excessive celebration

Dear Tolliver,

You are, and always have been, so attentive to small details, the way fabric feels against your skin, the insect hovering around a clump of leaves at the side of the street, whose slice of pie is infinitesimally bigger. Your teachers tell us the same thing, about the ways you notice and watch and listen.

I find fascinating the way you can convert your urge to make noise into motion, your acrobatic attempts at silence. You are remarkably speedy, your still body transmuting in an instant to flying muscle.
You've learned that you're capable of handling big feelings, and that it's safe to experience emotional discomfort. Very interested in the precision of an outcome, you seem to have a deep, hard-wired need to be competent. It's hard for most of us to be a beginner at anything.
I admire your perseverance, the way a thought becomes stuck in your head, becomes a big boulder rolling downhill, lord help anyone who wanders in the way. I might admire it even more when you live in your own house.

We celebrated you with pumpkin pie and chocolate mousse and grocery store cupcakes, with a new rock tumbler and new books, with friends and cousins at a football party on the high school turf. You had so much fun. Your dad might've had more.

You love weapons and artifacts, Garfield and Nathan Hale, cheese puffs and peanut butter. You love being outside, carving rocks and cuddling cats and catching balls. And I love you. I love you more than your worst days, your messiest room, your terrible choices, your biggest mistake.

I think you know this, but it bears repeating: I call you my son but you belong first to you, and then in the hearts of so many.

All my love,


So full

The boys visited a flint farm in Licking county earlier this week, collecting rainbow colored rocks to create stone tools. Flint Ridge is an eight-mile vein, long mined by American Indians and still attracting rockhounds today. Tolliver came home with buckets full of Ohio's official gemstone, with a big smile and even bigger spear point dreams. The boys are actively interested in Native Americans and, naturally, the tension in how history has been portrayed. They are beginning to recognize the enduring relationships between people and their territories. They are teaching us to do the same.

We worked through a little six degrees of gratitude exercise, beginning with grandparents who still cook for us at all three houses, moving on to hard work and secure incomes that provide means for groceries year round. We acknowledged the chefs, the shelf stockers and cashiers, extrapolating back to the truck drivers and the asphalt layers and the infrastructure, to the factory workers packaging and butchering, the farmers laboring, the animals and plants and the fields in which things grow. 
Pausing to give thanks like this allows the turkey time to rest and the wine time to breathe (and me to wonder if a parent can envy a dead bird or a bottle, just a little?) Feeling tired, though, means that we are alive, like the trees and the stars, and that we are lucky.

We are so full of gratitude. 
And of turkey and tenderloin, taco soup and lamb stew. Of curiosity and creativity.
May all this thankfulness, and all this learning, be more of a lifestyle, and not just a holiday.


going places

Tucker and I saw Hadestown over the weekend and although I know it is not my place to try to sculpt a particular outcome, I couldn't help but imagine him playing the piano; on stage with the cast, the orchestra on several occasions really stole the show.
Friday evening Tuck went to the middle school dance. He didn't have much to say afterward, but smiled and admitted having fun.
He is suddenly so teenager-y, broody and moody and secretive. Most of the time he moves like he's been mentored by a tortoise, unless he's made his own plans in which case there's a real sense of urgency. 
He is typically surly for the first hour after waking, loquacious before bed. When he does want to talk, he speaks out of what seems like nowhere but what must be a real place inside him. His face contorts, a prelude to words, Where do the egg shells go? (compost, not trash) or What else has Nicholas Cage been in, besides PIG? 
I mean, he's almost thirteen and thinks he knows everything, except he also wonders where to place the stamp on an envelope and what assuage actually means.
He does know that a B minus is not the death of any dreams, and that sometimes failure is actually an option. He gets so engaged in projects that he often forgets to eat, but he's pretty sure he likes his hair shaggy and he always offers to help fold laundry or clean dishes before he heads for a screen. 
He has a questionable sense of direction but also really excellent manners and a big wide open heart.


weather whiplash

We've gone back and forth from shorts to winter coats and gloves to shorts again, all in under a week.
If there was any sort of chromatic crescendo this fall it was short-lived, like the leaves turned brown one day and fell the next. And then it snowed.


quick trip

Treat drinks and gambling, 
history lessons and target practice, 
cattle and catching up with our favorite West Virginia family


the future is outside

Walking in the woods is a little like reading a book, privy to lives different from our own.
Like eavesdropping on a conversation, like companionship, like participation in a larger world. 
The boys drift toward whatever looks interesting, the restorative theater of nature offering tender scenes: light that dapples, a decaying trunk, anything slithery. 
Aside from the chance to recalibrate, the value of paying attention to the environment may be its reminder that we are meant to survive.



rolling up our sleeves

Hank came in the back door this evening and hollered Mom, want to see my bandaid that proves I got the shot?
Waiting sure has been the long work.
After a pandemic-sized hiatus our calendar is beginning to fill with things like choir concerts and winter wrestling. 
And as the little boys begin the vaccine process, finally, we can solidify a family vacation in the desert and imagine more freely everything ahead into which we'll venture forth!



Tolliver dressed (and danced) as Rick Astley
Tucker was working from home / on a zoom meeting
and Hank was Iggy Peck, Architect (a character from his favorite book) carrying blueprints from a real architect and a T square from his art teacher

All three boys had fun at school parties and trick-or-treating with friends, and our candy cabinet is very full.