One month and then the next

These dates sort of sneak up on me, one month and then the next, and I just don’t even know where to begin. So much happens.
At ten months, one of your favorite things to do is throw things.  You throw food from the highchair tray, balls at your brother, wet toys out of the tub.  Which is interesting because you've just learned how to put things in.  You have a plastic purple funnel and an oversize green foam dice, and you put that dice in that funnel over and over - in, look up for approval, smile, dump, repeat.

You are really interested in balls. Rolling, throwing, bouncing, catching.  The back of your head sticks out a little and Daddy says it's your cerebellum and it's enormous and that whys you're already so good at catching and throwing.  He's apparently got high hopes for your athleticism  No pressure though, big guy, no pressure.  Promise.

You get really mad.  There's that stereotype about redheads being feisty or fiery or something.  When you don't get what you want you wave your arms wildly and you hit and scream and cry.  I should capitalize for effect: WILDLY HIT and SCREAM.  Oh my.  You are feisty or fiery.  Or something.

You're gathering sounds and taking some for a spin.  You're not officially walking, just as you're not officially talking, but we're pretty close to giving you credit for both.  We've counted at least five steps, and we think we've heard you say dada and mama and all done.  And you totally make the right noise when we ask you what pigs say.
So big, Tollie.  You are loved so big.


Two Hours

I feel like this little boy fastens me to the earth.  He lifts my spirits to the sky, but he holds me right here in each day.  This afternoon we took a walk, and with no destination in mind, our adventure was a delight.  We found sticks and streams, collected wet feathers and wormy nuts, climbed rocks and ran through puddles.
Hey Tuck, whatcha doin'?
I caught an ant.  I will put him in my boot so he will be safe.  Then I can play with him later. 
What if the ant gets squished in there?
We have to be very quiet. That whys he can sleep and then he won't get squished.

Hey Mom, look what the beebers built.  
The who?
The veebers.  They built a fort to live in.  
Oh, cool!  The beavers did build a neat fort!
But they're not home right now.  The veebers are in the river looking for their family.  I will help them put more sticks on their fort.  The beavers will be so happy when they come home!



I started to write a blog post last night, and then I started to cry.  Sometimes it’s the tears I wasn't expecting that I need to pay attention to.
I cried because I am happy.  I cried because I have Tucker and Tolliver.  I cried because I do not have Celia.  Because we are not a family of five.  Because we may never have been, were she well.  I cried because I am overwhelmed by the blessings of my boys, and because I miss her.
It certainly was not the first time I thought about my children and trickled tears of anything but joy.  They are siblings on separate roads, paths that split the day she died.
Last night I let the tears come, hopeful that the crying jag would burn itself out.  Grief, though, has astonishing staying power.
It's hard to squeeze large sentiments into tidy posts.
I can, however, squeeze two little boys as long as they'll let me.


Tollie wants a cracker.


That whys

Tucker still has his own way of saying a few things, and we're not in any hurry to correct them away.

At school this week, a classmate was excited to show Tuck his Mario shirt.  Tuck responded enthusiastically (although he has no idea who Mario is...):  That's meat!  Celia is on my shirt!

He's been saying meat for "neat" for as long as we can remember.
And instead of "that's why," he always says because that whys
I get to have ice cream for a treat because that whys I ate all my healthy things like my burrito and my applesauce, that whys I get some ice cream.

Here, he's wearing his Celia shirt and his undies (which he calls andies), on backward.  And that whys I like this picture.



Last night we were joined by family and dear friends at Shadowbox Live for the Pleasure Guild's 2nd annual Laughing, Living, Giving event, a fundraiser for Nationwide Children's Hospital Hospice and Palliative Care program.  We had a great time!
Below are the words we shared before the show.  We were honored to have been asked to tell about our experience.

We appreciate you being here this evening. We appreciate you stepping away from your own concerns -and we know you have them- to share ours.
Our daughter, Celia, would have started Kindergarten this fall. She didn’t make it to her fifth birthday though – she died in January, at the age of four. She was born seemingly healthy – her first word was “hi” and she always said it waving exuberantly, with an upstretched arm. She liked wagon rides through Grandview and swimming at her grandparents’ pool and visiting the aquarium at the zoo… Several months after her first birthday we noticed she was losing skills. She stopped walking, stopped talking, began waking at night. It took more than six months to make a diagnosis. Right before her second birthday we learned that Celia had Batten Disease – a neurodegenerative disorder with an autosomal recessive hereditary pattern. Batten disease causes seizures, blindness and premature death – it takes the childhood, and then it takes the child. There are no effective treatments and no cure for Batten Disease. Our primary goal was to keep Celia comfortable. Given her diagnosis, we immediately enrolled her in Nationwide Children’s Hospice and Palliative Care program. And we prepared to say goodbye.

Where is the good in goodbye?
Celia needed NCH Hospice and Palliative Care for almost three years. When her symptoms were not under control, Hospice nurses visited our house regularly. When she hit a plateau in disease progression and when she seemed pain free, they visited less frequently. But they were always, always just a phone call away. They were the good in goodbye. Celia was not able to ride comfortably in a car seat, so Hospice made her life easier by coming to her, and by delivering medications that helped control her seizures.  They consulted specialists to avoid unnecessary tests and trips to the hospital.  Hospice not only improved the quality of Celia’s limited life, they also made our lives, and the lives of our close family – Celia’s extended circle of caregivers - easier. Hospice staff researched Celia’s rare disease, advocated for our family, supported our decisions and honored our wishes. They were with us while we watched and waited and wept. They helped us plan for life after Celia.
Thank you all for being here tonight. Thank you for reaching into shallow pockets with deep hearts, for laughing, loving and giving… and for supporting the Pleasure Guild’s efforts to put a little bit of good in goodbye.
Special thanks to the women of the Pleasure Guild for continuing efforts to help families like ours, and to the amazingly talented performers at Shadowbox for a fabulous show and for supporting our community in such a meaningful way.


Brother Tucker

We don't normally allow Tucker to play with the metal measuring tape.  But when he asked if he could take it outside to see if it would reach all the way, all the way to Celia, we didn't say no.


Ring Around


Forever available.

I feel frustrated by the inconvenience of his constant desire to be in my arms.  Especially in the middle of the night.
Maybe his teeth hurt.  He bites my shoulder, always the right one, because I carry him attached to my right hip.  My shoulder is littered with red indentations and small purple bruises.  But he also pats my back, his warm hand soft against my skin.  And it feels doubly sweet.  Perhaps the pain amplifies the pleasure.
It’s hard to be a parent when your convictions fall prey to your heart.  It's hard to be a parent.  Especially in the middle of the night.
I put him down and he whines for my embrace, his arms reach for me.  I look at him and think that there is nothing I wouldn’t give to cradle his sister.  So I pick him up, my body forever available to this miraculous little boy.  Perhaps the pain amplifies the pleasure.


Learning Verve

Tuck started going to preschool for part of the day twice a week.
On the first day of "school" last year, I had to step over Tuck's body as he lay across the threshold, crying for me not to go.  This year, in a new room with new teachers, he volunteered to lead movements for the good morning song (despite the fact that he'd never heard it before and hadn't yet learned the routine.)  He labeled his cubby with the letter T, latched onto a small "very pink mirror" and a toy guitar and took off to talk to the classroom pets.  When I arrived for pick up, Tuck was the one, with his teacher's permission, to open the door for parents.  I was down the hall far enough that I couldn't see him, but I could hear his voice: Come on in everybody!  Another parent remarked, "I don't know that kid, but I like his style."

I do too.

See last year's post, when he began Parent's Day Out.



James the first and James the fourth
enjoying their first tailgate together.


Three and a half

Dear Tucker,

There are all these things I think I should write about here, where they won't get lost the way my notes on the back of envelopes seem to.
Right now the chalkboard in our dining room says:  
Tucker is awesome. Duh. 
I kind of think that goes without saying, and that nothing else really needs to be said.  But that won't stop me from recording just a few of my favorite things about you at three and a half.

Suddenly you are ALL little boy. You fix yourself a glass of water, you look out for your younger brother, you imagine elaborate stories, you are acutely aware of other people’s feelings.  You breathe wonder into the simplest things.

I’m good, you say, when you bump your head or pinch your finger, when we ask whether you're hungry or when you seem frustrated trying something new.
 “Goo-wood,” you say, adding at least one extra syllable. I’m good. I’m good.
You are good.  I hear you say it and start to believe it’s true for me too.  You make us all good.

You've been reading signs like STOP and EXIT, ubiquitous words on certain shapes in familiar colors.  You recognized the word "fragile" on a box outside.  You "read" books that you've heard enough times to have memorized, like Big Bear Little Bear, and Tollie loves to listen.  You're not especially interested in writing yet, but you arrange magnetic letters to make “words” and ask us to help you spell things.  You point out that brave and love “sound the same at the end” and you list all the things that begin with “T” – Tucker and Tollie and tree and toys and tall and tooth and truck.  You're getting the hang of rhyming and if I say boot, you say newt.  Someone suggested we trace your hand inside the cover of your favorite books periodically, so we can look back and see how big you were when you liked certain stories.  Although I think that's a brilliant idea, I've failed miserably at executing it.  Instead, a few for now: Imogene's Antlers, Stuck, Curious George, The Invisible String, Jungle Drums...

You called cousin Vanessa "sweetheart" one evening last week.  Goodnight sweetheart.  You referred to Poppy's dog, Matthew, as "sugar" last month.  Fetch sugar.  And for a few weeks, you've been calling us Jenni and Andy.  Most people have found that both surprising and humorous.  We appreciated the advice of one friend, and followed it by explaining to you that anybody can call us Jenni and Andy and that there are only three people in the whole world who get to call us Mama and Daddy.  You've remained resolute, however, and so we've tried to remain unfazed.
You're interested in numbers, learning how clocks work and marking dates on the calendar.  You count forward and backward, abstract and concrete.  This week you've been helping us count Tollie's steps - he's taken three! - and your enthusiasm for his progress makes it especially exciting.  A few weeks ago you tried to add -- hotdogs, of course -- holding up four fingers on one hand, to show the number of hotdogs you ate at Poppy's, and three fingers on the other hand, to indicate the ones you had with Grandpa Tim.  You lined up your extended fingers and counted them all together.  It's also easy to see signs of early division in the way you want to divvy up treats among people you love.

You are enthusiastic about life, Tucker.  You have good manners.  You know all about elevator buttons and vegetable gardening.  You make cameras out of blocks, shields from pot lids, snakes with Daddy's belts.  You make musical instruments out of EVERYthing.  And you make us so happy.
You are growing like a weed, which may seem like an odd thing to compare, not a rose or a daisy or an aspen or an oak, but I’d still pick you.  Given the alternative, I'd choose that you grow and grow and stretch away from our sphere.  But that doesn't keep me from trying to save a little space in my mind where I can keep you small forever.

You are three and a half, and we are savoring sticky hands and somersaults.
You are awesome, and we love you more than you may ever know.
Mama Jenni


Life lately, according to my phone

1.  "painting" with Audrey
2.  big feet, little feet, at the fair
3.  justice served
4.  aunt and nephew (via rht)
5.  tired, teething baby
6.  road trip rest (see also, first bite of beef jerky)
7.  DIY dutch door = insta baby gate
8.  occupy Mulford
9.  Holton reunion
10.  Scioto Mile
11.  fire station visit
12.  blessed days with little boys
13.  Working on words (besides thank you) to share at this fundraiser for hospice.  Give a little, laugh a lot, join us if you can.