illuminating the night

None of us have been getting enough sleep.
I have been doing my best to provide warm pillows and cold washcloths, to clean snot rags and sheets and ibuprofen syringes. Almost everything is survivable, I remind myself, including exhaustion.
Still, awake in the wee hours for weeks, snuggling feverish children and scrolling social media, I wind up wondering how we can raise boys in a world where it may be easier to get their hands on an assault rifle than a plastic straw.
I am not sure I'm thinking clearly, though.
I am always at least one step behind, probably since....well, Christmas.
Maybe Christmas 2008, actually.
And there is always something I am forgetting. My keys. My composure. My good sense. My humility. Always something.

I picked up the boys from school this afternoon, stopped at the library to return overdue books, and headed straight to piano lessons. From there we grabbed a quick dinner before attending First Grade Latin America Night at the elementary school. Afterward, at which time we'd ordinarily have teeth brushed and be reading books in bed, we sped through the dark cold and piled into the van, all five, and I asked, just to be sure, Who are we forgetting?

Hank responded immediately, from his place in the middle row: Celia. We don't have her.
His older brothers were quick to say she was with us, just like they've heard us say before. To say that we won't ever forget.

And that's one of the things about waking with a jolt, about brushing hair from foreheads and readjusting quilts, when I pull back from the full catastrophe of nighttime parenting, I sometimes feel her presence, an existential flash. I am often tempted to apologize, not so much for what happened, but for what did not and never will.  To her, and to her brothers.

Instead I try to harness my mind in the moment, try to look for neural centers of hope and rational thinking and remembering, to be thankful for all of it.


another gala

Brimming with gratitude for the boring, precious dailiness of our lives. 
Also for the once-in-awhile escape from routine, for time with friends and without children.



Hank asks me to retrieve the cradle from the mantel, the one that is at least 200 years old, promising to just rock it gently with one little finger. 
I spend the better part of most days following him around, convincing myself this must be the work that I need to do now, before all that other work I have written down and want to cross off.

His sock drawer is a disaster, because he insists on wearing mismatched sets, pulling pairs apart and bringing me one of each, argyle and stripes, red and purple.
The sock drawer situation has been exacerbated by all the recent "sock races," in which all four boys run from one end of the house to the other, sliding at a specified spot. When Hank is not complaining about a sock being loose, he is commanding brothers to scoot even backer at the starting line.
This game leads to inevitable injuries. Hank stumbles often, and usually yells, before he's even hit the ground Oh no, I forgot to watch out! But I'm okay! Good thing I'm tough!

He enjoys doing work on the computer. I want to do a document. I want them to be super big letters. Can you please spell my name for me with your words, and I will push the buttons?
He is obsessed with patterns, talking about them incessantly. Except he calls them "patterings."
He jumps and spreads his legs and then scissors them together, out, in, out, in.
He lines up cucumber slices and carrot sticks across his plate, green, green, orange, green, green, orange.
He arranges foam shapes in the bath tub, big square, small circle, big square.

He has a small circle-shaped scratch near his left wrist, which hasn't healed quickly because he rubs it when he's tired.  He calls it his "new watch" and checks it all the time. Wait! My watch doesn't say it's time to brush teeth yet! Wait, let me set my watch to say it's time to pee! Oh wait, it's Grant calling!

He loves to paint. After crafts - and meals, and restroom breaks - he likes to stand at the sink.
I need to practicing washing my hands.

I know that he'll tip toe up to my room bright and early again tomorrow, with an agenda that does not match my own, but I want to practicing clearing space for his plans even if they clash with my own, to live by the pretend clock on his arm, to paint and do patterings and refold socks, to remember how lucky I am to follow his lead.


checking the knots

One of the things about nurturing a child is that you're forever tethered to a surprise ending.

Tucker volunteered to accompany me to the grocery store this morning, pushing the cart and cheerfully gathering items on the list. We chatted about choosing cucumbers and the Scoville scale for peppers.

After we put away food we took a walk together, bundled up and heading along a path neither of us have taken before.
He told me about the fish prints they're making in art class, with octopus ink and paint.
He talked about spiders in Terraria and we found an icicle arrangement along the river bank that looked like a chandelier.

I listened all day, mindfully committed, impressively present. Tying one end of my time to his heart, checking the knots.




I'll stop the world

and melt with you.


one out of two

On our way to church this morning, for the African drumming workshop, my goal was twofold:
1. Give the boys another example of the way human beings are linked, not ranked.
2. Let the boys be really loud somewhere else, so maybe they'd be a little less loud at home.


over achievement

I did not get very much done this week.

We've been working (for years) on being selectively busy, measuring our time by how much we enjoy the things we're doing instead of how many things we can fit in, trying to help the boys learn to focus on contentment over achievement. Or maybe they've been teaching us?

But sometimes I forget, get distracted by all the things I'm not doing and forget the things I've done.

Today I took a walk with a friend, and enjoyed the accompanying conversation despite the drizzle.
Today I helped craft a Valentine box, a pink pixelated pig.
Today I comforted a sick child, and cleaned up a few related messes.
Today I picked up new library books and later read a few Caldecotts snuggled on the couch.
Today I collected some groceries, primarily gingerale and saltines, but still.
Today I pretended with finger puppets and played zoo with plastic animals, gave bedtime back rubs and put away freshly laundered pajamas.

The boys do not worry much about what they've accomplished, about whether they're doing enough. They are professionals at calling attention to things that may not seem remarkable, at not being discouraged by things left undone, at making ta-da lists, if you will.
I'm trying to follow their lead.


on getting older

Parenting is not for the faint-hearted.
On his birthday, a rare day off to do nothing, Andy walked the neighborhood kids to school, navigating frozen sidewalks and falling downs. He scrubbed sick-kid mess from bathroom grout, folded laundry and called for a roof inspector to evaluate yet another leak.
He laughed about it all, shrugging off the invisible incline he'd been climbing, a true testament to his increduibly cheerful spirit, and to our luck in a having him around.
The boys and I did make him a birthday cake with bourbon glaze, so the day had some redeeming parts, just like getting older might too.


faint edges

The boys ended up home from school for five days, long enough for doing nothing to feel like an actual activity. They passed around a nasty but short-lived virus, yet remained mostly busy and mostly happy, switching sleeping arrangements, participating in a baseball clinic and playing in the snow once the temperature rose a bit. They watched several movies and part of the SuperBowl, baked Oreo truffles and bourbon cake, built a Lego marble run and readied letters to brighten a few mail boxes. They helped with chores and badgered Siri and embarked on epic laundry basket fishing expeditions. They also read approximately eighty seven books to Hank, and I let myself believe that I could see the faint edges of future friendships.