I took another walk this weekend, despite the drizzle. I threw on a ball cap and grabbed my earbuds and tagged Andy for breakfast duty. I listened to a podcast, Everything Happens, and the interviewee talked about the importance of community, the way it provides something we can't always provide ourselves. In a community we can all take turns being disappointing and sharing grace.

Last week we discovered a bag of dress clothes on our front porch, outgrown by the boys one block over. We left a set of new greeting cards near their door a few days later. We cut up fruit for eighty for family literacy night, and let another father run talent show rehearsal without us.
Let it be clear, Mr. Rogers did not adequately prepare us for all the people in our neighborhood. But he did show us how to share grace. And more often than not everything works out, all of us pitching in when we can, taking turns meeting expectations and falling short, catching each other when we can.


look around, look around

The boys tend to play in ways that are both wonderfully beneficial and inherently dangerous.
Sticks rank high on their list of favorite toys, for use as wands and bats and shovels and fishing poles. We uprooted the family and moved closer to the woods so the boys could engage in more of that kind of imaginative play. We try to be careful with our Be careful!s, to not let the warning mean “Put that stick down.” But sticks need lots of space.
At some point, in the middle of a concrete jungle, the boys managed to find a large stick. Tolliver used it first to reach a coin that was wedged way under the bean. And then Hank swung it around in ways that risked skewering a stranger's eyeball. Instead of making him put it down we reminded him to look around, to be sure the stick had enough space to be safe.


tired as a mother

noun: mother
verb: mom so hard

one definition: a person who does many small tasks, all the things that might only draw attention if they didn't happen

see also : sherpa, chauffeur, trash holder, referee, injury kisser, dance partner, story teller, appointment scheduler, short order chef, finder of all things lost, lie detector, kiss stealer, cheerleader
Sometimes I bring something back from a trip, maybe a little husk of confidence, a tendril of compassion, enough energy looping round to resume the lunch-packing routine.
Sometimes, though, I am tired. Sometimes I have to travel deep inside myself to find the strength to unpack suitcases and wash and fold and put away all the laundry.

Motherhood is lovely. It is exhausting. It is both.


Blow us all away

We visited the windy city over spring break, primarily to cash in the boys' Christmas tickets to see Hamilton. We sat in the same stage right dress circle box as Andy and I did when we saw the original Broadway cast in 2015. It's actually a really good thing we'd seen the show because this time around I caught myself staring at the boys faces instead of the stage. They laughed and cried and clapped and cheered, and I have a feeling they may be talking about the room where it happened for years to come.

Tuck devoured the playbill, and counted the number of times certain words were used in the lyrics. He also read nearly every single sign at every single museum. We visited the Shedd Aquarium, the Field Museum and the Museum of Science and Industry. Hank identified every H in the city, loved the giant slide at Maggie Daley park, and laid down on the ground everywhere - to watch the dolphins, to stare at the bean, to hear the waves, to make me crazy. We were in Chicago on St. Patrick's day, with a bright green river and boisterous streets. Tolliver spent most of the trip looking up, or looking for historical information, or looking for an ice cream shop. Or looking for us to explain what the phrase on someone's green shirt meant. His favorite part of the trip may have been the tour of a German submarine.

We enjoyed deep dish pizza and gelato and fish tacos and time with Aunt Kate and Uncle Kevin. We walked along the waterfront and had a Trader Joe's picnic with friends, the weather gloriously sunshiny. We kept the boys off the subway tracks and out of the water and hopefully lessened the distance between what they know and don't know yet, hopefully helped them see the world is wide enough...


finding out

The boys are basically full blast from dawn to dark, no chill at all. They fill the day with magic and mischief and mayhem. And questions. So many questions.
Most mornings they don't even finish a bowl of cereal before they begin interrogating the world. Often their queries startle us with their unanswerableness. We've gotten pretty good at saying I don't know. Let's find out. And they've gotten pretty good at finding out.

This year, for Brain Blast, Tucker dove into Addiction and Tolliver studied Animal Architecture:




Dear Hank,

You are three! But you are still my baby.
My stinker. My thinker. My sidekick. My slapstick. My tiny engineer.
My linguist. My dance partner. My wake up call.

My adventurer.
All I have to do is grab a coat or rattle the keys and you're the first one at the door wondering Am I going too?
We spent your birthday, today, in the woods. You wore rainboots and carried an enormous stick, until we spotted a flooded area, at which point you threw down the stick and dove in. You are a true Pisces, always ready to swim.

One of my favorite things to watch is the way your hair runs with you, the top bouncing with each step.

You like magnets and peanut butter and blue and bacon and shapes and scootering and letters and cantaloupe and making your brothers laugh.

You are a talker.
You jump ahead to the second sentence before getting to the period of the first, bursts of thoughts so impatient to get out.
You often comment on the weather. Sitting at the kitchen counter or in the back seat, you'll say What a beautiful day, like an invitation for more dialogue. Today, on the way up the hill and back to our house, boots sloshing and pants soaked, it was What a muddy day!
You want to be involved, to be included, to have a voice in the matter.

You have an affluent imagination. You make soccer balls out of pentagons, rainbows out of cones. You make snakes with ribbon and basketball hoops with kitchen colanders. You make us all so happy.

You are always reaching for answers. You want to know how things work, down to the smallest detail. You want to know why. And why again. You want to know how and when and if.

You are inefficient for my schedule, but good for my soul.
You, more than anyone, help me notice the startling abundance, the way good fortune becomes glaringly obvious when we stop wishing for more.
You breathe wonder into simple things.

You have impeccable manners. Seriously. Your No sank yous slay.

I hope some piece of three stays with you always, keeps you young at heart.
May you always remain tethered to the child carrying sticks and so many dreams, promoting curiosity and spontaneity and whimsy.

You are a huge part of our world, Hank, and you are everyone's favorite littlest brother.
You are deeply, and forever, loved.


double digits

Dear Tucker,

I spent a number of years managing an entire class of ten year olds.
And now I have my own.

It seems like yesterday that you were tiny and new, and I was a nervous wreck, bringing your small heart into this large, unsafe world. I slept curled around you like a treble clef, like I could protect you from everything, anything.

I was, and still am, grateful and astonished that you're here.

You give a solid, proper hug, both arms lingering like you mean it.
Unless we're in public, and then it's usually sideways and quick.

You are a stand up guy, adding jokes to your school presentations, speaking in puns and making lists of happy thoughts inside condolence cards. You are mastering the bridge between playful and poignant.

You are learning to say, when you walk into the kitchen, “Put me to work.”

You stand next to me at the sink, peeling carrots, asking three questions in one breath.
Why do people repeat the names of things : puppy dog, kitty cat, bunny rabbit, baby doll?
Have you ever noticed how certain books have a funny smell, kind of an old scent? 
What if compound words were reversed: finger chicken, pants sweat, paper toilet?
You sit quietly next to me on the couch, each of us lost in our own reading material.
You vacillate between talking in stream of conscious mode and not talking at all.

I wonder if you ever turn toward an empty space, looking for a sister, someone to tease or adorn or begrudge or protect? I think you do, and I think that means your heart is working.
I mean, I know your heart is working, even when you don't quite articulate the ways.

You treat the world with curiosity and respect, look at usual things with unusual eyes. For example, swinging your feet into boots at the back door, thinking aloud: I wonder why glue doesn't stick to the inside of the glue bottle?
You live outside any whirlpool of streaming urgencies.

You are so perceptive and intuitive.
Often you share weird, random facts - about the human body, or a hot pepper, or the reason cacti have ridges. When I ask how you know, sometimes you cite a source, but often you just shrug your little shoulders, smile slightly and say, I just know.
Raising an old soul can be humbling and daunting.
I often wish for half as much confidence in myself as I have in you.

More than confident, you are courageous. You know that you don't have to know what you're doing to try, you don't have to be good at something to enjoy it.

There are things you don't yet know, too.
You still ask me to help match clothes, to double check answers, to remind you of things.
I hope you call me on the phone a decade from now, asking for advice or a favorite recipe.

I want to build walls around you and your brothers, to live inside the blessings of right now forever.
But you want to be in motion, to move forward and up and out, they way you're supposed to go.

At ten, Tucker, you are clearly launching away from us, the way growing kids are meant to do, beginning your ascent into adolescence. May the world be open to your rise.

I love you more than words.


shouldless day

There are a lot of days when I wonder what I've accomplished, wonder where that other sock is. Sometimes I aim for a day when nothing actually needs to get done. Mostly to remind myself that my only goal, really, is to raise happy, kind humans.
Mostly to remind myself what a luxury it is to face long stretches with few transitions. Time to actually look at the faces I love so much.
So we eat apple slices in a cardboard box, name birds out the back window, bundle up to smell the static in the air, shake hands with new ideas, play with pantry staples.
When I relax enough to let go of what I should be doing, I tend to feel calmer and more engaged, imaginative and resourceful, even competent, maybe.


lately, like it is

Over the past few weeks, parenting has felt a bit like the bar scene - everyone is yelling and somebody is fighting and everything is sticky and the same song keeps playing over and over again and occasionally someone throws up.
And somehow it all feels mostly fun.