissing treetops and bare toes -- and with all my guys -- I do too!


Tuck's first poetry recitation:

Introducing Ed
With cherries on his head.
He says, "I like the color,"
So all his stuff is red.

Last week he had a fever,
his head was very warm
Ed smelled like cherry marmalade
and flies began to swarm.

From Polka-Bats and Octopus Slacks by Calef Brown


He grows.

They shared about six weeks together.  He shares her bright blue nursery, and maybe her marmalade hair.   We are grateful for reminders of our eldest, etched kindly in the face of a brother who resembles her.
She drew herself tighter, limbs curled, like a spider pulling its legs in to die.  His body opens wide, his eyes, his arms, his mouth.  While she shrank and faded and disappeared, he grows.  He grows, and we catch happy glimpses of the way she grew at this stage, too.


For the way they look at each other.

We heard from many of you about the challenges of age three.  There's something in knowing we're not alone as we try to teach Tuck the ropes and he tries to, well, jump over them.  The days may feel dreadfully slow but we know they are also viciously fleeting.  Thank you for helping us focus on the fleeting part. 
His popped-balloon face, despite ice cream in hand.

It's been cold.  Unseasonably so, the last gasp of winter trespassing on the first full month of spring.  We had heavy coats out earlier in the week, battling the wind on the way to the playground.  The wind won't win when the sun is shining.

I am grateful for the sun.  I am grateful for a healthy three year old. I am grateful. But not all the time.  I try, and often fail - when they're crying or refusing a bottle or disobedient or just three - to summon gratitude for my living children.  I try, with partial success, to remain grateful for having carried their sister to term, for having shared nearly five years in the world with her.  For the knowledge that she drew her last breath from a nest of loving arms.  For a long list of things that deserve more than just transient thanks. 



The Easter Bunny delivered a bag of balloons. Huge hit.
Tuck has long been a fan of the mylar, helium-filled sort, but has only just discovered the joy of the cheap, latex variety, filling them with water in the bathtub, “bopping” them back and forth with Daddy, chasing the untied ones as they fly through the air deflating.

Sometimes his whole little boy body seems to deflate, too.  Lately, sometimes actually feels like a lot.  It may just be that he's three.  But it may be more complicated than that.  Our family dynamic changed three times in the same number of months. He has been such a resilient little guy, gently welcoming new baby Tollie and cheerfully pointing out things that look like Celie's hair and calmly remembering that Colby chewed the hole in his beez. Often, though, he's not gentle or cheerful or calm.  And sometimes, when he isn't yelling or crying, his contemplative face, silent and just as sad, reminds me of a popped balloon.
Fortunately those aren't the times we think to grab the camera.


James four

Tollie was named after several fine men.
Here he is with James Betz one, two and three.




In the Jungle

Tollie is growing out of clothes and in to play things.
With all this growing, you'd think he'd need extra rest.
Each time I put this sleeper on him, I've hummed, with great hope, "...the lion sleeps tonight."
It's never been particularly effective.



Andy likes productivity.
But he likes Tucker more.


Drink him in

Sometimes in the morning, if Tollie goes back to sleep and Andy goes off to work, Tucker and I share "coffee." We sit benext to each other at the counter.  He talks.  With wide eyes and an inclined body, as if every word he says deserves a physical exclamation point, he talks.  And I listen.  I try to pay attention like I’ve never paid attention before, taking simultaneous sips of liquid caffeine and of little boy energy. 


They appear to be pretty fond of each other.

Baby Tolliver has been spending time with Great Grandma Tolliver, who's visiting from Florida for the week.