Several weeks ago Hank emerged from his bedroom dressed entirely in green, from head to toe. I knew immediately that his intent was to camouflage at the nursery, his favorite part of choosing a tree not the actual choosing, but the hide and seek game with his brothers.

Aside from his favorite hoodie, the other thing Tolliver seems to have had on alllll season is a rather old red hat, the kind you picture the narrator of Night Before Christmas in next to Ma with her kerchief. He tends to have something in his hands too, usually a football, sometimes a finger skate board, often a jar of peanut butter.

Meanwhile Tucker wears a near perma-smile (with the occasional and very normal teenaged smirk). His fingers find every nearby piano - at the neighbors' and at his grandparents', improvisational Jingle Bells as regular background noise. 

There are themes in all these pictures, books and rest, Legos and mess, music and paper crafts and pageant costumes and cousins, things that fly and so much time with family, so much love...


so much Decembering!


all the clapping

At some point fairly recently the younger boys began clapping for themselves during piano practice - usually just a couple quick whacks before they're on to the next song. I'm not entirely sure how it started, but I am HERE FOR IT. I wrote a guest essay last summer about the ways I used to encourage my fifth grade students to celebrate. At some point a simple conversation with a few ten year olds resulted in regular Broadway-esque applause in our classroom. I mean, who doesn't love a standing ovation, and why not give one to yourself?

While the boys won't have a formal piano recital until late spring, our neighbor has requested the gift of holiday music at her hors d'oeuvre party later this month, so the house has been full of Christmas-y practice. The calendar has been full too, with recent band and choir and orchestra concerts, plus a field trip to OSU's Celebration of Music. And I am here for all.of.it.



Dear Tolliver,

Your brother turned eleven in Hawaii, and I worried about how you might feel, stuck in Ohio this month.
I shouldn't have, because I'm pretty sure you'd choose the Ohio State / Michigan game over Hawaii every time, win or lose.

The end of November is my annual chance to remind you of your baby self, just a bowling pin of a boy, all round middle and unsteady feet. You seemed, for years, to be built mostly of weapons you had yet to master. Even then, I imagined you running as far and as fast as you could in the direction of your best and happiest dreams. 

For your birthday, what you wanted more than anything, was to skip school. You really like fifth grade (and your teachers and your peers *really* like you). This morning we sent an email to the attendance secretary and took off, your favorite diner for breakfast followed by the geological museum on campus. We hiked at a nature preserve we hadn't visited before, off trail, per usual with you in the lead. We browsed camping gear and enjoyed fried rice for dinner and you had a batting lesson with a baseball coach to cap off the day.

As a preteen, your opinions are often like pellets from a peashooter. And your grin is like a streak of lightning. You have a remarkable sense for household help, absolute competence with some kind of calculated mediocrity, maybe to avoid another assignment?
You are a keeper, Tolliver. A charmer, a striver, a furnace of your own ambition.

You know better than to waste any effort trying to be extraordinary when there are so many better things to be. Be a friend. Be a mirror. Be vulnerable. Behave. You tend to focus on consistent and reliable, and although it may be secondary, you're still extraordinarily impressive in lots of wonderful ways.

I am forever grateful for the bewildering magic of being your mom. I love you so much, buddy, on this birthday and every single day. 
Zero conditions apply.
If I could knit those words to your skin, I would.



Thanksgiving all around

There was neither terrible complexity nor abstract perfection around our Thanksgiving festivities. 
There was red tape and a little bit of travel and a little bit of giving back and a tough loss and not quite enough time with family. And there was, as always, a lot of butter.