They want candy.

Tolliver shopped for his Army Ranger costume with Aunt Kate more than a month ago.  He's worn it approximately ninety five times before today.
Hank loves to hop and to say ribbit, but refused to put on his frog hat for even one photo this evening.
And Tucker drafted several designs for an oversized, working fidget spinner - folks couldn't keep their hands off it.


chapter one

Hank continues to reverse into an empty lap the way all of our children have done, bottom first and book in hand.
There are six of us here who can read with him, and he knows that any of us will stop what we're doing to engage his request.
He is very happy on his own too, imitating a pretentious stage reader. He comes upon books left on the floor and settles down cross legged to examine them, from Greek mythology to Good Night Moon. He grabs the edges of pages and flips at random for several seconds, never looking up, all the while running a loud low-pitched tone, like an aged generator.

Sometimes if we're feeling really ragged, which let's face it, is lots of the time, I default to books. I pull Hank close to me and we read, like I did when his siblings were overstimulated toddlers and exhausted preschoolers, like I’ve been doing their whole lives.
Sometimes I imagine the boys grown up and employed, calling me from work, overwhelmed and aggravated, and I wonder if I'll remember to pull out something like Little Blue Truck or Harry Potter and begin reading.


nailed it

Like someone handed him a script with the definition of cool.



Just like the rest of us, he gets a little angry when he's hungry.
Nothing a few animals crackers can't usually fix.


October might be when the weather in Ohio feels its most Ohio-ish.

We took the boys to Hocking Hills and spent a couple days being completely, gloriously, proudly unproductive. Unless catching salamanders is productive?
Their happy outdoor faces collided with the color crescendo of changing leaves and everything felt pretty perfect.


looking for a second wind

Some days I feel like I spend most of my energy trying to wrangle a tornado.  Or three.
I haven't chased many storms, but just like the boys, they are awesome and powerful and there is usually a rainbow at the end, right?


trying words

I wish I were better able to catch Hank's language on camera. These video snippets are from over the course of about a month, but they don't capture everything.
Not recorded are things like the way he talks about vitamins every morning, and pumpkins all day long, the way he calls everyone in the house by name, all six of us, and says some cousin names even better than his brothers'.  The way he says please now, as he signs, and talks about giraffes and zebras and dogs and babies and bacon. And most recently, the way he tells us to sit and shhh.
He is trying words and cobbling together phrases, something different every day, naming a world that looks just as new to me as it must to him.

bye bye
pop (toaster)
thank you
knock knock


on not giving up

Last week Andy took Tucker on a solo trip to the Columbus Museum of Art, Tuck's choice.
Tuck was fascinated by the portrayals of a simple, clear glass by an artist who painted that same still life more than two thousand times. Tucker came home and carefully relayed what he'd read about Peter Dreher, pointing to the value of his project, the way it can be worthwhile to look at something again and again and again.

I took the older boys to the Ohio History Center one Saturday several weeks ago, at their request.
We learned, among other things, that dinosaur remains have never been found in our state. (There probably were dinosaurs roaming in what is now Ohio, but the rocks that held their bones have long since eroded away.) Tolliver seemed slightly defeated by this piece of information, as he pretty much hunts for fossils on a daily basis. After his initial shock, he's resumed looking for triceratops skulls that might be hidden along the riverbed, just in case.

I'm afraid I spent lots of museum trips as a child (and let's be honest, as a young adult) sitting on a bench with my arms crossed, rolling my eyes like the exact opposite of a young lady who was sweetly grateful for a special day out. Sorry about that, Mom.  But thanks for never giving up.  


slow and steady

But mostly slow.
Or maybe we're just too close to the project to appreciate how much has changed.
Wait a second though. A lot has changed. And we are grateful.
We last wrote about the new house in July:

The original structure was built in 1941. Over the course of decades a few slipshod additions were made. We've tried to undo some things that made the space feel chaotic and closed off. And to replace some things that were old or inefficient or unsafe.
 ^ the window on the left here, in the old kitchen, looked out over the small flat roof
(middle of the photo above)
same windows, below, plus rotting floor boards
^ now this corner has stairs to the master bedroom, above the garage
both windows are gone and new build is behind them
the window opening on the right can still be seen, above, framed in

In the process of replacing windows we lost a few but added several more, along with an extra large back door, to maximize natural light in the main living area. Previously the kitchen was in the center of the house, but we've moved it to the very back near most of the aforementioned light.
We also rearranged a few walls to achieve a more open floor plan and to encourage efficient flow.  The garage leads right into the mudroom which leads right past the pantry and into the kitchen. We opened what was a small covered front porch and gave that space to the living room. We eliminated one of two hallways to the boys' bedrooms and added that square footage to the bedroom that will be shared.
^ from what was the old kitchen, looking toward the back of the house (then and now)

We've also tried to hang on to a few parts of the original house. The fireplace and surrounding cabinets in the living room will remain. In addition to saving much of the original hardwood parquet, our contractor reworked what we assume was the first front door, and salvaged the linen closet frame, complete with mid century copper cabinet pulls.  Speaking of, we're not really sure what is happening era-wise, except at this rate it might look like the decades exploded inside. Fingers crossed picking our favorite things will prove to be a fine strategy, and finishes will come together.
^ the front room gained a little space near the door, and much of the fireplace surround will stay
we did not opt to save the old wallpaper, above, but we did salvage the linen closet frame, below
This week they're working on drywall. We've ordered tile for three bathrooms, and the kitchen cabinets are in production.  There's new hardwood in the master bedroom and the exterior has cement siding and a fresh coat of white paint.
We have some serious decision fatigue. But we also feel tremendously fortunate to be doing something like this at all.
It's so easy to get ahead of ourselves, to feel like the choices we're making are not for the day but for the decade. To forget that the choices are not actually life or death.  Like, we'll move in and forget that we ever thought door hinge color mattered. So for now it's just one choice until the next one, slow and steady.


wild fire

I walked with Tollie's class to the fire station today, the first kindergarten field trip.  
It wore us both out.

He loved the whole thing - walking in the rain and snooping around the firehouse kitchen and crawling under smoke to escape the pretend fire.

It was fun to watch him with his peers, to hear him ask thoughtful questions and see him making good choices.