a tiny anchor

Last spring, while most of the world was closed, we opened a book for family read aloud.
There may be some privilege connected to a positive quarantine experience, but I think we can acknowledge a good thing here. Throughout this entire ordeal our family ranked pretty low in the hierarchy of suffering. Sure we didn’t get to play baseball or take ballet, to tailgate or shop at Target. We cancelled nearly everything, for more than a year, out of necessary regard for the fragility of life. I hesitate to take time and space to explain what it was like to spend twenty four hours a day in our home, all our nice clothes hanging frozen in time, all the earth's patience summoned every evening for bedtime.  
We've always read to the boys at night, but never all five of us together.
We began last March with My Side of the Mountain, and since that trilogy have enjoyed Kate DiCamillo's Tale of Despereaux and Edward Tulane, several books by Lois Lowry and recently, William Steig's Dominic. Each novel has sparked conversation and connection. We've looked up vocabulary words and wondered about authors' inspiration. We've appreciated characters' resolve to do what's right, even without the reassurance of a happy ending.

Tolliver usually sprawls across the piano bench, Hank smashes against me on the couch, and Tucker, despite being a preteen, is still all in. I'm writing about it now mostly because I know this won't last forever. All winter the fire place burned and it felt nice to gather around the heat while the days were dark and cold and we were mostly stuck inside. For me, reading aloud was an exquisite distraction from the agony of figuring out pandemic school or ordering groceries via click and collect. It's light outside later now, and more things have begun to pull us in different directions. Yet, the boys wanted to start a new chapter book tonight. It's fantasy, which is far from my favorite, but family read aloud has a way of making life feel serene and buoyant, as if everything could float if you let it.


our rising 7th grader

There is a jar for collecting metal bits on his dresser and at least a dozen books in progress near his bed. He still tolerates public displays of affection, and his eyes make me feel like there's something worthwhile in the brown of mine too. He has really excellent manners and wild dreams and the biggest wide-open heart.


"It's nature!"

Mom, I have a surprise for you in my pants!
I'll give you one hint: It's nature.


about the blog

She believed she would write and she almost did but someone asked for another snack and she forgot.


most days

My role is not glamorous, my accomplishments not gasp-worthy. 
I figure out how to use last night's leftover potatoes in breakfast hash, run warm water in the bathtub, toss dirty clothes in the machine, basically hold shit together on the homefront.
Balancing the chores of today with the dreams of a lifetime, doing all the things for invisible applause, 
it may be incredibly prosaic but it's also, most days, extraordinarily life-giving.


rendering time habitable

There are several small projects happening here, initiatives the boys have undertaken on their own, only occasionally asking for help.

Tucker has a few prototypes under development for his current favorite game, Hive. He's cut and glued hexagons from cardboard, layering to create real game piece dimensions. He's read and reread Uncle Kevin's strategy manual, and discussed potential improvements to new designs with a fellow gamer when they meet, masked, to play at the park.

Tolliver recently visited the Army surplus store and chose the helmet of his dreams. He's been generously given a real Marine backpack and an authentic wool blanket. There are currently tent encampments downstairs, and frequent pretend battles in the driveway with the protection of giant mulch bag barricades.

Hank saw an enormous metal palm tree at the neighbor's garage sale last week, and decided he wanted to turn his bedroom into a jungle. He began with several tall brown bag trees taped to the back of his door, and has since added parrots and monkeys and a brightly colored sun.

Each of the boys spend part - if not most - of every day happy. 
And so do I.


a finish line

Everyone has had a different pandemic. 

Tolliver finished third grade at home today. It's been a roller coaster for all of us, except not a very fun one.

He did the work, and he did not lose his sense of curiosity, and he asked to celebrate by burning his papers.

Tomorrow he's heading straight to a place of play.


something beyond math

Hank spent the morning sorting number tiles into equations, trying to match factors with products.
I worked near him, preparing vegetables to stir fry later for dinner, offering an occasional suggestion when he seemed stuck. He wondered aloud about nineteen, about why it couldn't be an answer, perseverating on the problem before heading outside in pajamas to join his brothers in a water balloon battle.

This evening we wandered downtown Columbus together, befriending the boredom byproduct of an older brother's activity. He learned at least three new words, pausing to ask what each meant after I'd used them in an observation: biodegradable, as it related to his apple core; mural, as he pointed at brightly colored art along fences; barricade, as we squeezed between sidewalk construction and oncoming traffic. Holding hands, he tried using each term on his own while I admired the way he balances relaxed confidence with realistic room for not knowing.

I'm afraid I'll never master the existential math of time spent or saved or wasted. Still - multiplication facts and kitchen chores, vocabulary acquisition and urban exploration - there was something about today's presence plus productivity that leaves me feeling like there's no shortage of good days ahead.