more of March

It's spring break and we are navigating the energies of five humans in the house, with venn diagram agendas that do not all intersect. Some of us want to dye Easter eggs, and some of us want to tie up the loose ends of approximately eighty five other projects first, and there are sideways emotions that come as a result.
The sunshine feels medicinal. So do books.

After an entire Saturday at Science Olympiad, on his first actual day off in at least a month, Tucker read All Thirteen, the incredible cave rescue of the Thai boys soccer team. He also studied a video about microtonality, explaining to us later how the space between two music notes is divided into a hundred sections, called cents.

Since the musical, and after a successful audition to join the select choir, Tucker has received plenty of recognition for his vocal skills. His responses have been admirably mature - he seems not at all mixed up about the attention, enjoying both its warmth and its scrutiny, hoping to have fun and to improve. He'll travel with the high school choir to New York City next week.

If you could get rid of one word in the English language, what would it be? Tucker asked, before he sought permission to ride his bike to Scioto Audubon with friends, like all of my answers come easy.

Tolliver continues to fill his days with action verbs. Everything he touches begs to be described by a string of exuberant adjectives. He's been to the flea market and the new ice cream shop, to the hardware store and to Cane's, and has spent hours in the neighbor's garage, sketching and chiseling and sanding wooden weaponry.

City workers came to our door one day last week, mentioning they'd received several reports of a homeless encampment in the woods.  It didn't take long for the yellow vested parks superintendent to recognize the handiwork of imaginative preteens - he made it clear that he'd rather have kids laying accidental claim to city property than inside on screens, and that he was very impressed by evidence of their preparedness to build adequate shelter should the need arise.
When I watch Tollie play with his posse, running through the yard like wild animals and digging up the cookies they've hidden underground near the fort, I am reminded how we all seem to be born with the idea that people are decent.

Mom, you know the truth is sad sometimes, right? Hank asked from the back seat recently, pulling me from my own spread of concerns, spanning elementary to high school to mid-life. I'm not sure if his deep thoughts are particularly acute and possibly temporary, or if we're in this place for the long haul, but lately his brain never rests. Nor does his chatter. 

After having white cheddar shells in his lunch box one day last week, Hank suggested pasta for dinner that evening - because macaroni is like a different noodle species than the other pastas.
Cleaning up a fort this morning, he folded a blanket neatly and explained that he could only get it into sixteenths: I tried for thirty-seconds but it just kept popping open.

Working out the presidential melody for Hail to the Chief, Tuck suggested from the dining room that Hank was using minor chords and trying majors might sound better. Without skipping a beat Hank shifted his fingers and the song rang true.

The screen door is open and loose ends fly everywhere but I notice a momentary symphony of cooperation drifting through the house too. 


older and wiser

professional photographs courtesy C. Clifford, GHHS student



Dear Hank,
Happy Birthday! You have been particularly patient and forgiving this week, in terms of not being the sole center of attention. I will remember your head on my shoulder, asleep through the second half of the show. It reminded me of you as an infant, cheeks like built in pillows. You went to support Tuck three times and have the entire Sound of Music memorized now, can recite every line.

At age eight, there is so much creativity coursing through your body. And so many cartwheels in your mouth. You seem to live in the ready position, with meteoric enthusiasm for nearly every activity - the talent show, another brother event, a trip to the store. I love the way you point your smile out as far as possible, at all the people, at every new idea and invitation. I am fairly certain your aura occupies at least three zip codes and shows up on most seismographs. You play the piano like you're figuring out a puzzle with your whole body. You are friend shaped. 

There is always a pretty big project knocking around in your elementary sized package. I appreciate when you call me to the window for a "beauty emergency," filling my photo stream with bright red cardinals, the fiery sky at dusk, an elaborate, glistening web. Your big brown eyes are particularly attractive, likely because they seek beauty in others, in nature. You are learning that you suffer way more in imagination than in reality. I could write a dictionary of all the words I have used trying to describe what it feels like to be your mom. I look at you and love floods from knees to my neck.

When I forward think your future, I know you will not live alone in a house exploding with bath salts and Squishmallows and cat art. The intensity of being so full of yourself (and I do not mean that in the pejorative, I mean you are literally filled up with your you-ness) is a gift. You are a gift. Even though you were our fourth baby, you may be the one who finally, permanently, reordered the rungs on my priority ladder. The sun set later this evening, hot pink and bright orange, here and gone, and you asked us to sing at exactly 8:04*pm: eight candles on a slice of pizza and an entire palette of possibility ahead.

As you skip off toward whatever lies ahead, as you get to know the galaxies of independence and growing selfhood, may you remember you are cherished beyond measure. 
Please do let me know when you discover how to hold a moonbeam in your hand.

All my love,

* my notes show you were actually born at 9:08pm but I did not want to let you stay up that late


bloom and grow forever

Dear Tucker,

I feel compelled, as the days rush toward yours and hers, toward ours, to notice all the beautiful things.
You do that sort of work year round, seeing things as astonishing down to their very atoms.
I like the way you strive for big goals in life but what I really admire is how you enjoy yourself along the way. As you get older, I do too, and I appreciate that your wonder hasn't been wounded by age. Sometimes you give absent-minded vibes, but I think maybe it's just hope stealing your focus, aiming it at all the possibilities.

This phase of parenting - where you get taller and faster and stronger and way, way smarter than me - is a little confusing and a lot of fun. You introduce me to fascinating new things: books about rhinogrades and Latin guitar music and thrillers like Trap. Everything I learn about you makes me love you more. You do not exalt productivity in the way that some peers seem to do, and you do tend to take procrastination to its limits, learning later is not always a dependable place. I love the relaxed way you excel, never quite seeking to be the best, always aiming only to be yourself. Sometimes you find yourself in a book, the gift of getting a little bit lost - in stories and in the trees and even at your sock drawer. I love watching you find a path to yourself through music and travel, through science and debate. Although you were invited to make a birthday wish list, your epicenter continues to be people, not things. Plus cookies, you did ask for Lion Cub.

You may've been born under a lucky star. For the first few months, life felt like little more than a thin stream of milk connecting my body to yours, a fragile thread of silk holding your sister near us too. Your story began with more character development than most Marvel heroes, and still today you're making courageous choices and championing the rights of friends. The memories you're making right now, in the woods and on the stage, may they feel like jewels sewn into the hem of a coat that might fit forever. There is a long red carpet unfurled in front of you, as you race toward the rest of your life. While you go erringly forward, may you always feel secure and connected to a lineage of people who love you so much.

Your kind heart and your deep intellect and your gorgeous smile grow immeasurably each year.
It is an honor and a privilege to love you into a future where you leave this house for good.
You are fourteen going on fifteen and you are one of our favorite things, as Rolf and always.



the important things

We had dinner with friends over the weekend; as they took our coats and asked how we were doing, I might've looked like a deer in headlights, delaying my response. Nothing is wrong. We are doing FINE. But did they want to hear about all the silly struggles or just about the shiniest spots, the effort to find black combat boots and powder setting makeup or the disappointment around not having an official birthday party, or about air trajectory success at Science Olympiad? About coordinating talent show skits and cakes for auction, or overtime shifts, or sore throats and injured elbows and seeds that did not grow. About how the yard overflows with tweens, too many to fit on the trampoline. About knocks at the door, invitations to the movie theater, to make bath bomb soaps, to ride in street legal race cars, to swim at the indoor pool. There is so much noise in my head, a million tiny details swirling together, that it feels almost impossible to distinguish what actually matters. The pantry is full, the porch railing is full. The calendar is full, our hearts are full. 

I appreciated that the question was quickly amended to How are the important things? That question felt easy, and I knew the answer immediately. The important things are all good. All good!

It turns out our friends enjoyed hearing about the random knight helmet Tolliver found in the woods and the fake fifty dollar bills Tucker put in his pocket for casino night!