about time

I took the boys to Barnes & Noble over the weekend. Tucker asked, for the third or fourth time, flashing the kind of smile that's nearly impossible not to return. He never asks for much. And all three boys had been begging to go since Easter because the bunny left money, and they each know the best place to spend cash is at the book store.
It wasn't what I most wanted to do on Sunday afternoon, but neither were the long list of chores I felt like I needed to tackle. Anyway it's difficult to deny a continued request to shop for books, and we really had a lovely afternoon. In hindsight, I realize the trip was a sweet opportunity to enjoy my children, as well as an easy way to contribute to their happiness, which actually boosted my own.
All three boys donned ball caps, zipped hoodies, tied shoes on feet attached to legs that seemed to have been sized up since the day before. It's hard to embrace the transience, to notice every flash of magnificence amidst the mayhem. Sometimes slowing down is like a magic formula in which the more time you give the more is available. Together we wandered the aisles, sat on the floor to flip pages, carried stacks to the checkout counter.
The boys smiled the whole time. I smiled the whole time too.


mountain mama

I wondered whether Tuck might like to play the piano in the school talent show this year, but he declined, explaining that he really enjoyed going to watch and had little desire to perform.
I love to listen to him play though, find it challenging not to foist my own great ideas upon him. I accepted his disinterest, celebrated holding back the fierce animal of my agenda while allowing Tuck to do things his own way.
But then he was invited to join a neighborhood band - got the summons and borrowed the sheet music on a Wednesday afternoon, auditioning for the show later that same evening.
We heard that Tuck was full of ideas for how to add humor to the song, how to get the audience involved, what to call the band, what to wear. We appreciate another parent looking at Tuck through the lens of potential, sharing time and patience and encouragement. Turns out making music is one of the things that increases the wattage of Tucker's inner light. And being on stage apparently inflates his sense of humor.
The Mountaineers presented a really special rendition of Country Roads at the Bobcat Revue last night. Curious about what the experience felt like to him, Tucker told us he "had a blast!" And we had fun watching him find parts of himself in the process.



Hank likes to go to bed with a plan for dreaming. Sometimes he falls asleep thinking about shape parties or favorite animals, sometimes lollipops.
This morning he woke and explained he'd dreamed of growing bigger.
I dreamed about putting on my own underwear and drinking coffee and drawing with Tucker and Tollie's pencils.




called to notice

One morning last week Tuck peered outside and said: It looks like the trees are performing magic tricks! 

His words awakened me from the trance of daily circumstance, from slicing berries for lunch boxes and spreading jam on bread. That kid is inclined, always, toward joy without special occasion.

Where once the woods out our south windows were swarthy, suddenly sprang tiny green pom-poms on the ends of spindly branches, a yearly miracle.

The season is stunning, but blink and you might miss it.

Last night rain fell in heavy musical drops onto the metal roof that stretches below our bedroom.
This morning the tulip tree's fancy dress puddled in the driveway, pink petals, once soft and suede-like, now brown and bruised.

I am consoled by the first stalks of peony plants, and by the knowledge that summer produce is in the pipeline.
And I am reminded to look around and be amazed right now.


trading cards and canoes, church clothes and chicken pox

Suddenly Tolliver seems like a big kid.

I know that’s a rather strong statement. But HE is a rather strong statement.

He's still a small child too, with bruised shins and coming and going teeth and exposed nerves.

Carrying a fistful of trading cards and a brain full of big ideas, he speaks with the speed of an auctioneer and the confidence of a stockbroker.
And then the next minute he's behaving with the sensitivities of a Jane Austen character, brooding and angsty, a quivering mass of insecurity.

With him, stepping from an idea to its execution can be like stepping into a canoe. A lot of things can go wrong. The way an illustration should look, the way breakfast should or should not have butter, the way the weekend ought to go.

He hates church clothes more than a three year old hates mittens. Last week, before we entered the sanctuary, someone noticed that he might've dressed himself. I'm not sure whether it was the camouflage shorts or the tennis shoes that gave it away.

Sometimes his energy is focused on proving he’s right, often even resisting what’s in his best interest.
Sometimes he is right.

After school one day recently he was in tears because although he asked the classmate to stop, someone on the playground had been continually calling him freckle face. And/or chicken pox.
I try to remind myself, as Tollie gets older and bumps into unkind people (and into the meaner parts of himself) that his prefrontal cortex isn't even connected to the rest of his brain yet. He needs our help sorting this stuff out. He's not really as big as he looks.

But he is so capable.
He is usually very busy, always drawing, stapling, cutting stuff up, always taping and gluing, always making a book. Always rearranging his bedside and counting his dollars and organizing his collections. Always brushing his teeth and choosing his outfit, and practicing his recital piece without being reminded.

He is responsible and creative and hilarious and inquisitive and energetic and friendly.

To Andy, after work: Have you ever had a patient with a fork or a knife sticking out of their eye? 

Outside, noticing spring: All the chlorophyll came back!

Random: What if Mary didn't listen to the angels and just named the baby something like Ichabod?

In the car, driving past donuts: Can we have Team Hortons?

Talking with a friend on the walk to school, about a statue carved at Mammoth Cave, out of, Wait it's not lemonstone, what is it called? Limestone!


a little bit of life lately

building bookshelves and baking pecan pie and addressing baby shower invitations, 
practicing the piano and reading books and break dancing before church, 
unloading the dishwasher and growing romaine lettuce and kicking balls,
among so many other good things not pictured.


brave not perfect

I feel like I may have written about this before, the way Tucker is good at failing, the way he manages to flop spectacularly? Like he's learned, already, that he may get the result he wanted, or he may get a lesson he didn’t know he needed. That either is fine.

At a meeting with district leaders last week, where one of Tuck's teachers also happened to be, I listened to her extoll the amazing ability of the fourth grade class in general to fail wildly, and then to cheerfully go back and try again.
I was grateful to hear from educators whose goals include helping students gather experiences in addition to accumulating successes. I love that even at school, especially at school, Tucker is learning that there is room for a multiplicity of being rights.
I love that Tucker doesn't feel pressure to be sure of anything, but I do want him to feel sure of our home and our family and, most of the time, himself.
Turns out parenting encourages us to exercise the grace of getting things wrong. A lot.
As the oldest, Tuck happens to be at the receiving end of so many of our sorting it outs, breaking trail for little brothers
I don't think we're failing him. I just don't want to mess up too much.



One of my favorite things about spring in this house is the way sunshine spills like stage lights.
Except instead of theater, I think I'm watching sports?


all good things

Tucker sent us to church this morning, the way grandma described it, with Smoky Mountains and Country Roads. He puts his whole body into playing the piano.
And then boys spent the rest of the morning devouring the humor sections of old Reader's Digests; Tolliver had not yet discovered Humor in Uniform, and read that page in every past issue he could locate. Eventually they worked together to submit several of their own jokes and captions and true stories. It may have been a ploy to avoid helping unload the dishwasher, but they were reading and writing and practicing filling out online forms.
Meanwhile Hank helped me candy walnuts for salads and took care of his baby.
This afternoon I escorted the big boys to different baseball clinics and watched Hank navigate a new playground.
Later we stopped at the library before returning home to blow up balloons with baking soda and vinegar, simultaneously giving the marble countertop more stories to tell.

I am not always as good at any of this as I want to be. But I did manage to spend most of today looking at all three of the boys through the lens of potential. They are good at lots of things, and learning to be good at so much more.