I love getting to say Yes to him.

Mom, if we poke holes in the lid and give it some bugs to eat, can we keep this praying mantis till tomorrow?

Mom, can I take a treat in my lunch box today?  Maybe some Raisinets?

Mom, do you think you'd have time to get some new books from the library soon?

Mom, can me and Tollie stay outside for a bit after school?
Mom, I got my homework done and I practiced the piano.  May I have some screen time now?

Mom, can you make a math equation with a square root?  Like the square root of twenty five plus five is ten?

Mom, wanna hear some knock-knock jokes while you cook dinner?

Mom, could you scratch my back for me for a few minutes?


from the phone

1.  making rainbows jealous
2.  wild things at the #columbuszoo
3.  when challenging and rewarding go hand in hand
4.  outdoor living room
5.  simmering in sunshine
6.  banana splits for breakfast
7.  spoiled baby
8.  making waves
9.  sit down paddle
10.  stealing drinks
11.  #ohiowa forever
12.  vacaysh
13.  big sistering like a pro
14.  sunsets in the state up north
15.  pool boys
16.  worshipping the water
17.  all the instruments (plus the martini shaker calling...)
18.  just one rib #jazzandribfest
19.  trying to get all three in the frame #gobucks
20.  shaving foam street fight #mulfordblockparty
21.  floating Lego boats
22.  first day, second grade
23.  warm afternoons, chubby thighs
24.  five months, and smile that consumes his face
25.  sunset on the cape, colors without names
26.  #allieverwanzered wedding 
27.  popponesset spit #sunsout
28.  boston commons
29.  on the move
30.  meditation all around
31.  baby toes for president
32.  more #poolboys
33.  artifacts attached to memories
34.  first tailgate #loyalaf
35.  goodbye bear
36.  feelings bordering on the evangelical
37.  #driller (the ball game, and the "what part of speech is catch?" inquisition)
38.  whole heart inside a small square
39.  first swing
40.  praying to remember
41.  good thing we got created with two hands, an eating hand and a picking hand
42.  buying mums #fallelujah


ready for the world

It would take all day and a calculator to count the freckles on his face.
A small city could probably be powered off his natural reserves of enthusiasm.  He reminds me of a puppy, all Okay, what are we doing, where are we going, I'm in.
He is such a good boy, even better than he knows.
He began pre-K classes recently.  He is beyond ready to be in the world.
We still have plenty of time for our own what ifs and why nots together, but some days, instead of snacking on kale chips and boredom, he gets to leave home and learn.
I am so proud of him, and so excited for him.  And I love him so much.


Thomas, James and Charles

I took the boys for flu vaccines this afternoon.  They did not flinch.
Not when the nurse called their names in the waiting room, and not as they were given the shots.

It reminded me that we ought to talk about their real names every once in awhile, especially so as to avoid another airport TSA incident similar to the one on our way to Sedona last year.


spilled milk

He doesn't always look like God made a smile and built a kid around it.
Sometimes his eyes are enormous dark lakes full of tears. Sometimes his head hangs down, slumped as if his neck quit its full time job.
Seven comes with such a small frame to hold onto so much emotion, to steer it.

I imagine when he's sad or angry or excited or scared he must also feel confused, split seconds between such polarized sentiments. I imagine his moods set to music, notes in the key of sunshine, notes in the key of lightning, notes in the key of the moon.
He is quiet, sulking. I sit down beside him without making actual contact, try to decide whether he wants me to be silent or speak. Wonder how adolescence can already feel upon us. Wait for him to make the first move. He threads his long fingers through mine, measures our hands. His are catching up, but still have room to grow.

I try to communicate my complete faith in his ability to handle things.
I tell him it isn't his job to have bravery the biggest in the room, remind him that being courageous does not mean that you don't ever feel afraid.
I stress that it's okay to fall short, to mess up.  That it's important to try again.
And I tell him it’s pretty much all just spilled milk.
It is, isn't it?
Often I think our love and assurances have filled his cup, but then something happens and a little bit sloshes out. We do our best with the refill process, drop by drop, hoping the spill rate is slower than the flow of the tap.


apples to apples

And to teachers and neighbors and friends...
We picked Honeycrisp one morning recently, possibly the best gift of September.
Three bags full, plenty to share.
On a day when the weather was feeling very fall-in-Ohio-ish, the drizzle perhaps keeping some folks away from the orchard, we pulled on boots and went.
It was worth it.


to remember

The boys sit together at the kitchen counter before school, pancakes with syrup and blueberries, banter about the upcoming field trip.
I pack Tucker's lunch, peanut butter sandwich, pretzel sticks and strawberries, his red Angry Bird water bottle, a small piece of chocolate.

I wave him off with the group at the corner.  Inside again, I nurse Hank and watch Tolliver play out a very tragic scenario with rescue vehicles.

Several ripe bananas call for bread, and while Tollie helps stir in honey and avocado and eggs, Hank jumps in the doorframe nearby.

On the counter are spent zinnia blooms drying in the sun, and dirty dishes piling up in the sink.

I move Hank to a big quilt on the floor, and although it no longer really works to contain him it does occasionally catch drool. Tols, dressed as Spiderman and eliciting big laughs, reports for burp up duty. They play while I answer the oven timer, reheat my coffee, move laundry through.
In the basement, Tollie builds a "table" with wooden blocks, and requests his favorite, a plate with fruit and nuts and cheese.  I serve him there and eat yogurt and granola on the floor next to him.

After lunch we walk to preschool, Hank in the carrier, facing out, Tolliver in step beside us.  I plant a firm kiss atop sweaty red hair as he enters the classroom.  And then I keep going, a few miles for my own sake, always just one walk away from an even better mood.

Hank and I collect the big boys from both schools.  They eat popcorn from small baggies and wander around the yard.  I nurse the baby and sip cold coffee and scroll through emails.
Andy texts to ask about the day, and because the hospital sucks him in before sunrise and spits him out at dusk, I try, always, to share the highlights: Hank tried the baby swing at the playground!  Tucker multiplied thirteen times three in his head!  

The boys fight with foam swords and hit a few balls with a new bat before we head to Tuck's piano lesson.  There, my hands under Hank's arms and his toes pressed into my thighs, he bounces to the music.  Tollie looks through a large stack of books in the chair next to us.

Home again, all three boys need baths.  Hank goes first, and then naps in his crib while the big boys clean up.  Even after soap on their skin and suds through their hair, the Ts have dirty toes.  I give up, towel them off, send them to get dressed.  Their interpretation of that direction usually just means underwear.  We're working on that.
It's cereal for dinner, with sliced watermelon and a side of Neil Gaiman's Fortunately the Milk.  Tuck devours all three.

I load the dishwasher and listen.  I hear Tollie digging through the Lego bin, still looking for a small, black Batman figure head.  Tucker is reading to Hank, propped together on the couch, Bus Stops and Dear Zoo.

We brush teeth and the big boys climb into clean sheets.
I do X marks the spot on Tolliver's back, closing my eyes and letting go of the day.
Most of it, anyway.  There are parts I want to hang on to.

Today was a good one.  Most of them are.
We live a generally happy, joyful life, not every minute of every day, but certainly on a path that points in that direction.
And when I'm old and I look back, that's what I want to see.

I have experience with praying to remember, became exquisitely familiar with the idea a few years ago, as Celia faded.
I practiced again tonight.


sorry, not sorry


Hankee Doodle {6 months}

Hank has been earthside for half a year.

He's spent most of it sleeping, smiling, dirtying diapers and slurping down milk.

And I've spent most of it marveling at him.  The ancient knowing of his eyes, the fragile grace of his fingers, every breath a miracle.
I've also spent the past six months matching tiny socks and rinsing sippy cups and reciting nursery rhymes. I haven't paid much attention to the calendar or the clock.  I rock him and kiss his cheeks and nibble his toes.  I change his clothes and interpret his cries and encourage his explorations.

Sometimes, this fourth go 'round, I amaze myself when I feel like I know what I'm doing.
And then I put my keys in the refrigerator.

Sometimes, behind the milestones, lurks the shadow of his sister.
But mostly I'm simply consumed by the dream of him coming true.
Mostly, I'm extremely grateful for these first few spectacularly fleeting months with him.