Sunday, March 22, 2015

Maple Bars





"Momma, I know we never -- we're not even supposed to THINK about keeping secrets," Myra says.

A casual lunch and she's risen out of her seat, standing on the table bench next to me. I scrape a tortilla chip around the rim of my soup bowl, scoop up chunks of salsa and beans. I glance at Myra.

"What made you think about that?" I say.

"I was just thinking about SECRETS," she says. She leans her hands on the table, peers around me into the kitchen.







"Huh," I say another triangle tortilla scooped full of taco soup. I pop the whole thing in my mouth. It shatters into salt and mango salsa sweetness.

"I think she saw Jack and Lucy whispering by the donuts," Jane says. There wedged between Myra and me, Jane and a bowl of steel cut oats. She ladles the remnants of Sunday breakfast into her mouth.

"Oh," I say. I peer into the kitchen, the stack of maple donuts half gone. Rightly so, though, I gave them for dessert. I picture Jack and Lu whispering over who gets the biggest one.







"What makes YOU feel better Joey?" Myra chirps. She's squatting on the bench now, flower bike shorts and polka-dot shirt. She leans elbows out to the center of the table.

"DONUTS," Joe says. "Donuts make me feel better." He grins. Those wide-set eyes smile at the corners. His spoon slopped to the side of his bowl, a beard of steel cut oats and brown sugar, he grins.

Maple bars. News travels fast. Good news. We share dessert, each maple bar a handle hold on a moment together.









Gratitude:

5656. Jack wrestles the hardest opponent so far. And wins! I bite my fingernails, literally.

5657. A fresh mango, perfectly yellow.

5658. Daffodils and hyacinths, the house full of their scent.

5659. A birthday party for a nephew. Deviled eggs, olives, and bacon. Coffee and donuts.

5660. A package of diapers. Soap for all the kids. Joey blanches joy.

5661. Craig puts up shelves in the greenhouse.

5662. I make an orange scented cleaner using vinegar and orange peels.

5663. We circle up with the kids to pray before bed. All those little hands linked through my elbows, slung over my shoulders, patting the side of my neck, stroking my face -- love encircles us.






Sunday, March 15, 2015

Family Date





"Like eat lots of oatmeal and homemade soup," Jane says.

"And fruit and sandwiches," Jack says.

There in the front seat, the litany of food interrupts my reverie. The car bounds over a humping hill, each cross street a bounce in our path.

"It's like you can't just eat chips all day," Jane says.

"Yeah," says Jack, "except if you're pregnant. Then you can have nachos for lunch every day."







Sunlight, soft through the passenger window filters across my face, more cross streets intersect. We lull to an uphill stop at a red light.

"Well, when you're pregnant," I say, "it's like you can eat good food and throw up or eat not so good and not."

"And you have to eat lots of little meals all day," Jack rallies.

"Yeah, and you're fat anyway," Jane says.

"Yeah," Jack nods.

Craig and I muffle belly laughs in the front, mirth like a ping pong ball volleys between us, our grins like rubber bands stretched beyond return.

We hide our flapping hilarity, disguise our voices with the rolling gait of normal. Still, Jane senses it, something off just a hair.







"Or at least the skin is all stretched out," she says, levity like tiny smile lines crease around her eyes.

Levity, skin, the tissuey crinkle of belly skin stretched and re-stretched around babies ensconces us.  Beauty, like skin all stretched out, creases into smiles.









Gratitude:

5642. Jane makes chocolate chip cookies.

5643. Jack wrestles gold. The family convenes for our weekly wrestling match reunion.

5644. Baby oranges.

5645. Hand-me-down quilting scraps.







5646. Why Revival Tarries by Leonard Ravenhill.

5647. Craig's mom stops by for the posthole digger. "Hi, sweetie," she says.

5648. I have my weekly communion with the women I love.

5649. "We found this in the closet," Myra says as I emerge from my room, bed-head and squinty eyes. She holds up the hook-end of a half gone candy cane.

5649. Pi Day - 3.1415.







5650. We make a family date of buying garden seed.

5651. I begin to knit at a more leisurely pace, frenzied knitting lulled to normal life.

5652. Betsy blows out her diaper which I change on the front seat of the car.

5653. I have my six week postpartum appointment, get a clean bill of health.

5654. Jane finishes her math book; we order the next.

5655. Life gently enfolds us with challenge and love. We hold on to each other.



Sunday, March 8, 2015

Dishes





"I kind of like the books that are harder," I say. Evening dishes and Jane and I talk literature.

"Yeah," she says, she with bowl in one hand, me with a wrung out rag draped mid-air.  "It's not really fun unless you have to work for it," she says.

"Yeah," I say. I stroke the counters with the limp rag. I nod in time with the circles. Bits and toast crumbs lodge in the hot pink weave. She knit the rag for me this past Christmas.

"Sort of like on summer break," she says, "where the first week is fine and then you're like wasting away." We lull like foam between waves of surf.

"Yes," I say, "just like that."







We laugh and lull, then take notice of a smudged plate left out, a dirty fork skid to rest by the coffee maker, gunk in the bottom of the sink. We imitate work, but really it's just a carrier for conversation. We catch the crest of the next wave. Work and love intermingle.









Gratitude:

5629. I knit a baby bootie. When I run out of yarn on the second boot, Mom has extra I can use.

5630. Yarn with ribbon in it.

5631. A new water bottle.

5632. A pillowcase for the body pillow, soft as kitten fur.







5633. Craig raises the greenhouse. "This is really pleasant in here," Lu says.

5634. Hand-me-down quilting magazines.

5635. Jack wrestles his first tournament of the 2015 year.

5636. I start reading RC Sproul's Essential Truths of the Christian Faith.

5637. A neighbor gives us a surplus of steel cut oats and extra hand soap.







5638. Joey takes up vacuuming as a pastime and hobby, the only real "machinery" he can get his hands on.

5639. The children continue to help out with the chores that make our house run smoothly.

5640. Wonderful, Merciful Savior redone by Michael W. Smith.

5641. We trace the glory of God through another week. Our hearts well up in adoration.



Sunday, March 1, 2015

Business





"I'm gonna make oatmeal with plums and sugar," Myra says. Friday and no one made bread, lunch plans collapse and the children have oatmeal.

"Oh," I say from the couch. Betsy nurses. I read. Myra masterminds plum oatmeal.







"I'm not gonna spill ANY sugar," she says, "'cause bugs like stuff that is reaaaaally salty, like sugar." I glance up at her, orange t-shirt and aqua leggings, jean skirt on sideways. She cocks her head. "We don't want ANY bugs in our house," she says.

She shakes her head along the curve of each word. Stork-like limbs and a perfect symmetry of logic, she shrugs. She plunks a white cereal bowl on the table and starts to fill it.

***





Sunday afternoon, and the children retreat to the garden. They dig and dig. They turn up the soil, open big swaths of earth. Down in the corner, Craig builds a greenhouse. I watch, then head inside to warm up.

"Yeah," Lu says.







I'm about to round the corner, but stop, watch her out of the corner of my eye. She spades the earth with her shovel, fishes a rock out and plunks it a bucket.

"Yeah," she says, "but it's our fun money, so we should use it to do something fun together."

The chop of shovels, the plunk of rocks, Craig had offered them a dollar for every bucket of rocks: fun money.







"Or maybe buy seeds," Jack says. He hacks the dirt as if his hoe were a splitting maul. They listen for the tink of rocks. Someone fishes them out. And they talk: fun money. The business of family strings them together.









Gratitude:

5620. Craig splits open his free time and builds me a greenhouse.







5621. Size 4 knitting needles and the perfect pearl buttons for my sweater.

5622. I make sloppy joes. We lack a third of the ingredients so I make up the rest, and it's perfect.

5623. We visit Craig's parents and share a meal together. We linger with Great-Grammie. Three months from now and she'll be 100.

5624. Jack makes peanut butter cookies.







5625. I take my first outing without the baby. Mom drives.

5626. Betsy smiles at me. She smiles and smiles.

5627. I notice the rosemary plant made it through the winter.

5628. We all begin to dream about the garden. Labor and pleasure converge. Shared reverie envelopes us.



Sunday, February 22, 2015

The Fort





"Oh, and I let the kids build a fort in the living room," Craig says, "just so you know." Flopped across the bed, leaned on an elbow, he's come to wake me. Encircling the kids in morning work, he'd let me sleep.

"Oh," I say. "Did they do their jobs?"

"Yeah, it sounded like they were doing them."

"Did you check."

"No, not yet."







Fort-land. It envelopes the living room, anesthetizes the mind, slackens responsibility. We wade out into tent-land. A trunk and a flock of stools hold up roofs of quilts. Chores fade and disappear, that mountain range of dishes far, far off in the distance.

"Um, why is the sink full of dishes?" I say. "Did you empty the dishwasher?"

"Yeah."

"Why didn't you put the dishes in?"

"I don't know."

"Oh."

"Five minutes," Craig says.







Tincel town collapses into the spare parts of living room life. Stools and quilts, a stack of books that held up a wall, the children scamper the planets of their universe back into innocuous life. Chores spring up and gain momentum. The cogs of life creak forward.

"Whose job is the sunroom?" I croak. I peak around the kitchen corner, an espresso basket of coffee in one hand.

"I got it," Jack says. "When I saw your face make expression when you looked in the sunroom," he says, "I thought, I'll just pick that up." He shakes his head, guileless, matter-of-fact.

"I appreciate that," I say.







"Yeah," he nods. Half out of the kitchen, arms laden with more books, he swaggers, carefree.

That night before bed, I find a blue sticky note in my bathroom.

Dear Momma,
     I love you more than ever now.
     Do we have a plan for tomorrow?
     Can I build a fort after breakfast?
     We will clean it up when we are done.
     When you wake up can I make harvest rolls?
     I love you.
     Good night.
                              Love,
                              Jane

Fort-land springs up, a new day dawning and collapses into the work of the day. A miraculous ebb and flow of pleasure pulses like a heartbeat.









Gratitude:

5612. For the first time since Betsy was born, this week gested at routine.

5613. Craig hides a chocolate bar by the toaster for me to find.

5614. Jack starts wrestling practice, pizza waiting for him at home the first night.

5615. Chocolate croissants.







5616. We navigate irritation and tranquility like troughs and peaks of the wide open sea. Peace and resolve settle over us all.

5617. We season lentils with new spices, gourmet.

5618. Cerissa sends over cookie dough balls with the peanut flour I bought.

5619. I listen to Tim Keller preach on the Lord's prayer. Adoration. Prayer takes flight.



Sunday, February 15, 2015

Bedtime

Photo credit: Urban Rose




"I've been really liking First and Second Peter," Jane says. She flops an argyle rice bag into the microwave and closes the door.

"Really?" I say. "About the persecuted church?" Opposite my girl, I lean an elbow on the counter, a plate of peach pie balanced in my hand. I cut the triangle tip off the pie and eat it.

"Yeah," she says. She turns the microwave dial to three minutes, presses start. "I mean, I like listening to Revelation too. I'm just not sure I want to hear about bowls of wrath being poured out and then wake up sweating," she says.

I laugh. She grins. "When you're listening tonight, pick your favorite part, and then tell me about it in the morning," I say.

"Okay," she drawls. "I will." She blinks in time with a slow nod. I eat another mouthful of pie, peach almond filling warm and effusive. Bedtime, it's a three-step watlz with Jane and me.

I ask her in the morning, "So what was your favorite part?"

"Hmm, I can't remember," she says. "I knew before I fell asleep, but now I forgot."

"Oh. Well, listen again tonight," I say.







Then it's bedtime again and the liturgy of jammies and toothpaste. I change the baby. Jane pokes her head in.

"I remember my favorite part," she says, First and Second Peter ambling in the background.

"Oh, what is it?"

"Ahhm, hmmm, I just forgot. Wait," she stares up and to the right, "hmm." I watch her, undivided attention bunching up like a scarf encircling us. "Oh yeah," she says. "It's the part where it says if you are praying, you never have to be afraid."

"Oh," I say. "I like that. I don't remember that part." We nod. An umbilical cord of connection pulses for a moment. "That's really good," I say.

And with that a whole universe folds up like a paper crane between us. Bedtime ensues. Children tumble into bed.

Later, in mind's eye, that paper crane, I pull it out to trace again the folds of love.

If you are praying, you never have to be afraid.





Gratitude:

5603. Spices, the gift of spices. We restock the shelves of flavor.







5604. Jane finishes her stay as kitchen manager. Craig and I agree: we will miss all the pie.

5605. We experience again the special love of family and friends bringing us food and caring for our children.







5606. Betsy eats and sleeps like a champ.

5607. Craig and Jane brine and cook a 25 lb. turkey for the postpartum recovery.







5608. Joey samples my most expensive make-up with an electric toothbrush and a bottle of lotion. It's a total loss. Craig buys me new mascara so I don't have to go out.

5609. He runs all manner of errands, even those with the most exacting detail. Sometimes he comes home with chocolate.







5610. Mom makes our weekly talk date happen nary missing a beat.

5611. We pass the 15 year anniversary of our wedding engagement. Now more than ever, I'm convinced Craig can handle anything with strength and ease. We all lean into him.



Photo credit: Urban Rose

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Baby Betsy

Betsy Kate. 

On time. 

And perfect.























A new life.

Our gratitude overflows.