Top Ten

Top Ten Signs Jenni Is Away:

10. The kitchen sponge is dry.

9. The house is quieter - She talks a lot. I guess that is why my boys do too.

8. We've replaced "Excuse me" with chuckles as the response to bodily noises - and with three boys at home this week there have been a lot of chuckles.

7. The house isn't littered with lists and scraps of paper with blog ideas on it.

6. The washer and dryer are actually both off at the same time and the loads that have been done are HUGE.

5. The boys will actually be a little dumber by the end of the week.

4. I don't have to share my glass of wine with anyone

3. The TV is definitely on more but I'm educating these boys on the classics - Bugs, Daffy, Foghorn, etc. This is very important and worth the extra screen time.

2. There is a lot of "Mom-mom coming home yet  t  t   t?"

1. The blog is written without the benefit of Jenni's edits and inspiration, by the second string and sans photos. Imagine a messier version of all the pictures Jenni posts and that is what the house looks

Edited to add:
1. There is a tie for #1 after I posted this: Tollie can split his chin open on the steps and I can handle it without extra drama.


good thing their dad is reliable, too

Everyone under the roof relies on me.
This week, though, I won't be home.  I have a feeling the boys are going to have a ball without me.  And while the blog may be quiet, I'm guessing the house might get pretty loud.


Cars may be his love language

Tollie wakes up with a choo choo train, eats breakfast with a B2 bomber.  He takes his VW van to Target and pushes around grapes and popcorn with the skids of his helicopter at lunch.  In the tub he plays with a space shuttle, he watches cartoons with a small snow plow and right before nap he chooses the yellow school bus to sleep with.
He chugs and vrooms and beeps, and the sounds that escape his mouth make me think of love.  He tilts his head, stretches out his hand, and I feel like I've been hugged.  He offers a vehicle, his brown eyes full of invitation  - Mom-mom, you like hold meem fire cuck? 
And, of course, I say I do.




She stays four while he stretches toward five.  Because they share a birthday, the math is easy: we've never had a child as old as he is now.  I get teary-eyed just thinking about it.  He has reached many milestones she did not, so he's seemed older for quite some time, but the crossover was blurry.  As he grew, she didn't.

I got a text from his aunt over the weekend -- he was at an indoor playground with his cousins, and there was a red-headed toddler there, too.  Tuck told the toddler's father that she looked like his sister who was in heaven now. He talks about her all the time.  And when he doesn't, when he tries to hide his feelings, his eyes lay the rest of him bare.

Being a parent is a wondrous act of faith.  The parenting road is long, if we're lucky, and riddled with land mines -- experimenting with electricity and learning to chop broccoli with a butcher knife are quaint concerns in the universe of worry.  We need to register Tuck for Kindergarten next month.  I get teary-eyed just thinking about it. Another quaint concern, a luxury, really.  But I am scared that some of the magic will be educated right out of his soul.  And I'm realizing that parenting may not get easier as the boys get older, just hard in different ways.

I sat in on an intergenerational book discussion about R.J. Polacio's Wonder at church this morning.  (If you haven't read it, you should.)  More than once someone pointed out the ways the fictional parents succeed at parenting.  When you have a child who carries some hurt, physical or emotional, it takes time to navigate which wounds you may be responsible for.  It takes courage to let your child be sad for a while instead of distracting him, and it takes a great deal of trust in something other than yourself to fight the urge to try to fix it.

Sometimes I am struck by the reality of Tuck's sorrow, but more often I am struck by his aliveness.  He habits himself to the dazzle of light, wears his good shoes on a regular basis, pours bubble baths just because.  Talks about his big sister all the time.  He will always be more than himself.

At the candlelight Christmas Eve service last month, Tuck sat with our family instead of attending nursery.  The minister recited a prayer that included the words Jesus Christ.  Tucker said, loudly enough to draw attention from several pews away, "Hey Mom, that's what you say.  Like when I spilled my juice today, you said Jesus Christ."
When we recounted the story to his grandma, thinking quickly on her feet she explained to Tuck that Jesus Christ is a little prayer that lots of mamas need to say out loud sometimes.

I think tears are a mother's prayer, too. 


On earth as it is

Children die everyday. It is, when you pause to consider it, a terrifyingly ordinary fact. Ordinary. Except that she was our daughter, and grief, as much as love, is resistant to reason.

I wish this date would not hold us captive. Tears line up like soldiers, poised to sweep straight through the sorrow. Except it's never really straight.  Grief is, apparently, also resistant to anything remotely linear. The conveyor belt that moves us away from her twists and lurches and stalls. I let the boys watch too many cartoons and feed them too many marshmallows and dispense too many I don't cares.  And, during a day filled with what might otherwise be emotionally neutral activities, I find myself thinking she would have been six and a half.

Five Januarys ago we sat in a hospital room inhaling horror. Our daughter had Batten Disease, and Batten Disease would have her. When I realized my ebullient little girl was terminally ill, I contemplated dual death. How could we leave her alone, traveling to whatever unknown territory she was headed without us? I looked in dazed terror at the darkness of her destiny and wondered how we’d ever live without her.
Visions of her sad and sick still haunt me. Unthinkable thoughts, so hideous they cause something inside me to actually flip over, do too. I envision her father carrying her into the morgue and my chest spasms, laying her body on a cold metal cart and my throat constricts. The worst part was zipping the bag, he says, and his voice cracks without permission.  It’s hard to believe that life would give us to each other, and then take her back.

It does, finally, feel less like we've been run over by a combine. Her voice, long absent, still fills my ears and I can almost feel the way her fingers held my own. I remember her skin, so thin, hinting at bone underneath, collar, shoulders, ribs all forcing their way to prominence. I need only close my eyes to conjure her face, to recall the way her eyes crinkled when she smiled. Two years later, though, I do struggle to bring to mind how all those elements of her being alive fit together.

Her heart stopped for good, and ours, even with fair warning, were left stunned. We wondered, still, how we'd ever live without her. It did not come quickly, but two years removed, I believe it to be true: We don’t have to.
She is here, faded, further away, on a different frequency. She is in the sky, in the falling sun and the rising temperature. She is in my heart. She is in Tucker's head and in Tolliver's hair. She is in the flowers. She is in her daddy's dreams. She is with this world and apart from it all at once. She is everywhere.



On film

We last shared video of Tolliver about four months ago. He still has a lot to say.
The second video, below, is separate because he told such a long story about dinosaurs and dogs. It was recorded on Thanksgiving, so the day he turned two. There's just a short clip of it in the first montage.


from the phone

birthday boy
airplanes at Don Scott
basketball with Aunt Kate
basketball at zero dark thirty
the morning he said: I don't need to go to school, I'm all done learning.  #itookhimanyway

trains at the CML
nativity circa 1974
holiday amaryllis
zoo lights
oakland nursery

tenderloin remnants #therewerenone
dessert place settings for the win
new counters via jferris9674
#inglisprogrodinner via jnferris

snowmen with Grandpa
Meem taste
post-Poppy's nap
icicle pops

preschool party #tuckhasaheartofgold
fake Christmas aftermath via rht3627
homemade holiday #hardwarestoresgivemeheadaches
retying the tent
no such thing as silent night
christmas dinner for one

 paper planes
cousins make the best friends
switching back to days with coffee, sunshine and tales from Tuck #wemissedhim
book worms 

double-fisting dessert (for dinner) at Aunt Kate's
sweet Mabel in Celie's seat via rameelin
#littlemissgalliacounty #riverrecqueen #2ndrunneruplivestockprincess via cschwaiger
half a rainbow via jferris9674
two Thomases
pheasant soup #onlyonebiteofbirdshot