another year

Another year fades past and I feel a small pinch of despair in my chest - Did I love it enough?
This might be as lovely as life gets.  These are the days.

The way Tolliver climbs under the back of my shirt as if we are, together, a horse and he is the rear, because it always gets a reaction and he always winds up with my attention.
The way Tucker talks, endlessly, about Minecraft and everything in me leans forward to listen even though I have only minor interest and not a single spark of comprehension.
This is it.  These are the days.

Sometimes what they do falls against the backdrop of what their sister did not get to do.  I try not to let missing her get in the way of loving them.  But I think of her often.

I hope the boys never grow out of naps and pixar movies and goldfish crackers and milk.  And I hope, so hard, that they grow up.
I wish their childhoods could be frozen like flies in amber, for me to pull off the shelf and admire in my old age. But I cannot wait to watch them outgrow themselves over and over.
Isn't that what we signed up for, to raise children into adults?  For the wrinkles and the gray hair, for all the shades of progress.  For the increasingly autonomous seasons of parenting, with permission to miss, just a little bit, the prior.
The piles of laundry and the lines on my face are evidence of the absolute privilege of being alive, of the absolute privilege of being allowed to steer these boys toward their best selves.

They make me laugh and cry in all the good ways, and I tell them I love them all the time, but I want to be better at telling them why.

Tucker, I love the way you ask questions. The way What do you call a flock of sea turtles?  It's not a flock, is it? comes from somewhere behind whatever I am working on, so I stop and we look it up and before I can even finish reading the answer you are wondering another wonder.  

Tolliver, I love the way you light the world on fire, the way you press all the buttons and hug me in between.  I want you to know that the fire that pushes us both to the edge, the one that occasionally makes it hard for me to breathe, will one day make poetry and peace.  I believe your light is a gift to the world, and to me.

I hope we are doing right by them, making the best decisions, leading them to good choices without smothering or neglecting them.  Setting decent expectations, giving them the kind of restrictions that provide both support and something to push against.

I look back at the year and wonder where it's gone, wonder whether I did okay.
Some days I don’t get a single thing crossed off my to-do list, and I have to remind myself that loving someone is doing something.
I could not love them more.

Note:  Sometimes it's hard to shrink thoughts into sentences and paragraphs, and for whatever reason, I feel like this should still just be a draft, like it's not polished enough to be published as an end-of-the-year thing, but maybe posting something is better than nothing.  And also, it's called a bale.


Christmas, Parts 3 & 4 {Betz and Betz}

the stockings were hung
cookies and carrots and letters to Santa
awake before 6am
this reminds me so much of Aunt Kate, lost in a book all day
an original publication, written for Grandma by Tuck
little James Tolliver, with James the original


Christmas, Parts 1 & 2 {Gills and Tolliver}

bow and arrow were high on his list, 
never mind it was one of the Today Show's top ten most dangerous toys
Tolliver is going to ask Santa for a Gator next Christmas
please excuse the finger in the nose
he's the third "Everett" to read this book
an empty box is always a hit
the magic and the meaning



So much Christmas

The month seems to be melting away as if it were made of ice cubes and snow instead of minutes and days.
So much Christmas, so little December...


lucky to live on this street

A thin film of dust on the china suggested the absence of regular use, but while I washed dishes I decided to look at it as the triumph of hope over experience.  We don't host many dinner parties, aren't skilled at timing the details, but were excited about the idea of trying.  Last year we were just in charge of drinks.  This year Andy woke up before the sun to smoke a brisket.
At least part of the reason we organized the progressive dinner again this winter is because it meant something to us, gathering neighborhood friends around kitchen counters, around dining tables, around fire places.  But isn't that how the best traditions are born?  You don't do them so that they'll become traditions, you do something because you love it and then you gradually realize that if you don't do it anymore, you'll miss it.
We're definitely doing it again next year.
1.  table set #inglisprogrodinner
2.  meat sword #andysmeat via jferris9674
3.  Mimi Rausch's whiskey sour punch #pinkiesout via jnferris
4.  cheers
5.  centerpiece via jnferris
6.  grateful for grandparents who babysit!


merry and bright

Tolliver has not had the merriest orientation this month.  In fact, Andy has taken to calling him a threenager.  He spends most of his time face down on the floor, pounding his fists in protest, and I find myself praying for more patience than I may have access to.

But he is capable of being such a sweet little angel.
He talks about things I don't even notice.  As I listen, parsing the most important parts, so many times it turns out that he is talking about something I was totally oblivious to: A rock that's shaped just like a boot! The moon there in the daytime sky! That spider web attached to the doorbell! Four trees that look just like a family, mother, father, two boys! So many things I didn't see until he told me to look.

Like as I was getting ready to have drinks with a friend last week, having not spent much time in front of the mirror but rather ready to run out the back door as Andy rushed in:  Mama, it looks like you still need to get your hair in shape. 
He explains how things work, solves problems in simple terms, wonders about the world.

At the dinner table, talking about beef: Cows make meat, but they make milk too. It comes from their pipes. I mean their pistons. You have to squeeze it out into a bucket. 

Having been told he was wearing his sister's old holiday jammies: I wish that someday we could get Celia back.  
Someday I might be able to explain to him that he brings her back, a little bit every day, in the most magical ways.

Settling on the couch for early morning cartoons, him on my lap:
What will I do when you get too big for me to hold, I asked: Then I will just hold you.

In the back seat of the car, conversing with his brother:
Hey Tollie, I want to be a scientist, what do you want to be when you get big?
A daddy! with zero hesitation.
No, I mean what job do you want to have?  What will you do to make money?
I don’t know. 
You could be a nurse. You could be a nurse and a daddy.
Yes! That's what I'll be, a nurse AND a daddy! as if a bright future suddenly revealed itself to him.

May he always, on the best days of his life and in the darkest hours of the night, have a mostly merry and a very my-future-is-bright inner meditation.  May we all...


photos from the past few weeks

lego control panel (and crazy hair)

overnight with cousin William

researching food chains and slingshot designs

books at breakfast

"mouse house" 

shooting hoops, and Daddy's new shoes

keeping an eye on the neighborhood

grill supervisors

packing his school bag

snacks and books


O Christmas Tree