lucky number seven

Tollie celebrated turning seven with a few friends at the Motts Military museum. The boys admired weapons and uniforms and tanks and had an epic nerf gun battle before dinner at Bob Evans. 
Throughout the week he has received cards and Lego bombers, had dinner at his favorite Mexican restaurant, shared pumpkin cheesecake with Aunt Kate and got the cinnamon rolls he requested in addition to two surprise donut deliveries! He's been playing with giant helium balloons and poring over new military history books, and he's still looking forward to more celebrations this weekend. He's a lucky, well-loved kid.


Once I was seven years old

Dear Tolliver,

Seven years ago the decision to have another baby was fairly easy, less if and more when. Your timing was actually perfect. You arrived the week of Thanksgiving, with legs that came in fat segments like dinner rolls. Despite the fact that you turned a full night's sleep into a particular fable at our house, you filled our hearts and our home with immense joy and we could not have been more happy to have you with us.
We still are.

You grew into a toddler with charitable cheeks and twin bungee ropes of drool dripping from each corner of your mouth, along with lots of words and plenty of solid opinions.
Since then time galloped and your wardrobe game grew and we mostly gracefully crossed a million childhood thresholds. Suddenly you are turning seven. Still with all the words and strong opinions, still with unwavering fashion preferences, and so many other good things.

You are inquisitive and brave, equal parts cotton candy and red meat.
I love when you crank up your small voice, having thought about what you want to say, to add to the conversation.
You are enthusiastic and super fast and so handsome. Your freckles are my very favorite.
You've memorized Jingle Bells on the piano, and are becoming quite the performer.
You are Hank's favorite playmate, turning empty laundry baskets into turtle games or jail cells. You are fierce and soft-shelled, both. You are busting out of boxes and blazing your own trail.
You are super into military history, devouring books about tanks and weapons and battles.
Your handwriting is the best in the house, by far. Your attention to detail, to where the flower vases go and to what time we need to leave and to which pants look nice with which shirt and to whether there's enough milk left for everyone to have cereal, is astounding.

We're learning about boredom together, feeling it and figuring out what to do next.
And self-regulation. Managing emotions can be tough business, but it's important to treat others, and ourselves, with respect.
We're learning about courage, too. Sometimes the shadows cast by the thing we’re afraid of are larger and more frightening than the thing itself.
I'm learning about lots of things with you, actually.
It startles me sometimes, how different we are. I've been thinking about how even the people I love the most can sometimes seem so mysterious. I'm figuring out how to love you all the more across the mystery, across silence and strong words, across quarrels and compromises. Maybe this is the truest love of all, the one unbound by such constraints.
I'm doing my very best to bridge who I am and who you are (quickly) becoming, because I love you so much.

I've been up bright and early with you for seven years now. I'll bake cinnamon rolls tomorrow, at your request, and together we'll watch the sun rise to light the tallest pine candles outside our kitchen window.
And I'll be watching you, hoping your biggest wishes come true this year and forever, Tolliver.



how firm thy

One of the things our boys love best about football season is hanging at their favorite tailgate spot. We all look forward to seeing folks there every fall. This year one of the younger fans started calling it tolliegate, because the boys bring diggers and dozers and small plastic football figurines to play with together, between climbing trees and scootering in circles and shoving fistfuls of junk food in their mouths. And really, it does seem to be as much about friendships as it is about football.


Thanksgiving today

and tomorrow too, because gratitude is an active practice and an inside job.


gratitude soup

I'm soooooo naked Hank screams as he runs through the house after a bath. He leaves the yellow hooded duck towel in a heap and drips water through the dining room.
He spent the afternoon talking about his teachers and their classroom feast and his best school friend, Hugson. He regularly lists things that begin with the letter H, Hanky and Hugson and Hendrix and hot and hat and airplane (?) and hippo!
Tolliver has invented a nine pin game, using the same wooden tic tac toe pegs Hank likes to arrange in an H and eight million rolls of washi tape. There are stray pegs and abandoned rolls spanning the floor from the refrigerator to the front door, plus an imaginary score sheet hanging in the air, along with the words I win!
He's been wearing a Santa hat all week, simultaneously counting down the days till his birthday, and looking beyond it with eyes squarely set on Christmas.
Tucker has been working on a collection of comics using emoji stickers. My favorite, this evening, shows the sunglasses guy dunking planet earth into his coffee mug. Tuck said he'd already used the donut emoji and thought something unexpected was funnier anyway.
He's also been really into landforms, spouting facts and illustrating explanations and googling examples. And making me pop quizzes.
The boys are home for the next five days, and I am hoping for more sunshine. They spent hours on Sunday afternoon outside in the woods, jacketless and bicker-free. Just in case we can't spend the entire break in the backyard, I ordered extra emoji stickers and am prepared to build marble tracks and clean an enormous baking mess and assemble Lego robots and wipe runny noses and moderate sibling persecution.

The privilege of having three healthy boys does not mean that I can't find parts of parenting problematic. But I am not parenting while also trying to caravan to a new country, or parenting in a place where food is scarce. There are not wild fires threatening our home and we have a washing machine that works and more than one invitation to enjoy a Thanksgiving meal with family.

I am sooooo lucky I think, and it feels like a good time to remember that.


everybody has feelings

When I look around in the wrong places I can convince myself that there is an empathy crisis.
But when I look around my own small spot here, I know, despite what the broader world might lead me to believe, there is not.


lately, sort of

It's been awhile since I looked back through pictures. Some of these were taken before the leaves held colors of turmeric and cayenne, before suddenly they all curled into themselves and lept to the ground. Woodfire smoke and dueling leaf blowers and early darkness outside, Halloween candy tucked into upper cabinets inside. Blankets and books piled and muffins baking and almost everything can feel festive this time of year.



photo credit to Kristy Grachek, and friends