Sunday, October 23, 2016


"I woke up at 5:30," Jack says, "and couldn't sleep."

"Yeah," I say, "I heard you get up. I'd just got up to get a drink and couldn't fall asleep." Saturday-morning-family-breakfast, I'd spent the night with a headache. Jack like usual, made the big breakfast, with little additions from everyone else.

"Well," Jack says, "I came out -- and made apple crisp."

"Aw, really? Thanks," I say, his face radiant.

"I sais I would yesterday, but I was too busy making dinner, so I thought I would make make it now."

"Seriously," I say. "Thank. You. So much. I wondered about the cinnamon smell, but now that makes total sense. Thank. You."

He nods. I think about last Sunday him saying, Dad, can I ride with Mom? Ya know, so I can protect her. Protect and provide, it courses through his veins.


"Running errands with Dad is so different than running errands with you," Jane says. Most of Saturday-morning--breakfast cleared and cleaned, we sit at the table bench, back against the table.

"Yeah," I say, "how so?"

"Dad is just like zip-zip-zip, grab this, grab that, in - out," she says. "He doesn't really dwell on things." Gray jersey tee, french braid, loose with sleep, jeans and cowboy boots, she looks like a farm girl.

"He doesn't dwell on things much, huh?" I say. I watch her assemble shoulders and elbows into adult gestures, limbs so much longer than even six months ago.

"He doesn't dwell on them AT ALL," she says. "It's like he can't even see the stuff we didn't come to get." Her eyebrows raised, a pleasant grin mirrors their arc. I laugh. No wonder he's so fast.

"Yep," I say nodding, a grin pulling at my mouth.

"I mean I don't want to look at EVERYTHING, but he doesn't pause AT ALL," she says. She shakes her head, but her face is all pleasant enjoyment. So different. Craig, me. Jane, Jack. The simple bearing witness, sings melody and harmony.


6142. Pictures with a dear, dear friend of Craig and me and my growing belly.

6143. "Your belly just gets more and more prominent each time," Jane says.

6144. "Jack has mastered the art of snarling like a beast where it echoes," she says.

6145. I get a sinus headache that is quenched with saline nasal spray.

6146. Les Miserable and The Singer, The Song, and The Finale, more thrift books for the library.

6147. A new (to me) iron skillet!! Bliss when it comes to cooking a full family breakfast, fried sweet potatoes and all.

6148. We watch the last presidential debate and note the passing of this political season.

6149. Betsy and Joe snuggle while we listen to an audiobook.

6150. The world's floppiest, scruffiest, softest stuffed bunny for baby boy.

6151. I figure out that a little apple cider vinegar can tart-en up apple crip just perfectly.

6152. Myra loses her first tooth.

6153. Leggings, black, the perfect pregnancy-wear.

6154. Darning needles. Sometimes nothing can sub for a good darning needle.

6155. The continual drip, drip, drip of art lessons from my mom.

6156. We take the blessings and the trials one by one. Melody and harmony, we weave them. Faithfulness in the ordinary, the unappreciated, the humble daily grind gradually rises to the surface. We eat it's bread.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

More Dishes

"Why are you COLORING in your Bible?" Myra says. My breakfast half gone, her there at my shoulder, I look up to a wrinkled forehead and blinking eyes.

"She's NOT," Lucy says. "She's circling things that MEAN something to her that day." Lu reaches around and my elbow to grab an empty breakfast plate scattered with cinnamon sugar.

"Like what?" Myra says.

"Like how Caiaphas said that it was better for one man to die for the people than all of them die," I say. "He was actually saying the truth about Jesus even though he didn't realize it."

"Oh," she says, a mental note, an asterisk at the bottom of the page. The day flurries on.


"You can get kind of tired doing that," Jack says next morning. Even before breakfast, a whole box of kindling, he'd chopped it with chisel and hammer. Now we're doing dishes.

"Yeah," I say. I corral spoons sloshed in an overflowed mug, guide them to the dishwasher.

"But if you can sing a hymn while you're doing that, it's not that bad," he says. He slides cheese and eggs and into the fridge, half a loaf of bread into the cupboard, and then back to the fridge with half a gallon of milk.

"Yeah, that's true," I say.

"I just find myself singing when I do stuff like that," he says. Lucy circles back, a bowl under one arm, skiffs of apple inside, the butter dish in hand, butter knives dangling.

"Yeah," she says, "I do that too."

Singing. He finds himself singing.


"Everyone take care of your dishes," Jane shouts. The tail end of breakfast fluttering into the 9:00 hour, we rally the ranks to clean up. Saturday morning and Craig's heading to Costco, kids that are ready can come.

"I can do the dishes for you," Lucy says. She pokes her head out of the kitchen, red plaid rag in hand.

"No," Jane shakes her head, "I KNOW you want to go with Dad too," she says. It's the girls' day for dishes.

"No. No, I can do it," Lucy says, an offering, a small reaching across a chasm.

"No, Lucy," Jane softens her face, countenance, tilts her head.

"Nooo," Lucy galvanizes. Eyes like a surgeon, she searches Jane's face, memorizes terrain beneath the surface. "No, I don't want to go with Dad," she says. "I'll do it." She raises her eyebrows.

Jane smiles. "Are you SURE?"

Lu nods. Jane freezes, then grabs an aqua parka and black goulashes and heads to the door, Craig just out front.

"What about the laundry?" I call after her.

"Oh." She pauses. "Um. Can I just have an extension until I get back?"

"Um," I pause, the perennial laundry pile there on the couch.

"I'll do it!" Lucy shouts. "No, no I'll do it."

"Lucy, you're SPOILING me rotten," Jane says, voice thick. She pauses, eyebrows arched. Their faces open, full like moons, they smile. Something better than affection, Lucy has opened a gate. Trust flows in.


6130. We continue to pray for the baby to not be breech. The children join us.

6131. Jack learns how to start a fire in the fireplace.

6132. Green tea kombucha with melon juice.

6133. Apples. Pears. Buckets of apples, boxes of pears, from the farm, and this after after Gramma's fried chicken.

6134. I continue to sleep exceptionally well for the end of the pregnancy.

6135. The garden finally freezes hard and finishes off most of the harvest. Strangely, the peas and cabbage continue to thrive. I had no idea they were so hardy.

6136. The kids and I meet a group Craig is mentoring at work. They are lovely people. They even thank us for his time.

6137. I finish last minute blankets and diapers before the baby arrives. Jane helps me.

6138. Ham soup with black beans.

6139. We continue to grow in sacrificing and affection. Surprisingly counterintuitive, each gives birth to the other.

6140. We continue to pray for the direction of our country. We pray for revival. We pray for God to give us a better leader than we deserve. We pray to submit and please our Lord. And then, we wait.

6141. Your kingdom come, your will be done.

Sunday, October 9, 2016


"Is it the girls' night for dishes?" I ask.

Chicken soup for dinner -- the kitchen engulfed in pyrex bowls, onions scraps, stock pots, bell pepper cores, chicken bones, and drips and daubs of stock bubbled and smeared around the stovetop, a ladle sideways on the the stove -- Jack and I comb the landscape with our eyes. The dishwasher, mouth yawned open with clean dishes, we both sigh.

"I'm gonna empty the dishwasher for them," he says.

"That would be nice," I say.

"Even though I know I could get away with not," he adds.

At family breakfast he'd marshaled an enterprise of eggs and sausage, apple slices, toast, oatmeal and toppings, the kitchen fired up to capacity. And then he'd done dishes, stroke by stroke, with Myra and Joe.

Work. He unravels it. He dismantles disorder. He takes it one dirty dish at a time and sets the house with cleanness. But, quiet and striking like deadpan humor, he doesn't seem to wait for applause. Something like honor ensues instead.

"I love that about you, Jack," I say.

He smiles, the clank of silverware gathered in his hands.


6119. Craig and the kids bring back bags of apples from his parent's orchard.

6120. The kids keep leaving special bowls of sliced apple for me.

6121. I dress up for a baby shower of a dear friend. "Mom, did you hotten your hair," Joe asks, fascinated that the flat iron can smooth my hair.

6122. Everyone loves the fresh pot of chicken soup.

6123. Betsy fully embraces the trundle bed: night sleep, naps, everything.

6124. I finish a couple more baby swaddling blankets.

6125. We divide up extra house chores and all organize a part of the house.

6126. The kids make plans to bake apple crisp and make cider vinegar.

6127. We spend three out of four nights listening to an audio book by the fire before bed.

6128. We continue to cultivate the truth that serving is the greatest honor.

6129. We continue to take joy in the quite lull before the baby arrives. Six weeks and counting.

Sunday, October 2, 2016


Dear Momma, 
I really love you.Thanks 
to you I think I am getting 
into a groove with my 
school work. I am looking 
forward to a freetime 
infested day tomorrow 
where I work hard then 
I play hard. You are the 
best of mothers.

P.S. I enjoyed talking politics 
with you today. I love 
you. Sleep Well!

Emma Jane

Dear Daddy,
I really enjoyed watching
the debate with you. As USA 
citizens I feel people have
an obligation to vote, or
at least inform themselves,
and many people skip both.
If only God gives us a better 
leader than we deserve...

Dear Momma,
I really enjoyed watching 
the debate with you. I
have no idea how people
will vote for a person
who is mean to people
and will not answer critical
questions. I feel sure the
devil is laying another trap
for our nation. I feel 
like people should at least
inform themselves. As to people
who will not vote, I feel they
must be either acting stupidly or
wickedly. I love you.

Emma Jane

So it begins, the girl is old enough to talk politics. Opinions bloom. And she shares. Most nights we find a note tagged to the bathroom counter, a token, a small vulnerability. Each says the same: Who am I in the world? We watch, trade secrets, and hold tiny pieces of each other like agates collected on the beach.


6112. Jane's notes.

6113. We celebrate the birthdays of extended family. The party, it's where we share stories that have encouraged our faith. Something greater than the stories springs up between them.

6114.  Aunt Rosie takes family pictures of our great big family. Somehow, the whole day comes together with tranquility uncharacteristic of getting eight people properly dressed and smiling pleasantly.

6115. Friends come over to share an evening. We visit and have our favorite things: delicious food, a library of books, the love of Christ, the ebb and flow of small children, conversation that fills in the cracks. They even bring pie, TWO. Blueberry. Bliss.

6116. My parents visit dear, dear friends in Minnesota for their 40th wedding anniversary.

6117. Nighttime temperatures dip and threaten to freeze. The children traipse to the garden between dinner dishes and bedtime and pick it clean. 

6118. A long week ends with everyone on the same page and tired but content, jewels of our home.

Sunday, September 25, 2016


"I remember when I used to not care about my hair," Lucy says.

"Yeah?" I say. It's chore time, the timer set, the children bustling through the daily dishes, laundry, and sweeping. I stand in front of the big kitchen mirror and rake Myra's curls back into a pony.

"I used to think I could go for a morning run with just not even doing a pony," she says.

"Yeah?" I say.

"I mean, now I at least look," she says. The flurry of morning work, I stop to look at her, the tree-climbing, dirt-scuffing, leaf-rolling child. Her own hair drawn back in something similar, almost, to smooth, I see her measure the gap, try to gauge maturity.

"I know what you mean," I say and then turn to Myra. "Your hair looks nice," I say. She nods, scampers off. Then Lucy and I nod to each other, that sliver of shared grown-up knowledge a glint between us.


Then we are at Costco, the eight of us piling out of the car. It's like a clown car, another and another, we spill out into the parking lot. One of the kids buckles Betsy into a cart, Joe next to her.

"Can you unbuckle this?" Joe says to me.

"No," I say.

"Yeah," I hear Lucy somewhere over my shoulder. "You're supposed to put the booster back in the seat," Lu says. "Myra's in the he-did-it-so-I-can stage," she says. I look back. Lucy nods, purses her lips in an upside down arc, then smiles. There it is again, that perpetual measuring. What surprises me are the crinkles of affection around the corners of her eyes.

Myra skips up to Craig and grabs his hand. Lucy smiles at me, and we all head in.


6093. Craig harnesses Jack's silliness tendencies. He puts him in charge of a church small group. He rises to the occasion. Perhaps every class clown should be in charge of something.

6094. A friend passes on four pineapple lamps to us.

6095. We begin tandem puzzles down by the fire.

6096. Craig returns from a four day business trip. We all breathe a sigh of relief.

6097. Jack buys a dowel rod with his own money and makes two arrows out of it for his homemade bow.

6098. "It's like trying to tag a wild buffalo," Jack says as he corners Betsy and puts a bib on her.

6099. We continue to work on actually harboring kind hearts toward each other, not just acting the role.

6100. I connect with a dear friend over photography and the art behind it.

6101. We find a source to buy organic bulk food for our family. The first load comes in and we tuck it away for use in the coming weeks.

6102. The coffee maker breaks. Craig fixes it.

6103. A neighbor graces us with pears, buckets of them.

6104. Soap. Homemade, real ingredient soap -- a whole batch. Love!

6105. I find myself tireder each nigh, but more faithful in the little things.

6106. "I was sort of awestruck," Jane says, "when Daddy asked if anyone knew what a presidential debate was and no one raised their hand." We await the first presidential debate with anticipation.

6107. We continue to make lots of hot chocolate, fresh, homemade: 12-16 oz. milk, 2 T. cocoa powder, 2 T. sugar -- steam together. It's best with foam on top.

6108. We go plum picking.

6109. Jane tells me that when it comes to politics, you have to agree with people on anything you possibly can or they close up like a box.

6110. I notice Jack has converted some red tubing into a sling shot and another bow.

6111. Less than two months now until the new baby. We settle in with excitement and rest for the next season.

Sunday, September 18, 2016


"I let my grasshopper go," Joe says.

"Oh, good," I say. Craig and I look up from reading morning news. Joe talks with his hands. Already this morning they are smudged with dirt, a dark stripe outlining each fingernail.

"I was feeding him today," he says.

"Yeah?" I say. He nods, hands somewhere around his shoulders.

"If two of them are FIGHTING, they are gonna fight and LAY EGGS," he says, his voice a conspiracy, eyebrows buried in his forehead.

"Oooohh," Craig and I say.


Lucy works on schoolwork at kitchen the table.

"Sometimes," she says, "I wish I was her age." I look up from my Bible.

"Jane?" I say.

"What?" she says.

"Are you talking about Jane?" I lean on an elbow and watch her eyes, exaggerated in size compared to the rest of her face.

"No, MYRA," she says. "I know I would have less school if I was her age but less opportunities."

"Yeah," I say.

"Yup," she says. She nods and submits herself to more work.


"Can I have some bread?" Joe asks somewhere between lunch and dinner.

"No," I say.

"Can I have some stale bread crusts then?" he says.

"No," I say.

"Oh," he says. He frowns, but acquiesces, bumping again into our family rule that you should come to meals actually hungry.


The days snap by, flits in flip book -- I barely remember them as they pass, moments light as feathers.  I think of Emily Dickenson: 

Hope is a thing with feathers--
that perches in the soul--
and sings the tune without the words--
and never stops -- at all --

 Indeed. I memorize what I can before it passes.


6078. Craig changes the brake pads and rotors in the suburban. He and Jack spend Saturday masterminding the process and memorizing it. They save us $200.

6079. The kids learn the value of catching up after a foray in slacking. Shortcuts, there are no shortcuts, just delayed burdens.

6080. All that extra work, the regular schedule with feel like summer free time in comparison.

6081. I draft my sweater pattern and try a second round to see if I wrote it right. 

6082. I collect yarn for a third one and more buttons.

6083. I meet a dear friend for coffee.

6084. We have soup bar with my parents. I make a soup. Mom makes a soup. And we mix and match soups and toppings.

6085. Cap-sleeve shirts that are long enough to cover my belly.

6086. Plums. Craig and a couple of kids pick bowls and bowls of plums on the farm.

6087. Tomatoes. "Can I have as many tomatoes as I want as long as I don't go HOGWILD?" Joe says. "Sure," I say. Myra nods over his shoulder and fills her pockets.

6088. "We're getting some of these and pretending they are CANDY BARS," Joe says. He holds up a pear tomato.

6089. I compare notes with another momma who gets headaches. Though far away, the miles feel short.

6090. We finally get the library mostly done. Bliss. We settle in to enjoy it.

6091. The house settles into pockets of order, a coffee table for a puzzle, a sewing table for quilts and bookmarks, a workbench for Craig and Jack, the library. We consider each a great blessing.

6092. We prepare for a season of warm fires and great literature, popcorn and board games, slow evenings and early mornings. We set our minds to work hard and enjoy the moments of rest.

Sunday, September 11, 2016


"I actually sort of like the name Edmund," I say.

"Huh," Jane says. There in the passenger seat next to me, I glance at her. "Of all the Narnia characters," she says, "he's the only one I can really see myself being."

"I know what you mean," I say. It's a sunny afternoon, hot, just enough time to hit a thrift store before the dinner hurrah. Her and I had slipped out. "It's such a redemption story," I say. "First he's the worst character, and then he ends up the most noble, most honorable."

"Yeah," she says. "And I can just see how he doesn't want everyone bossing him around."

"Huh," I say. "Gets us every time."

"Yup," she says. There in the front seat, she seems ten years older.

We complete the loop, thrift store to home, a few books in tow. But best pleasure of all, we trace some immovable principle and note all the same curves. Growing up, it's even better than being born. Complexity takes wings.


6064. Yarn, buckets of discontinued yarn for more sweaters.

6065. I begin to invent a sweater pattern.

6066. The perfect knitting ruler.

6067. More thrifted books and a white mixing bowl.

6068. The kids take over pizza night, and we have it twice in one week.

6069. I make hot chocolate three times this week.

6070. I run into a friend at Trader Joe's, and we compare notes on life's sadnesses.

6071. Craig mows the lawn, and it looks like a soft carpet.

6072. The kids help him on an extra event for church.

6073. I find another A.W. Tozer book.

6074. "Don't you know my love language?" Jack says to Lucy. "Its giving people things." he plops a square of chocolate next to my lunch plate.

6075. This baby seems pounds bigger these past days. I can't imagine another 10 weeks of growing and stretching. I watch, amused, tired. Store clerks comment that I MUST be due any day.

6076. Patience, gentleness, I find the adage true that these gems are not easily mined.

6077. I set my mind to grow in ways that make space for more kind-hearted gentleness and genuine patience. May they mark the fall this year.