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.


A few things are possible.

But not everything, not all at once, I remind myself. One thing at a time.

Last week was here for so long. The boys had a couple days off, and then one had a fever so missed even more school, and another was in Washington DC. The election came and went, without a wave, remarkably. It is possible to drown in just a few inches of water though, and my worries still have worries. 

Stay hydrated, listen to excellent music, take a walk, I do the things I know to do.

The house is a conveyor belt, plates of food, piles of clothes, vitamins, permission slips, piano practice, library books. 

Listening to the boys is like scanning the car radio:

Imagine having sixty fingers and toes, Hank says from a reclined position in the tub. You would have fifteen fingers on each hand!

Have you seen the little surfboards you can hold out the car window to ride the wind? Tolliver wonders from across a table of chips and queso. Don't worry, it has a finger leash so you won't lose it.

You know, snakes can learn to behave in response to light cues, Tucker explains, noticing that Darwin comes to the back door when we turn on the patio string.

Is How are you? a dumb question, I wonder. When was the last time anyone on planet Earth has actually been, like, really okay?

The house is a combustible engine, so much pressure in a confined space. The boys burn fuel to create energy, Garfield and Neil Gaiman, burritos and biscuits. I'm not convinced every exhaust gas is evacuated effectively?

What's the grossest flavor of ice cream you can think of? Like octopus with cactus gravy, for example.

If three plus five is the same as four plus four, why aren't three times five and four times four the same?

You know the government of Figi is relocating entire villages, right? To escape rising sea levels?

I take a giant deep breath and bite the inside of my cheek, trying to formulate an answer that is both reassuring and true. 
The most beautiful things about this world don't make the headlines. 
I've been a mother long enough to know how little I know.


long weekend, long hike

We visited Fort Hill Earthworks and Nature Preserve today. The weather this first week of November has been amazing, and our van was the only vehicle in the parking lot, so we basically had dappled sun plus 1300 acres of forest to ourselves. The boys caught crayfish and chatted about moss specimen. We adjusted hiking boot laces and applied multiple bandaids and mentioned the Country Crust donuts waiting back at the car approximately sixty seven times, but we all want to revisit the area soon.


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