Dear Tolliver,

I sent you to school this fall, letting go my role as your daily protector, making a bit of peace with time and its robberies. I think I felt the same bittersweet pang of separation as most parents waving from the school door, but comparing age to the alternative left me not quite as maudlin about it as I might've otherwise been. Still, kindergarten has a way of echoing the growth of a child with particular clarity. And you are getting so big.

I have faced your dwindling babyhood, parts of which required small ceremonies conducted in private (and, admittedly, in tears) studying socks that would not cover your big toe, folding now threadbare swaddling blankets that I still tuck around your long body at bedtime, stashing a few favorite but foregone mispronounced words in my memory.  It's like nature's best magic trick, the way you were planted in my arms yesterday and leave giant footprints on the planet today. I did have some idea how quickly your early years would vanish. How grateful I am to have been there for them.

You are the sort of child the older ladies at the checkout counter identify as "all boy."  There's usually dirt under your fingernails and bruises on your shins. And your feet usually stink, which you think is hilarious. For your birthday you asked for dinosaurs and Legos, a football jersey and wrestling shoes, books and a jaw harp. You prefer to choose your own clothes, decidedly something soft and camouflaged. You go from styling your hair in the morning to snuggling with with your favorite stuffed turtle at bedtime. Your mind accommodates a seemingly inexhaustible catalog of insect facts and car models and military trivia and human body basics and Hamilton lyrics. You are interested in writing and addition, in Star Wars and baking, in pranks and Harry Potter. You are a bit of a budding artist, intrigued by VanGogh and skilled at detail with a ballpoint pen. Your spirit shines with curiosity, and it seems as though a spark of fire inhabits every cell of your being. Your list of friends is long and the freckles on your face are my favorite. You love and play and eat with ferocity. You are brave and curious, loud and dramatic, loving and so loved. Tollie, you are often the reason I smile. And sometimes the reason I drink.

I hope you have some idea about what happiness you bring us, how grateful we are to have you in our family. May our years with you continue to unfold like a magician's scarf.

All my love,



good shape

We make shapes with play dough and pipe cleaners. Hank has the typical toddler toys that support the construct, shape sorters and wooden puzzles. But he's mostly learned about shapes incidentally. And he seems to have a mild obsession.
First it was stars. He still points them out all over the place, never missing the one on the cardboard coffee to-go cup.
And then it was circles. Circles on necklace chains and on billboards and in his bowl at breakfast.
Currently it's ovals.  He wants to build oblong train tracks and identifies eggs and mirrors and footballs and sinks as ovals.


becoming a big kid

All the cliches about time passing quickly are true.



Tucker's never been one to resist bedtime. No monsters in the closet, no requests for one more sip of water.  In fact, I'm not sure he's ever even come downstairs for a curtain call, never asked to say anything to us after we've tucked him in.
And it's not that there's any struggle with the shower-toothbrush-pajama routine, but lately there've been some subtle stall tactics. It seems he'd like to be up with the adults, to engage in sparkling conversation after dark. I mean, it's no secret that Tuck has always lived for the question portion of everything.
One evening he picked up Aunt Liddy's enormous old dictionary and began to read it, and to ask about certain words. Another night, interested in a gift of Za'atar, he asked us to help him make a list of spices, which led to actually opening jars from the cabinet to smell differences and discuss uses. Recently he wondered aloud about why the Greek symbol "pi" was chosen to represent the number, which led to RoRo's participation in Googling to learn about the root of the word periphery. He asks Andy about his day at work, about specific patient injuries and about random specialties and about why anyone would ever inject a shot with a fast raised arm in the same dramatic way it's done on television.
I used to record "I wonder" questions in my classroom, not just to gather the wildly off-topic ones but also to view them holistically in order to develop lessons and projects that might harness student curiosity. It's hard not to field Tucker's questions one-by-one, as they come up, but unless they're relevant to bedtime, I'm wondering if we ought to make a recording routine here at home, too. Wonder may be the beginning of wisdom, but sleep is important too.


under construction

We're hoping the new house will be a place where their spirits are free and their secrets are safe.
Photo credit to Kristy G.


walk with us

We watched the sun set last week in Florida, hot pink and bright orange, here and gone. Just like our girl.

We laced up shoes this morning, reframing our own impossibly knotted situations -trifling and entirely first world- in an effort to untangle a bigger problem.
We should be stepping gingerly into each next hard part of parenting, practicing all the little letting gos: sleepovers and school dances that lead to a driver's license and college applications, a predictable procession of small goodbyes. And then larger ones, like her wedding day, her father standing up front, offering her to the future she will never have.

With her diagnosis came the kind of anger that had nowhere to go.
We are grateful for opportunities to channel hard feelings into a current of hope, grateful for an event that reminds us she was once a part of this world.
Our loss is not erased by the joy her three healthy brothers bring, nor eliminated through super generous community support, but it is diluted by the combination of these things.
It is through this kind of exercise, gathering to move in the direction of a cure, that we can beat back despair and permit absence to underscore a beautiful presence.
Her spirit is somehow still doing important work. Her legacy lies, in part, in saving lives in the future.
Until a treatment proves truly effective, we will be tethered to activities that bring awareness and hope. And ever grateful that so many of you walk that way with us.
And speaking of important work, this gal ^^^ is changing the world.
There may be nothing better to do for a bereaved parent than to open wide your heart and walk with us.
We're so grateful Laura continues to lead the way.


Vitamin Sea

We flew to Florida last week. A few days at Siesta Key, one of which overlapped with family, proved good medicine all around. We celebrated a birthday, and the beauty of things that endure: fresh air, sunshine, family and love.
^ there's an alligator behind us