eyes wide open

Are LMNOP the only fast ones, Mom? 
In terms of singing the alphabet, yes, those letters are the only fast ones, but what about the days?
Summer feels suddenly almost over, like we need to scramble to cram in all the things. This happens every year, but it may be heightened after a pandemic.
The idea of sending the boys back to school - all three of them gone from the house  - gives me pause. 
I will certainly appreciate a few quiet, tidy hours, but I get a little sad thinking about shooing them out the door every day, about losing the texture of their presence in our home.

My thoughts feel mostly suspended - between heartache and possibility, between regret and relief, moving forward and backward at the same time. Meanwhile, the boys are delighting in a fleet of naval vessels built from blocks, awarding one another trophies for invented games and creating self portraits with found objects... I envy these habits of theirs that shape the dull hours, the way they sift pleasure from worry, joy from disappointment, in spite of everything.

At the pool, as Hank flips underwater, I give his body a slight nudge.
Practicing enough means you don't need help anymore, Mom! he exclaims as he comes up for air, eyes wide behind bright goggle lenses.

Practice makes better, for sure. I will find a back-to-school routine baggy enough to live in, and we will fill our remaining summer days with lots of good things.



The dining table is covered with things, stray board game pieces and carpentry sketches and last week's crossword puzzle. I am occasionally tempted to turn on the fan, full blast, and watch everything go into orbit, bandaid wrappers and bagel crumbs and piano sheet music. Graphic novels and nerf darts and water color paints, all of it might swirl near the ceiling, our own personal cosmos? The greasy napkins and the flower petals and the plush finger puppets, the legos and craft projects and tiny plastic soldiers, the stardust of our lives.



Calvin went missing in April, and we decided that while we couldn't replace him, it'd be nice to find Darwin a new playmate. Darwin has basically rid the block of chipmunks, and when he's not actively working rodent control he mostly freelances as an emotional support animal to the boys plus his favorite person, neighbor Deb.

The new kitten was unnamed for weeks, while we crossed our fingers that Darwin wouldn't eat him. We've seen Darwin catch rabbits bigger than this kitten! Good news, Linus has a name now and seems to like living here, and both cats appear to enjoy each other's company. 


summer 2021, brought to us by vaccines

Andy and I celebrated our wedding anniversary last week, our eighteenth lunch at Lindey's after a pandemic pass last summer. 

And then we left Tucker in charge of bedtime one evening to join friends for an intimate farewell dinner.  We hadn't dined inside, with civilized conversation and cloth napkins and fine wine, in ages. I had nearly forgotten the joy of being together without three young men, of seeing Andy through the lens of other people instead of my same old worn out eyes. I had nearly forgotten the way it feels to simply be dressed and put together and ready to leave the house. 

Some humming sense of continuity has returned, and I find myself leaving my phone on the table, sitting on the dock while the boys play in the lake, sweet little potato feet making wet prints on the concrete as they run back to the table for snacks. I don't have pictures of cousins squeezed together in one seat, lollipop sticks protruding from blue lips, of Hank hula-hooping with RoRo in the backyard or of Tolliver's glider trials from the treehouse. Life, for what felt like the longest time, was reduced to survival and domesticity, and now it's more full than I can document.

Finished with weeks of Safety Town and OWjL and a second sailing camp, some combination of the boys and I spend most days down the hill at the municipal pool. An instrument not an ornament, I remind myself sitting on the bottom, pinky extended for an underwater tea party. And again when, arms outstretched to make a ring, we all fall down. I am not the mom poised perfectly at the side of the pool. I am apparently not the mom taking photos of all the things either.

I texted Tucker yesterday, trying to gather everyone for dinner, but he'd been part of an organized egg toss two blocks over and his watch was too sticky to work. It's odd how, after looking at each other head on for an endless series of terrifying months, the children I fretted over are off on their own sunshiny adventures. I'm trying to remember how to balance it all, and to make time to share some of it here. 
And none of it matters really, except in the small, ordinary way that all things can matter.

I did find a picture of the neighborhood posse admiring an assassin bug


tending tender things

May we raise children 
who love the unloved 
things – the dandelion, worms 
and spiderlings. 
Children who sense 
the rose needs the thorn 

& run into rainswept days 
the same way they 
turn toward sun… 

And when they’re grown & someone 
has to speak for those who 
have no voice 

may they draw upon that 
wilder bond, those days of 
tending tender things 

and be the ones.

poem by Nicolette Sowder