Monday, December 11, 2017

Renovations





"And sometimes I probably haven't been the best example," I say.

Nose to nose with Lucy, I gaze into her wide and watery eyes. An almost invisible nod.

"It's probably really easy to see when I do it," I say. "But it's wrong when I do it, and it's wrong when you do it. Will you forgive me?"

She shatters into tears. "Yeah," she says. We both nod arms wrapped in an oaken hug. With that we carry on. With the face of fresh morning she smiles into my eyes.

"Ok," I say. "Let's go out and help finish the dishes."

"Ok," she says and we return as if feathers alit our shoes.









Gratitude:

6448. Mom returns from Montana. All the assurance and love that trails an invisible wake behind her sets my world straight.

6449. Jane has her first babysitting job. She steps into the new responsibility outside of our home with grace and confidence.

6450. I find the perfect tote bag to carry our adventure needs as these children get older.

6451. A dear friend brings me a plate of oxtail.

6452. Another dear friend connects us with Blue Apron and sends us some meals.

6453. Nourishment finds us. I sit in the stillness of this kindness and drink it in.

6454. My dad, like most Saturdays, comes over to help us more on the kitchen. I'm growing fond of seeing him each Saturday.

6455. Bit by bit we work away. Now we do most of our dishes up at the new sink by hand. As we stand, the many of us filling the kitchen, washing dishes, clearing the table, finishing food, I look and marvel that it doesn't feel crowded, just clean and simple. The nine of us being together fills me with nourishment.



Monday, December 4, 2017

Jack





"Yeah," Jack says, "they have bat dung in this one."

"Huh," I say. Me knitting on the couch, leg elevated, Jack attends to my every need, vein surgery finally complete. He pages through a garden magazine.

"It's apparently extremely fertile," he says.

"Like for fertilizer?" I say.

"Yeah," he says. He looks up from the wholesale supply catalogue, "It's extremely fertile." His face leaned out, the remnants of summer freckles still dabbled over the bridge of his nose, all long limbs and angled elbows, he's suddenly a flash of manhood.

"Huh," I say. He smooths a crinkled page, eyes combing the details. I nod, precision and facts a mantle he wears easily.

I soak it in. The straight back and clear eyes, the leisured reading. It's the tic-tic of moments waiting for my leg to heal, and it's the rare and rarer each day, slow moments, the ones you remember 50 years from now. I memorize his countenance and how things are easy between us. And then suddenly I've mentioned hot chocolate and he's loped downstairs to froth up my sixth or eighth cup in two days.

This. These are the days.

Grampa passed away this week. Grief. Such grief. Whole horizons of moments with him gathered up, the memories like these, now, that's what we have left. These best moments, I don't want to miss any of them.





Gratitude:

6446. Grampa. A man who live a good life and left a long legacy. A real class act.






6447. I have a fifth vein surgery. Craig pushes forward on the kitchen remodel so we have running water upstairs. And yet I see the best of memories unfold right in front of me despite the mess, irrespective of inconvenience, oblivious to background and expectation. There. The moment right in front of me. This is the gift of life that one day when the papers, and laundry, socks and hangers, miscellaneous yarn and shoes and child spindrift are all put away I might be full. Full and grateful. Everything else is just props.




Monday, November 27, 2017

Turkey





"Jooooooooeeey," Jack bellows. "Joe is eating ALL the cookies," he says.

Halfway through an elephant documentary, the nine of us lounging across the couch or spilled onto the ground ensconced in quilts and cozies, Craig raises his brow and sighs.

"Joe, how many cookies have you eaten?" he says, the side table weak legged for all the popcorn, cookies, pretzels, dips, crackers, snacks and bowls balanced and skewed over the tabletop. Joe pulls his hand from the gingersnap tin.

"Um, I don't know," he says.

"Hm," we all groan, attention pulled from the elephants to the home docudrama.

"Whelp, then go to the end of the hall," Craig says. "You're definitely in trouble if you don't even know how many you've eaten."

"Oh," he says, his face a chess move, eyes probing Craig's brow for a number.

"Want to try again?" Craig says. "How many cookies did you eat?"

"Maybe twenty?" he says.

"TWENTY?"

All notions of three or four or even ten now dwarfed, eyes ping and pong from Daddy to Joe, we blink.

"Yeah?" Joe says.

"Ok," Craig says. "Go to the end of the hall."

Twenty, just twenty.







"So Zeke and I decided to play with his mummy," Myra says. Sunday morning and we sink into the big red couch, it's wide arms a thick hug around us.

"Oh," I say, George nursing, Myra chattering, her features exaggerated femininity. "What's a mummy?" I say.

"I don't really know," she says, her forehead smooth, her cheeks round apples.

"Hmm," I say.

"It's apparently a little thing made of really special stuff that will shatter if you drop it," she says.

"Ohhhhh," I say.

"Apparently," she says, "and I don't know why, but he got it from co-op."

"Ahhhhh," I say.

And we ohh and ahh, and I listen to George coo and the morning washes over us. Elation and quiet pauses poured out in equal measure.









Gratitude:

6441. Thanksgiving comes and we celebrate with family. I bring potatoes made in the instant pot and everyone brings something and the tabletop seems to go on forever for all the delicious food.

6442. We celebrate communion as a family. Gratitude unspeakable. And yet we celebrate by going around and speaking aloud the things we are thankful for.

6443. Craig and Jane cook a turkey for us the Sunday after. For all the adventures of cooking out of a bathroom, this will live long in my memory. For all it's beautiful appearance, the turkey emerges from the barbecue raw from the waist down. Pink, just pink.







6444. So we scoop out enough drippings to make gravy and eat everything with gravy, tons of gravy. All the side dishes become entres and we eat away. By 11pm the bird is cooked down to it's tippy-tip toes, the children long in bed. So Craig and I eat a second dinner, while we debone the bird. We eat while we work. I pull the cooled gravy out of the fridge and a few potatoes. With grease dripping to our elbows, we eat.

6445. So it is gratitude finds us, the hilarity of a Thanksgiving meal without the bird but gravy filling every crack. And we all reach points of desperation, irritation, exasperation, and stupidity, but there we are all together. The gravity defying act of being all together, it fills every crack. I shake my head for the hilarious miracle and gratitude unbidden rushes in.





Monday, November 20, 2017

Quiet





"Mom?" Joe says.

"Yeah?" The breakfast table splayed with empty oatmeal bowls, I look up from my Bible and coffee, Joe and Betsy paused across the table, picture Bibles flopped open.

"Can you make Betsy be quiet?" he says,

"Hmm," I say.

"I'm trying to listen to you read silently," he says.

"Ah," I say. "Listening to me silently read?"







"Yeah," a nod, eyebrows arced, drawing tiny lines across his forehead.

"Umm," I say.

They lull back to silence and chatter. I slip again into morning devotions, a diver slid into a glass-like lake. Something like communion seeps in between us, what with all that listening to each other silent reading.









Gratitude:

6428. I linger in morning devotions, coffee and oatmeal, the liturgy of peace and clatter like a ship cutting through water.

6429. Craig continues to work away installing cabinets. The opening perfectly built for the pantry some how one inch small, still, he buoys like the bobber on a fishing line, and still, we forge ahead, kind hands of family helping us each step.

6430. George begins saying, "NUM," when something tastes good.







6431. A dutch oven. Green. Wheeee! And all the conversation and thrifting that surrounded it.

6432. The oven installed, countertops on the way, I look at our bathroom/kitchen with the fond affection of vivid memories gradually winding down.

6432. Tea, coconut Hawaiin, a parting gift after an unexpected lunch of homemade food and nourishing conversation.







6433. Two visiting baby wraps come to our home, both extravagantly beautiful. I relish the moments using something so lovely.

6434. Betsy tosses The Adventures of Bobby Coon into the washer and no one notices until it is scrubbed clean with a load of sheets.







6435. A friend and I exchange ideas for Christmas traditions.

6436. I meet a mother in Israel over the sale of a baby wrap, a dear orthodox Jew. I am struck again at how similar mothers all over the world are.

6437. George shows a complete devotion and affection to his blankie.

6438. Betsy continues to attend Craig's weekend Sunday school class intent on mimicking the big kids and succeeding. Peer pressure wins the day.







6439. I remember afresh the sedative of a hot shower before bed and take full advantage as we draw deeper into winter.

6440. The days seem to get fuller and fuller. I feel the margins of daily routines get pressed and squeezed and sometimes eclipsed altogether. I set my mind to preserve those moments between the moments, lucid bubbles where we suddenly know each other, where loyalty and love are born, moments where we listen to each other silently read.



Monday, November 13, 2017

Get Out Here





"Get out here, everyone. Children, everyone come out here," I say. There in my PJs I stand, wool sweater and stripy pants.

Seven thirty and the cogs of the house in motion, children patter down the hallway; two pad up from downstairs.

"Did you not see that my door was closed?" I say.

"Um," Lucy says. Blank stares, nod, almost-nod.

"Yeah?" Myra chirps.

"I had a very hard time falling asleep last night," I say. "Now I almost have a headache. I woke up at 6:30 and thought, Oh good, I can get a little bit more sleep, and I bet I'll be ok. But I couldn't fall asleep with all the noise."

"Oh," they say, "oh."

"Yup," I nod, my eyebrows practically pinned on the ceiling.

"I told the other kids to be quiet," Lucy says.

"And then you were SINGING right outside my door," I say.

"Oh," she says.

"Lucy did clean up the end of the hall," Jane offers. Lucy, a half-smile under furrowed brows, diminutive mock-ups of my staccato-ed brows, shrugs.

"I've been trying to do an extra chore in the mornings to help out," she says, half-shrug.

"Mmm," I say. "That IS nice, Lucy." An appreciative-but-no-thanks-necessary smile, she shrugs again. "Thanks," I say.

"Sure," she says.







Then it's lunch, we're gathered at the old black table.

"I think I need to start practicing piano for longer," Lucy says.

"Oh?" I say.

"Yeah, I have so many songs I'm working on I just don't feel like I can get to them all in half an hour."

"Huh," I say.

"I think I need like maybe 40 minutes," she says.

"That is a very good idea."

And so it is, the arms of time enfold these children and begin to turn from children to something more than a child but not yet adult. I see the teen years will be something altogether different than the expected teenage-ness, something more like the balancing of a scale than the pushing of a bird out of the nest.





Gratitude:

6414. Brisket. Warm, falling apart, crockpot brisket. Meat cascading into soft bread and falling into our mouths like manna. Brisket.

6415. Craig gets the new-old-fashioned farm sing set in place, our rapturous eyes blinking happiness.







6416. Shortbread cookies, the toasted almost black kind.

6417. Craig travels to a conference and back. The kids and I continue the daily routines, the school day blended to real life, and our symphony of life carries on as if our beloved tempos could carry the whole endeavor.

6418. Craig returns home safely and carries on the continuing saga of kitchen remodel as if it were the work he'd been born to do. Adoring eyes watch his every move.

6419. His beard grows long enough to be silky soft.

6420. A dear friend offers to send a lovely wrap for me to try.

6421. Another friend receives terrible news and then horrible news on top of that. The burden is Christlike paradox of both unbearable and weightless. I pray for her trials.







6422. Sad tragedy of a third friend leaves me breathless. I throw myself on the mercy of God. I long for the day when all wrongs are made right. And I feel so grateful for his presence with me now.

6423. I find playing piano more sweet than ever.

6424. Lucy discovers nourishment in music. She plays piano, and it's there. She sings, and it's there. She raises her hands in worship, tender affection of Christ, and it's there. Something sacred lingers, the kind of something that seems too delicate for direct gaze. I hold it in my peripheral and try not to look, all the while staring long and sharing in her nourishment.

6425. Craig buys me barbecue chips. Swoon.

6426. Joe and Betsy help me finish some old chocolate from last Christmas. Joe concludes it's the sickness-curing kind of chocolate.

6427. We settle again into the daily routines like the comfort of favorite clothes. We let the familiar creases pull us down the familiar paths, all the while taken by the loveliness of being together. Minus all the regular struggles, of course. That's still there. But it just seems smaller and smaller each day, it's importance fading like babyhood.



Monday, October 30, 2017

Petals





"Seems people are like, I just really want to change the world," Jane says. She leans an elbow on the back of our 1990's black pick-up truck.

"Yep," I nod. Fall leaves stir in the breeze. We linger, a morning run fresh in our breath.

"But if you reeeeally want to change the world," she says, "you have to be a servant. Seriously, a SERVANT."

"Yes," I say. I watch her talk with her hands, emphasis drawn between her palms.

"'Cause if you aren't serving, you might get glory for yourself, but you aren't even going to get ANY glory for God."

"Yep," I say, autumn astir, we breathe and parse out petals of discovery.


****






"I really like that they are frank," Jane says, our friends, frank people, unusual these days.

"Yeah?" I say. Bedtime, we visit at the end of the hallway. Jammie-clad, we speak in whispers then lapse into full voice as conversation turns and we forget that the little children might wake.

"It's like they aren't afraid of looking stupid," she says.

"I know," I say. "Seems like when people are afraid of looking stupid, everyone looks at them and are like, Oh, well, that DOES look kind of weird. But then someone else will do the same exact thing without even giving a care and everyone will just be like, Well I guess that's fine."

"YES," she says. "It seems like if you do things with a certain amount of confidence," she traces the air, "you can do the most outrageous thing and people are like, Oh, well, I'll take that into consideration."

"Yes," I say. "It's so crazy."

Conversation orbits, twists, interlaces pearls of events, the morning run or bedtime jammies. The events all hang on it's silken string, whole universes. Gravity undone, we don't clatter to the ground.









Gratitude:

6403. We attend a Bible conference with the kids.

6404. We continue to putter ahead on the kitchen remodel. Endurance, we remind ourselves, is not a trait easily won.

6405. Thrifted cashmere. I invent a pattern and make a dozen woolen pants from the thrifted sweaters.







6406. Libby invites the whole sister-in-law clan over for a Tuesday afternoon. Seventeen kids, three adults, everyone heaves a collective sigh of enjoyment.

6407. Jack joins Craig on a work related trip, the men off traveling together.

6408. Craig's dad brings us a roasted chicken.

6409. The kids join me visiting a dear friend. We commune with an afternoon of waffles and tea. She sends me home with homemade Indian food. Bliss. Manna, both the conversation and the food.







6410. We listen to a book on tape all week with the kids, all of us hurrying to finish our work so we can shore up and slip into the reverie of a good story together.

6411. Shoulder to shoulder we work to make good habits in the midst of so many household and cooking inconveniences. Though hand washing and drying dishes, I hear Lucy humming a hymn one night, and the next, a whole smattering of children chattering away as they care for dinner dishes in the basement utility sink.

6412. Craig grows a beard.







6413. I work to find the good things right where I am at. Like low hanging fruit, they are right there in front of my face if only I will open my eyes to see them. I feel foolish for my angst and discontent, and in response, happy. Gratitude begets strength, endurance, fortitude -- happiness the invisible shadow trailing behind them all.



Monday, October 23, 2017

Dates





"Mom," Myra says, "it may have sounded like I was talking harsh to you, but I wasn't." She blinks earnest eyes. "I was just trying to not talk to you with rubber lips like you've been telling me to."

"Ohhhhh," I say. Rubber lips, where you apologize expressionless, noodle limp lips. "That's good, Myra," I say. The end of her apology all grins and giggles, we sit there on the big sleigh bed. We blink into each other's eyes. "You didn't sound harsh," I say.

"Good," she says. It's a date. Every end-of-apology is a date, the sinews of love drawn up tighter.


***






"Jesus," Joe prays, "help me to not be scared in the dark."

The two of us sit in the suburban, the traveling cafe, another end-of-date, there in the front seat, just Joe and me. And just like usual we pray, gather up life worries and hold them up-up high to God.

"'Cause you know I am scared," he says. "We love you, Jesus. Amen."

"Amen," I say. And in that little eddie of moment, that cove where the prayer just sort of recoils, we sit, a slosh of silence washed over us. Then, "Yup," I say, unconscious acknowledgement the simple goodness, prayer. "Yup."

He nods.

And then the afternoon swallows up this tiny moment with the normal pace of normal living as if it's gentle cadence had not just paused to part the universe.









Gratitude:

6397. Prayer. We pray together.

6398. I get a new sweater.

6399. I make wool pants for George out of thrifted sweaters.

6400. Another dear family with seven kids invites us to dinner. Such goodness there. So much fellowship and gladness.









6401. Dad comes Saturday morning to help us with the kitchen. And my brother. And Craig's brother. Again. And still. We all band together, work-work-work until this project is drawn up in completion. All the help and advice is kindness to us. A gift. We are humbled and grateful.

6402. We slide into Sunday, a late, late night for me. Still, tomorrow awaiting my faithfulness in small things, small things that actually define us, I find myself landing grateful and ready for endurance. I pray that the mercy of God makes me patient and kind when I am tired and cranky. I picture this strength and realize I honestly desire it. This, what riches.