cake by the ocean

We just spent a long weekend at the cape. One of Andy's colleagues got married, and several others travelled with us for the seaside wedding. While the Ts stayed here with grandparents, Hank won all kinds of good baby awards. And we were completely spoiled by help with him from so many other adults in the house. We spent time in Boston, and at Popponesset Spit and Old Silver Beach. We had wedding cake beside the ocean and lobster rolls the size of volleyballs, visited with an old high school friend and his family and truly enjoyed a few days in the salty air.



then plus now

It feels suddenly more real, the five of us, with the addition of Hank in a high chair.  We make a pentagon around the table.

Tolliver, interested in numbers, has recently been making up math problems like three plus five and using his fingers to solve.  Eight!
Successful and proud, he tried another: fifteen plus seventy two. But when that one proved too tricky, Tollie calmly said I guess I’m just not a knower of everything yet.

None of us are knowers of everything, I explained.

When Celia was born, we imagined her life as an endless parade of perfect tomorrows.
The August she was five months old, we were on Anna Maria Island with friends. There, Celia and Ellie (born just one day apart) were old enough to try baby cereal. We videoed the event and immediately gave the girls, who were covered in bland, gray paste, baths afterward. That was nine years ago, but I was reminded of it when I watched one of those little girls, now so grown, feed Hank a few of his own first bites along the shores of Lake Michigan last week.
Our family will forever be adjusting to the odd sense of subtraction that Batten disease brings.
We will also forever be fighting for a cure.

Help us help scientists become better knowers about Batten.

Register online for the November 13th Battling Batten 5K Run & Family Walk at Race Penguin.
Or, visit the Battling Batten table at this Saturday's Grandview Hop.


just racing by

Sometimes, when I come to this space, I feel like I'm just waving as I race by.
Sometimes that's the best I can do.
Hi! How are you?! We are well. More soon!


Charles In Charge

of our days
and our nights


summer's end

We relished the season of later nights and slower mornings, of bare feet and water balloon fights.
We counted crawdads and gathered around campfires, snuck extra scoops of ice cream and took advantage of long stretches of time to do exactly as we pleased.
The boys are reacclimating to shirts and shoes, and to bedtimes. Tuck's brown summer skin will fade and Tol's interminably wrinkly toes will dry out. We're hoping to hang on to some of the best parts of summer though, holding hands around the neighborhood and napping in the hammock and never too much hustle.


second and seven

He used to fit in the football hold beneath my arm.
And today he headed to second grade.

He is seven, and a little more heartbreakingly self-conscious. Our backyard, it seems, is no longer an acceptable location for a small male nudist colony. He is sensitive to his own limitations and occasionally frustrated by lack of immediate success in new endeavors. He suddenly believes in “boy colors” and is aware of words like nerd and fat. Maybe this is all just a normal part of growing up.  And isn't that what we've always hoped he would do.

Tucker is smart as a whip. He is an incredible reader, artistic and easy to please, radiant and clever. He reminds me on the reg that ingenuity is not the province of grown ups.
He writes stories and spins tales, some that feel like they take days to reach a point, but still.  I know that in a few short years I will be glad to listen for four hours while he works out whether a girl winked or maybe she didn’t wink at him.
He is a handsome devil, a kind brother, an ever curious boy.
I wonder whether he'll be a scientist or an architect, a teacher or an animal trainer or all of the above.

I don’t want to project myself onto him though - thoughts, feelings, skills - as if the projecting would make it so. He is my son, not a suggestion box.  I know that.

He has warm eyes and a wide smile, just like grandma says, and that's really all he needs. He'll take those things, along with all of our support and reassurance, to school this year.  And he'll be just fine.
He is both a masterpiece and a work in progress, our sweet second grader.


great compromise

Tolliver is becoming a top notch negotiator.

There was one day a few weeks ago, as he was packing up after playing at RoRo's, that he presented her with two scenarios.  One, he could take home a single train, or two, he could take home a sling shot and all four balls that go with it.  He was angling for the second, and seemed to think actually asking to borrow five things might be too much, so proposed his options carefully.
He brought home the slingshot and four balls.

Not long ago the boys caught a frog in a local metro park. We promised the boys they could keep the frog for one overnight, in an aquarium habitat they would build.  Tollie wanted to keep it for two nights before returning it to the woods.  We held firm.  So he changed his strategy and started asking about trading in the frog for a cat.  Or a dog.  He listed, all Alex P. Keaton-like, several reasons he thought we should agree.
We let the frog go the next day, and did not acquire a new pet.

When Grandma Jan offered to take the boys to lunch recently, I assumed Tols would choose McDonalds, his long-reigning favorite.  Tollie loves getting happy meals with Grandma (in fact, McDonalds only sells happy meals to grandparents, as far as we're aware) but this time he upped the game, suggesting instead they go for bigger burgers at Bob Evans, and then to Target for a new toy.  Because he hatched this plan beforehand, I was able to discourage the idea, suggesting instead he just enjoy lunch and a toy from McDonalds.

While he routinely holds very firm in his rightness, he is also four and generally covered in dirt.
Still, he is learning to reason, and to present a good case, and I suspect any continued practice in the art of compromise may serve him well in the future.


gettin' around

Andy posted this diagram on Twitter, and it's too funny not to share here also.


growing less little

Hank is five months old today.
It seems to me that he grows overnight, every night.
Such a big boy.  Such a good boy.

He has six or eight long hairs right on top, likely original, mixed in with much thicker, darker new stuff.  The light strands stand out like filaments of gold along his crown.
And on the back of his head, Tucker noticed a swirl pattern that makes him think a hurricane landed there.

Hank's pediatrician encouraged us to let him try baby food, and just this week he's sampled cereal and green beans and bananas.

He is generally happy, and is easily entertained.  Smiles erupt regularly, the kind that threaten to consume his entire face.  He tends to reserve the very biggest grins for his brothers.

He is the first baby we've had who prefers to suck his thumb, and not only is it entirely endearing, it is also so easy, the way he manages to find it and soothe himself.  We lay him down at nap time wide awake and watch his routine: he turns over to his tummy, pulls his knees in under his bottom and locates his left thumb, pointer finger curled over his nose, and he's out.

He rolls all over the house now, reminding me of my keys, never where I think I left them.

And when he rests on my chest, I swear I can remember exactly what it was like when his sister laid her head that close to my heart too.


more from up north

While our trip was pretty much the opposite of fancy, it was full of fun. And ripe with novel experiences.
The big boys visited an elk farm and met the gentleman who raises the animals.  They learned that, in the middle of Michigan by a self-described hobbyist, elk antler size has broken multiple world records. 
The kids spoke with the folks we rented the house from, she an artist and children's book illustrator, he a story teller and stone carver.  They observed her in the studio, molding clay, and eagerly sprayed water on his work to see the undertones appear.
We all went blueberry picking, declaring the harvest the best we've ever tasted.  The boys noticed the huge machine, hollow in the center so as to drive over an entire row of bushes, with picking mechanisms on each side.  They also stepped into the factory to watch part of the packaging process. 
Simple excursions, small talk, lots of smiles.
It's not every day we get to learn from elk farmers or listen to artists or look at food distribution processes in action. Watching them take it all in, I spent some time wondering what stands between our boys and every possible future.


#ohiowa in Michigan

We just got home from Michigan.
We wore nothing but bathing suits with bare feet for days, and spent considerable time just staring at a large body of water.  We needed to keep an eye on the kids, but it sure was easy to get lost in the tiny glittering whitecaps that break rhythmically along the edge.
We watched the horizon, too. Mercy. The sun climbed over that lake in the morning spilling through the light blue tinge of day like a yolk, bringing promise. And at night people lined up along the front deck ready for the setting ceremony, flames of gold and lavender bringing peace.
Actually, putting the children to bed brought peace. But the sunset brought some too.
We played board games past midnight, and picked blackberries to toss with granola in yogurt a few hours later.
We huddled around tables inside and out, sewing and sipping coffee, doing science experiments and drinking beer.
We had squirt gun battles and water balloon fights, took bike rides and paddle boarding lessons from little people, and we made s'mores and ice cream sundaes all week.
And that feeling that so many of us get, the one where time breathes menacingly down our necks, went away for a little while. All the to-dos evaporated and instead hours stretched and pooled luxuriously around us, full of promise, full of peace.

Years past, on Lake Michigan:
to wandering
high hearts
in the mitten