As Is (as opposed to As If)

Being home brings with it the responsibility of relentless being-aware.  It's my job to notice miniature successes and minor failures and every small thing in between. 
I try to see it all in softer focus, beyond the anxious foreground, around distractions that gallop like wild stallions.  I want to do it well.  I want to do it perfectly.  I want to watch them play and play with them and pick up all the small pieces. 
This sense of urgency, this earnest effort not to mess things up, this insecurity, they all seem to attach themselves to me like parasitic fish. 
It doesn't matter whether Tolliver's wearing Tucker's pajama top, or that Tucker may not be wearing anything at all.  I'm getting better at dialing down anxiety on things that don't really matter.  
But so much does matter.  Like every small thing in between.

We all have at least ten things to do at once, at home or at the office or all of the above.  We all compare our behind the scenes with everybody else's highlight reel.  We all live under the scrutiny of an imaginary audience.   
As if anyone else's approval actually matters.  It doesn't.  
There is space between do everything and do nothing, between do it perfectly and you suck.  It's a healthy place, the middle path, full of trade-offs and forgiveness and enough.  I forget that, I try too hard.  I'm exhausted and worthless, I drop balls and break plates and make compromises.  It's hard to disassemble rotten habits.  It's hard to be a good parent.  But I want the boys to be good people.
In the middle of the relentless being-aware, I fight a strong urge to be physically productive, to complete quantifiable tasks, to look for immediate results.  Some days I respond well from the start, and some days it takes me a few tries to get it right.   
As if getting it right is any guarantee.  


Qué "Tol"


March in Snow-hio

Trying to make the most of the weather, we bundled up for what will hopefully be the last time this season.  The boys threw snowballs and built a snowman.   Tucker gave him a heart and fashioned him a hat out of snow, and Tolliver took a few bites of his nose. 
It's spring, almost Easter, and we're all tired of being cold.  But there's this thing with these little boys: everything is fun and everything is funny.  And that makes it hard not to feel happy around here.


Bugs and Hisses

Tucker is fascinated with reptiles and amphibians and spiders and insects.  We provide him with books and jars and a magnifying glass, and I do my best not to wrinkle my nose in disgust.  When I offered to take him to an egg hunt this weekend, he asked to go to the zoo instead.  He wanted to see frogs and lizards and snakes and fish.

Today Tuck used the large pile of palm fronds he brought home from church to build a habitat for his gators.  After spending a few minutes getting everything situated, he looked up at Andy and asked, But what can we use for their TV?



1.  self serve
2.  chocolate cafe #oneofeachplease
3.  painting sister's rocks
4.  music man
5.  self-imposed self time
6.  magnets and paperclips
7.  #fleeting
8.  cashing in coins

9.   raising awareness, spreading surprises
10.  Celia's headband model via mayascurls
11.  goodnight three
12.  #pisces
13.  balloons and donuts delivered by birthday fairies
14.  Buckeye Tuck's birthday tailgate
15.  unwrapping help
16.  at the theater via rht3627

17.  shopping with mama
18.  making music with toes
19.  newest nephew-ish, hours old
20.  side-tracked at the book store
21.  coffee + quilt + book
22.  neighborhood night out via bflymommy
23.  chicago elevator via mkstahl
24.  welcome home committee in the upstairs window


with a twist

Someone asked recently what the baby's name was.  I said, "Tolliver."
And when the guy cocked his head I explained, "like Oliver with a T."
And then I thought to myself like Oliver with a twist.
Actually though, the nickname Rooster has had some sticking power recently.



good time

I sat down with a book and a hot cup of coffee one afternoon last week.  I felt guilty for a minute.  But I knew I only had a few minutes, so I stopped, because why waste them that way.  I realized recently that I don’t find myself jealous of other people’s things.  Not their figures, not their fortunes.  But I am envious of their time, mostly the way they spend it on themselves.  The rate at which other women seem to finish novels, the way they treat themselves to a massage or a manicure, the way they sit at the coffee shop sipping slowly, the way they go bra shopping all by themselves.

The only way to fix that is to give myself more time.  A few minutes under a quilt in the middle of the afternoon is a good start.  I posted an insta-picture of my indulgence, and then worried whether people might think I got regular, luxurious breaks, that someone might conclude the stay-at-home mom gig was easier than they'd already assumed.  But that’s another thing I’ve come to better understand: most of us who tear each other up in the working versus “not working” war do it because we’re a little torn up inside ourselves.

I went to Chicago this weekend, under the guise of a book tour the trip was really just an excuse to spend time with good friends.  It was a whirl through the windy city, where conversation poured with coffee in the morning and with cocktails late at night.  We shopped, we slept, we gossiped, we gorged.  It was indulgent, a gift of good time for me.
I sometimes wonder if it is just me, or if there are other women who figure out where they are supposed to be by going nowhere. ― Jodi Picoult, My Sister's Keeper


spring preview

One warm day last week, Tuck played outside all afternoon.  He drew chalk tracks and watered tulip sprouts and dug through the compost pile.  He asked Andy to help him with a new baseball bat, and despite only hitting every tenth pitch or so, persisted, saying “Throw it again, Andy. I’m gonna keep trying.”  When it was time for dinner Tucker trudged through the back door with dirt from head to toe and a smile that covered just about as much surface area.

It snowed again today, but the sun and the soil seem to be gossiping about spring.



Red hair, part rooster, he calls for the whole wide world to wake at dawn.
The same way the loudest sounds come from the tiniest mouths, the largest emotions seem to erupt from the smallest bodies.  At his 15 month wellness visit last week, Tolliver’s pediatrician noticed his temper right away.  Tollie's threshold for frustration is pretty low -- he bangs his hands on his head and throws his body on the floor, and that's when he's only slightly upset.
I don't want the boys to find things here that might someday give them the impression that we did not love them unconditionally.  I hope all our words reach back to them across the years with one clear message: We love you.

So, when the goldfish crackers are gone, or the fresh loaf of bread is pried from the small hands that are squishing it, or for the love of all that is holy bath time is over and it's time to drain the tub, when these things happen and Tolliver gets tantrummy?  Let the record show: We still love him.  When he is loud and angry, or whiny and floppy, when he is what we judge to be irrationally contrary and a little hard to love, that's when we love him the most.  Well, then, and right when he wakes up from a nap and wants to cuddle.
We're doing what we can to lay the foundation for Tollie's emotional self-management, finding ways to help him reground himself, providing pre-emptive food and naps, empathizing and verbalizing, allowing him more control so he feels less pummeled by circumstance.

He gives us a good thing to remember, too, as we parent both boys.  No matter the magnitude of a problem, despite the relationship an issue may have to the bigger stuff in life, a moment of intense feeling is, well, intense.  Whether you're a one year-old hoping to hang on to the toothpaste tube, a four year old struggling to tie your shoes, or a tired mama with your own convoluted feelings, trying to console the lost toy and encourage the tie and put a meal on the table, big feelings feel big to all of us.



First I was one and I was a baby.  
Then I was two and I was walking.  
Then I got bigger and I was three.   
Now I am four and that means I’m closer to five. 
As much as I know how lucky we are that he is growing up, there are moments I kind of wish he wouldn't.
Four is full of good ideas, though. Why not tailgate in March?
In planning the party, after Aunt Sally's tailgate van Tuck was most hopeful for cousins and candy corn.
He used to say mammets and chickmunks and wrench (for magnets and chipmunks and ranch dressing).  He still calls chapstick chopsticks.  Lately he's been saying much well, like "The batteries in my flashlight aren't working.  We should get some new ones that will work much weller."

He says thoughtful things, like "Mama, how was your nap?"  (He asks me this when he wakes up in the morning, meaning how did I sleep overnight.  I wish I got to take naps!)  He asks Andy about his time at work, and just a few days ago we were listening to a new song and he said, "I like the flute.  What do you like about this music?"

He's interested in writing and reading and has strong knowledge of letters and sounds.  Let’s write candy corn on the grocery list, he says, and let's write the ingredients for puppy chow.  Let’s write a new ball for Colby on there too.  We can take it to heaven's house with Celia's rocks.

He's also interested in coins and counting and measuring, and when he gets on the scale he no longer announces I weigh forty thirty months old!  He asked to look inside the piano recently, so we lifted the lid and he sat on Andy's shoulders to peer down at the strings and the sound board.  Next he wants to see the fire under the cylinder that makes our water hot.  

He took watermelon to preschool on his birthday, and a hatch and grow gator to watch with his friends.  He requested his favorite mexican restaurant for dinner, and enjoyed rice and beans with lots of his favorite people.  Another highlight of Tucker's birthday week was a date to see the Pleasure Guild's performance of Peter Pan.
Celia turned four in our arms, and Tucker is turning four in the world.  Right before our eyes, he's getting bigger.  I look at him now, and listen to him explain what he was like when he was one and two and three, and I feel, most acutely, the ache of the passage of time.  But I know all too well the alternative, and am grateful to watch him put his own good growing footprints on the planet.