Yes Man

One of Tucker's favorite words is Yes.  He writes it on notes and hangs them around the house: Yes, yes, yes, please, it says, at five-year-old eye level on the front of the coat closet.  Tollie's at the top of the stairs, so he'll see the note as he comes down the steps, and Tuck's hoping he'll read it and do what Tuck wants him to do.
Tuck responds to most questions with yes, an exuberant fist raised in the air, the corners of his mouth upturned.  He and Tollie sing-song the word back and forth, or Tucks slams it against Tollie's No. Sometimes they Bugs Bunny each other, as Andy describes it, and one tricks the other into saying the word they hadn't been saying (you know, the "rabbit season, duck season" episode).
Still, Tuck hangs on to Yes.  Actually, his brother might be the very reason Tuck likes Yes so much.
Tolliver's current favorites include No and Nothing and Not.  


best medicine

Tolliver's fake laugh makes me laugh.  It sounds rather maniacal and very villain-esque.

His real laugh, though, is full-throated and generous.  It makes me laugh too, so honest, whatever it is so utterly hilarious, that it's hard not to laugh right along with him.  Together we clutch our bellies and gasp for air.  Listening to him laugh always makes me feel better, and laughing with him always makes me want to do the same funny thing.

I like to watch him laugh too, watch his sturdy frame collapse into unruly happiness.  He uses his whole body, throws his head back like it’s a rule for laughing.  It might be the only rule he follows these days.  


He's right, they are.

I made the boys pepperoni pizza for dinner and Tuck said, Mama, this is the best pizza ever.  Pizza is your specialty.  No, wait, we are your specialTs.  Get it?  Me and Tollie, T and T?


winter never wins

A cousin mentioned recently that she admires the way we’ve moved on, that the moving on seems somehow heroic.

When Celia was alive and dying, I didn't recognize my actions as brave, I simply did what felt necessary at the time.  I'm still just doing that.

I’ll never understand why we had to be the family that lost a child. Sometimes I tell myself that it’s because we had plenty of good people around to shore us up.  I can't think of any real reason though. All I know is that I’m glad we kept going.  We surrounded ourselves with evidence of life, watched the boys waxing even as she waned.  Stopping to look at the truth of that now, the way we keep going, I realize we are more excited about the future than we are sad about the past.

A friend told me at the bar over the weekend that our blog has led her to believe we're the best parents on the block.

We offer deceptively smooth spaces to our community of voyeuristic observers.  No one sees the pile of issues, unsorted for days, hiding outside the frame of a polished picture.  We have issues.

The house may look immaculate but I am a mess. I am too quick to hush and too slow to hug, I spill grumpy instead of grace.  Most of the time the boys are fast to forgive my multiple mothering errors, but I tend to let my failures shout louder than my successes and forget that more than either is all the gray between.

Another family member sent a note last week thanking me for words that appear on her computer screen and feel to her like loving nudges, help anchor her to what's real.

Some days I feel like I am actively trying to convince myself of everything, and I am exhausted not from doing so much, but from feeling so much.  Some days the wreck of my heart is held together only by sticky fingers and strong will.  There are days when I struggle with reality and days when I care way too much about what could have been.  There are also days when I feel like my connection to the universe is less fragile, days that feel so closely connected to a dream that I cannot separate them from the Amen.

I've been staying up late at night the past few weeks, corresponding with a friend who knew her son was dying, trying to answer questions and offer comfort.  He died on Sunday.  He was four.

I wish we were not the family familiar with minus one.  I wish we had a magic formula that could multiply the years and divide the heartache.  I wish Batten would not rob one more mother of one more minute.

I fell asleep on the couch last night at 8:00 o'clock, right after I put the boys to bed.  There are days that turn into nights and then new days, and we keep going, we keep doing what feels necessary at the time.  We maintain excitement for the future and manage the gray in between.
We are all the best people, all heroes, all walking one another home.


like a diamond


greatest show

The seasons are like the circus.  It's hard to know what might come next.  It's safe to assume that it might be amazing or it might be a mess, that you might feel astonished or possibly on edge.
The boys are like the circus, too.
The earth is the stuff of awe, but the boys are the force behind most of our fantastic.  They create worlds from the depths of their imaginations, make magic from their very own minds.  Ideas tumble from their brains the way clowns spill out of cars.  Stories spread from their tongues the way sprouts push through the soil in strong emerald clumps.  They have us smiling one minute and holding our breath the next.

The boys are amazed by new green leaves where yesterday there were none, by birdsong, by bugs.  By pretty much every big and little thing.  We live together in wonderment with them, at the whole wide world, the greatest show.




The boys, all three of them, have been playing this treasure hunt game.  It seems to involve pirates and leprechauns and gold coins and the occasional marching band cymbaleer.  Tuck sits for lengthy periods of time, drawing maps that depict trails around chairs with four legs and tables with six, past doors with eight glass panes and between toy baskets filled with balls.  Tolliver wanders around making mean pirate faces and loud pirate noises, raising his shoulders and lifting his arms in a way that makes him appear larger than he is, searching for the two xylophone sticks that mark the spot.  Andy pulls a book from the shelf, Pirates Don't Change Diapers, an impromptu read aloud that also serves as a let's-sit-down-for-a-minute opportunity.  Like pirates, the boys have a way of plundering every last ounce of energy we have.  Discarded paper and metal pot lids litter the floor, the room is full of pink cheeks and laughter, lickable fingers and chocolaty lips.  The boys have discovered a small pot of treats, and Andy is off to make another pot of coffee before the next round.


the luck

Our children’s lives did not roll together like cherries on a slot machine.
Still, we somehow landed these two.  And the payout will always be a rich appreciation for what we did get, what we do have.


the let-me-outs

We've all had them this winter, haven't we?


Five Guy

Five year celebrations culminated with family who enjoyed burgers with the birthday guy.  The cousins had fun with practical joke condiment bottles and junk food favors, trick candles and truck stop cupcakes.  And we heard from a handful of people who saw a rainbow on their way home that night.  We're convinced Celia sent Tuck that birthday gift!


Truck Stop, Tuck Go

Dear Tucker,
I really love you at five. I’ve loved you at all of your ages, but right now suits you so well. It’s like someone heard all my heart's desires and put them into one growing little boy. I love all that you are and everything you are becoming.
Instead of just imagining a middle for our beginning, I feel like we’re starting to live it; we're over infancy, past toddlerhood and into boy. You’ve begun to imagine your own middle too, the babies you’ll raise, the hobbies you'll have, the work that will keep you busy and happy. Right now you’d like to be a postman and a golfer. You've also mentioned working as a brain doctor or a muscle nurse, but you've declared the decision too hard to make just yet. I have faith that you'll find a good fit, in good time. Plenty of things come naturally to you, but your smile is my favorite.
You asked for a bank robber LEGO set for your birthday, although I'm pretty sure you'd have been thrilled with a roll of Scotch tape and a bucket of PVC joints. You requested your party be held at a truck stop. You also asked to have donuts for breakfast and pizza with a candle in it for dinner. And you said you'd really like to see a rainbow.

I love being your mama, Tuck. It's all been a little harder than I imagined, but so much better than I ever dreamed.
I'm hoping to do this middle part with you for a long, long time.

Bank robber LEGOs and pizza with candles.

We did not host a party at the truck stop.  Your dad did, however, arrange a tour at a local truck store. You were really interested in the control panel.  And in the bed.

Your dad also got a glass prism for you to make your own rainbows.
Go be brilliant, buddy.  You're well on your way.



original photograph by Amy Parrish

For years I wished to be a mother. It wasn’t necessarily what I thought about when I blew out birthday candles, but it was always an incurrent, a quiet wish. Once she was born - my birthday miracle, my birthday mate - my wishes changed; they were all for her.

This year would have marked her golden birthday. She would have turned seven on the seventh.  I wonder what she would have wished for this March.

It’s been so long since I’ve been able to do anything for my daughter, go into her room on a cold night and place an extra blanket over her body, make her a bowl of applesauce with cinnamon on top, fold her sweaters and buy her new tights for no reason. I will forever feel the desire to do something, to be her mother again, to look after her in some small way.

She can't blow out seven candles or make a single wish. But we sent one big wish into the universe on her behalf. With her brothers' help, we left seven pinwheels around town, looking after her and looking ahead for a cure.
The Chinese culture views pinwheels as symbols of obstacles turned opportunities, as instruments that can spin one’s luck around.  Some people associate them with magic or unseen energy, with childhood innocence and wish fulfillment.  Death is normally affiliated with stillness, but pinwheels bring movement, perhaps even evoking the idea of a spirit.  I remember holding one out the car window to catch wind, watching it whir furiously in the breeze.  I may have been about seven.  I wonder what I might've wished for then.

My birthday wish is, and always will be, for her.  We heard from a few folks who found a pinwheel, and we know we weren't the only ones wishing, all weekend long and every day, for her and for a cure.
I'll tell them of my sister, and the magic things she can do... 

*sung by Anna, in Disney's FROZEN


a whole hand

Five is a whole hand.  Five wears stickers on his shirt and his heart on his sleeve.  Five carries stones in his pockets and stars in his eyes.  Five is a little reserved and lot independent.  Five reads the clouds.  Five is a daydreamer and a dawdler.  Five shows how fast the time goes.
Five is sunny and serene, except when he is not.  Five acts his age and his brother's age and his shoe size.  Five is not the middle child he should be.  Five does not waste moments or mince words.  Five recounts scenarios and game sequences in long, hard-to-follow monologues, interrupting himself to add more confusing details in a way that sometimes grates. Until his mother remembers the simple, lucky truth: he is here.
He is here and I am here. And even though five does not need to hold my hand much anymore, it’ll always be here, open for him.


the difference between wasted and spent

While I waste time looking ahead or thinking behind, my children are champions of savoring right now.  It sounds like I'm reaching deep into a cliche, but I see something in them that I recognize in myself and haven’t been in touch with for too long.  I need to let them reteach me how to spend time well and actually try hard to do it. 


a closer look

I see a girl with curly red hair at the store and swear for half a hopeful second it could be her, some vague, tangled evidence of hope.
At bedtime I read the last page and close his book.  He reopens it, flipping to a certain page for a closer look.
Look, mom-mom, that ice cream cone look like a bird.  See?
You’re right buddy, it does. I do see now, I say.

He is still relatively new to the planet, still willing to believe in things he sees. And in things he cannot see.
I feel as though, through him, I’ve been offered another way of seeing.
And even with the lights dimmed and my own eyes at half mast, I see him, bright as a button and sharp as a pirate’s sword.  


Insta {millionaires of moments}

HCI reunion #bypartyimeannap via mkstahlohio
bellinis and fire with five of the best friends
sunshine on a sad day
#truth ~ Mik Everett via missmikeverett
birthday cupcakes for breakfast
Andy turns smoke-alarm years old

art museum (Tuck said the glass sculpture looked like Cel's hair...)
#tbdbitl  *biodiversity day
grandma Barb's name at GMC
brief break from single dad week
little gymnasts
pimento cheese tour #thirdandhollywoodiswinning

Grant post-holiday party
we have an eyelash guy
T2 reviewing his first W2
bed full of boys
snow fort
ice climbing is his favorite Ball-ympic, I mean Oblimpic, sport

Valentine kisses
millionaires of moments ~ Kal Barteski via kalbarteski
curious george for days
almost spring (for one brief day)
water alarm #safetysmart

she's a sucker for "one more book"
the feeling was mutual
#amen ~ Glennon Melton via momastery
airplane beez via rht3627
#gamer #guiltymom
it's March!