rise up

Hank never complains about a Monday. Never. He is up early, eating stuff, chasing things, getting after the day. Basically reminding everyone he'd like to be in charge.

Meanwhile, one of his older brothers can tell you exactly how many more Mondays are left before summer break. When that one is awakened at at too early o’clock he moans something that sounds remarkably like it's one consonant shy of profanity, like if Monday had a face he'd punch it.
It has nothing to do with going to school, and everything to do with wishing for more sleep.
He comes by that honest.
We're still trying to figure out where Hank got his get up and go.


his own dreams

I still don’t quite know who this kid is.
But he does. Tolliver knows exactly who he is.
I cannot program his specific interests, cannot engineer a certain kind of success, nor am I eager to create an ambitious robot. He may diverge from my expectations, but love is a better teacher than a sense of duty.
It is not my job to railroad him into being who I want him to become, a gratifying mashup of biology and dreams, but to allow him to reveal his nature over time, in no particular order, through switchbacks and reversals along the way.
To watch him dance to the beat of his own dreams.


always never done

I watched him standing there in the yard last weekend, a little girl in the stroller in front of him, a dog on a leash beside him, his three boys nearby. Surrounded by children but alone with his thoughts, I found it hard to venture whether he was looking forward or backward. Maybe he was just wondering what the hell was happening in the actual present.

It's been more than a year since Andy dropped a letter at the house on the end of the street.
I remember last winter, packing up holiday decor through the lens of whether it might fit in a storage facility. While the packing felt like a frenzy, we persisted. While selling our first house, the one our family began in, felt like a small loss, we survived.
I remember when we signed the mortgage and started the renovation this time last spring :: Tolliver had friends over to play and to tour the house, and as we all piled out of our cars he hollered to ask whether they'd like to see the dead animals outside in the woods or the ones inside the house?! I may have wondered what the hell we had gotten ourselves into.

Although it feels as though we've lived in some kind of chaos, some kind of worry, some kind of out of control for a year, the temporary experience also brought feelings of cautious optimism and expectant hope and tremendous gratitude, the kind I still feel when I spin around, the kind I want to stamp forever on my heart.

We're settled in here, still with so much more to do, still with some boxes to unpack and shelves to build and walls to repair. There is always more to do, it will always never be done.
And now, as the weather begins to say spring, we've been tackling outside jobs too - tearing down an old shed, removing dead trees. Serious work should begin here this week, grading the ground and seeding the grass and putting in stone steps so we can begin to use the big glass sliding door in the kitchen.
From this relatively quiet rectangle of lawn, this place of century old bones and healthy young boys running around in rain boots, it feels so much easier to call out to the future than the past, to think about all the things we have accomplished here already, how much it feels like home. How we are always closer than we think.


redemptive power

We had a bit of a weekend.
Strung together, the small slights and the emotional bruises seemed to threaten death by a million paper cuts.
But there is so much redemptive power in the little things, a shared memory, a shock of tulips.
Or an ice cream cone.


three boys full



I spend a fair amount of time lifting. Kids, weights, glasses of wine.

I took Hank to an activity this morning that engaged very young children with local seniors with developmental disabilities. They danced along with guitar music and batted balloons around with pool noodles and oh my word I wish I could've bottled up the joy floating around in that room.
The boys spend a fair amount of time watching. Cartoons, out the windows, me.

Last week we took a potted arborvitae over to a neighbor who has been nothing but nasty to our family since well before we moved in to our new home.
Sometimes, kindness comes easily. When it doesn't? That's when it might be the very best response.

The boys are watching. And we have more lifting to do.



The boys eat raw cookie dough and wander into the woods alone, and I do my best to manage the terror. It’s what you do when you have a child, isn’t it, open yourself up to unimaginable pain and then try to pretend away the possibilities?
I did not fully realize that half of parenting would be making decisions and the other half would be panicking that whatever decision I made was wrong.
Also a considerable part of parenting, the third half? It might be pretending engagement I do not entirely feel. Like participating as little plush penguins fly airplanes and enact battlefield scenes all day.
Seriously though, a big part of me, the part that is not making decisions or panicking or pretending, is mostly just grateful for all of it.


penguin companion

I've lived with Tolliver enough to know that he falls in love hard and fast. 
I'm not sure how long this little guy will be his favorite, but I imagine it will be spectacularly fleeting, and I do not want to forget. This plush penguin has not left Tollie's side lately. I've enjoyed watching his imagination and creativity bloom around ideas for his buddy, and I'm grateful for grandmothers who cater to his whims.


what goes up

We keep finding Hank on the kitchen counter. Right benext to the knives.
Turns out our new drawer pulls line up to make a good ladder.
Actually, that probably doesn't matter, as Hank has discovered his own rolling stool.
He pushes the wheeled crane from room to room, climbing, and we keep finding him on top of dressers and tables too, calling for us:
Mama! Mama, pick Hank DOWN!


Dear Diary

Play more.
Play harder.
Pass out.
Repeat tomorrow.


anything good in the world

I've been working on a guest blog post for a palliative care website for about a month now. I'm not even kidding, I can't manage one essay in one month.
I can barely catch the tail of inspiration before duty calls.
I try hard to jot notes in the cracks, but my writing needs concentrated time to gain momentum.

I feel like I used to write more, to write better.
But I also only had two children, one dying, one supremely well-behaved. Both immobile.

These days, I could write about crushed crackers in couch cushions, about Target tantrums, about the good and the bad and the Legos. I could write about what it’s like to learn as I go. I could write about how hard it all is. I could say that it’s beautiful. I could say that I'm grateful and that I'm tired. But mostly grateful.

I remember, in the beginning here, writing was a way to wrest meaning from the meaningless, to rediscover that there was anything good in the world.

There is so much good in the world.


breaking spring

At the end of an eleven day spring break spent mostly at home, we faced three happy boys and an impressive mess. Mostly candy wrappers and nerf darts, mostly well-rested and completely satisfied.
We didn't go anywhere warm last week, but Tuck devoured an enormous stack of library books, traveling through storied treehouses and around whiz mobs.
Tolliver studied battlefield medicine and dreamed of a penguin empire. He built with wooden blocks and hot wheels tracks a neighborhood that lasted nearly a week next to his bed.
Hank polished his manners and practiced his favorite songs, swam indoors and played in the woods.
At dinner this evening, after their first day back at school, the boys talked about friends who visited Cuba and Cabo, who snorkeled and saw ship wrecks, who hiked through canyons and played in the sand. And Tolliver said but none of them got to stay at all three of their grandparents' houses.