Sunday, June 26, 2016

Table Talk

"You're good at wiping," I say. There at the big black table, Myra and I linger a second before church. She wipes the smooth tabletop one-handed, the ease of a full-grown woman.

"Huh?" she says.

"You can wipe off the table better than some of the big kids," I say.

"Oh, I would just watch the big kids," she says. "When Jane was little but still big, when she was like 9 or 10, I would watch her and think I could do that if I practiced." She nods, gives a half shrug, "'Cause practice makes easy." Her voice turns up like a curlicue at the end of a sentence.

"Yup," I say. Practice makes easy. For good or bad, repetition makes automatic like the flick of her small wrist, automatic.


5923. Pasta spirals, bones for broth. Wool yarn.

5924. The children tidy the house before we get home from a date.

5925. Betsy finds the pantry oatmeal bin and eats directly out of it. "Nummy-nummy-nummy," she says.

5926. A friend marries a man from Norway. Mirth ensues, glorious chaos that ends in the married couple stirring the crowd with a broadway song. And best of all they waited for the wedding night to consummate the marriage. You can always tell; it's a different sort of wedding rejoicing tenfold.

5927. A family with a dozen kids (literally) invites us up for an afternoon. The kids go through the high ropes course they have. Fellowship and the adrenaline of trust on the ropes course, we leave exhausted and happy.

5928. A new book, an autobiography of an MD.

5929. I begin to collect economy priced muslin blankets for the baby.

5930. I knit away on a sweater for him, chartreuse green and chocolate brown.

5931. I start to feel his tiny self move inside me more.

5932. Sunday naps wash over the eight of us. The house warm with sunlight, bellies full, sleep envelopes like perfect love.

5933. We await the coming week with open hands ready for work, honor, and worship, nuggets of gold slipped into our pockets.

Sunday, June 19, 2016


"You put more water in here?!" I say.

I tip the ochre yellow bowl, and a swamp of water pools at one side.

"Yeah," Jane says.

"Why?" I say. "The dough is all WET."

"It said add water," she says. I frown at the recipe.

"No, just if it NEEDS it," I say.

"Oh," she says.

I try not to groan, but still something unhappy croaks from my throat.

"Momma, can we talk about this later?" she says. "I'm just having a hard time not feeling like I'm gonna go to pieces."

"Okay," I say. I look across the counter at her, my hands now sticky globs of dough, an unsuccessful attempt at incorporating the extra water.

The bread recipe unwinds into a mass almost impossible to knead. Somehow we muscle it down for 15 minutes then carve it into four loaves. Everyone sort of sighs, but the counters piled high with dishes and flour skiffs, it doesn't really feel like a win.

Later I emerge from discipling Joe to hear Jane on the couch. So I'll cherish the old rugged cross... She sings through all four verses various ones of us joining in the hymn as we scatter dishes, silverware, and food on the table for dinner.

"Okay, Jane, time for dinner," I say.

She holds up a finger. "Just this last verse?" she says. I nod.

Finally we assemble for food. Plates pass and fill. Jane sits by me.

"Ya know," she says, "when I sing hymns, it just calms me down, and then I'm not upset any more. I mean, I'm still tired and hungry but not upset."

"Wow," I say. "That shows that you're fighting a spiritual battle and winning."

"What do you mean?" she says.

"Well, you are fighting with a spiritual weapon and winning, so that means it is a spiritual battle."

"Huh," she says.

"I'm really proud of you. I want to do that more myself," I say. "Makes me really happy to see."

"Huh," she says, but it's like a musical note turning upward, the brightest part of the symphony.  We smile at each other, a bubble buoying us both.

"It's like when you're really tired and hungry," she says, "you feel like you're just gonna shatter and go to pieces, and then later you're like, What? I was gonna cry about THAT?!"

"Yup," I say, and we laugh, and we laugh. Clarity comes like riddle unwound in our laps.


5910. "Does anyone know how to ride a 1,000-wheeler?," Joe says. "Only God," I say. "Oh, yeah," he says.

5911. Fresh tomatoes. Tomatoes just plain. Tomatoes in guacamole. Tomatoes and egg salad. Tomatoes and mozzarella.

5912. Avocados.

5913. Homemade cinnamon rolls and pizza.

5914. A white bowl full of fresh picked cherries.

5915. Dinner with friends. Everyone brings something delicious.

5916. Myra learns to ride a 2-wheel bike with no training wheels.

5917. Craig and I celebrate 16 years of marriage. The children set a beautiful table for us.

5918. Anniversary ginger ale, salted caramel, and peach pie.

5919. Egg salad from fresh eggs and all the fixin's, family encircling the table.

5920. I take special note of Craig and the optimism he spreads over this family like a blanket. Warmth, comfort, and strength ensue.

5921. I attend the funeral of a dear friend's mother, such sweet parting, such bitter loss. Jane comes with me.

5922. All the mess, burden, and busyness of the many children yet it feels light work as we look in their eyes and see a perfectly unique person staring back at us, one built for eternity. Oh, the riches of this work.

Monday, June 13, 2016


"Is this ACTUALLY real?" Joe says. Bible flopped open, The Writing On The Wall rendered across the two pages, he pats the picture. "ACTUALLY real?" he's scrunched up tight against me.

"Yup," I say, "ACTUALLY real."

"SANTA," he says, "is NOT real?" Eyebrows up, his eyes look from one to the other of my eyes.

"Yup," I say. "Santa is NOT."

"Ok," he looks back to the fantastical picture of the giant hand and we read on.

Here in the middle of June and he's still thinking about Santa. I'm glad we told him the truth. Santa's not real. So many miracles. I'd hate for him to think they're all just like Santa.


5897. DISHES. A local thrift store gets in a bunch of the white Corelle Ware we use for dishes. What a gift!!

5897. Craig preforms a wedding for a gal we've knows since she was in pre-school. When you see a couple who has WAITED for the wedding night, it's really something. We bring all the kids to watch the excitement and celebrate.

5898. Dan and Cerissa start their kitchen renovation. It's the most exciting thing in the neighborhood. We talk, laugh, and watch the transformation begin.

5899.We find out the gender of our baby. A BOY. Bliss. We imagine our family with another little BOY around the table.

5900. Waiting on the Lord's provision, we continue to pray for a vehicle that will fit our soon to be larger family.

5901. "We have my parents for dinner. Joe, hands coated in hotdog condiments turns to me. "I have to go poop," he whispers. "How am I gonna wipe?"

5902. I begin to sell all the diapers I bought thinking we *might* be having another girl. I feel a little silly, but I got them for such a great deal, they are going like hotcakes. (Thank-you, Lord!)

5903. I put scare tape up to deter the birds from our garden and try not to fume over the 15 cucumber sprouts and hundreds of bean plants they lopped off.

5904. I find myself declining more and more invitations out of the house to sit and really be with my children. As they've become more independent it's easy to miss actually connecting. There they are becoming real and full people right before my eyes.

5905. Craig brings me marigolds.

5906. We finish school for the year. We celebrate by alphabetizing our library and then eating pie. Summer will be fun.

Sunday, June 5, 2016


"I went even HIGHER on the swing," Joe says. He pants at the corner of the desk, taps his bare chest. I look up, accounting minutia, daily maintenance slid aside for the moment.

"Wow, good job," I say. I lean on an elbow

"Even HIGHER than last night," he says. Somehow he holds his eyes open impossibly long.

"Wow," I say.

"Yeah," he says.

"You're getting grown up," I say. "How'd it feel?"

"Cold," he says. "It's COLD when you go REALLY fast."

"Oh," I say. He flits off as if springs were in his bare feet.

"Mom," he cycles back, "a YELLOW JACKET landed on me, but it DIDN'T sting me."

"Wow," I say. "You are getting really BRAVE," I stare at his eyes, mimic the round unblinking irises. "Why do you think it didn't sting?"

"Maybe," he says, "'cause it put it's back legs UP." He points up with both hands.

"Oh," I say.

"It was on my BACK," he says.

"Oh," I say. "How do you know it was a yellow jacket?"

"'Cause I do," he says.

"Mom," he's back again, "yellow jacket's don't like AIR on them."

"Oh," I say. "How do you know?"

"'Cause I was running REALLY fast and there weren't ANY around," he says.

"Oh," I say.

I blink into his eyes, soak in the tilt of those wide set eyes and the way his feet never stop moving, perfect unending recording running in the back of his mind. We memorize each other. It's love, two memories, tracing the same moment. Devotion ensues.


5889. "Mom," Joe says. "I put hydrogen peroxide on an ant. I got it CLEAN. It did this." He shakes his shoulders.

5890. I discover that you can make your own footless leggings out of the footed ones.

5891. Jane learns to make cinnamon rolls.

5892. My niece graduates high school. Family and friends come together to celebrate on the hottest afternoon yet. Sweet Ellin is so happy.

5893. I overcome a headache triggered by food allergy.

5894. A friend from afar sends me sourdough recipes and our friendship grows.

5895. We continue to lead the children in intentionally loving each other. We take the time to get this right before we reach out to the world. Joy ensues.

5896. Craig and I spend our nights playing canasta and reading more than before. The garden lulls from needing continual attention. We sigh and try to go to bed early.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

The Toilet

"I think cleaning the toilet is one of my favorite things," Myra says.

Crouched over the bathroom sink, mascara wand in hand, I pause and look at her. She stretches out a ponytail holder, watching it a couple of inches from her face. There waiting on the closed toilet for me to refresh her hair, freckles, red hair splayed sideways out of yesterday's ponytail, she stops and blinks at me.

"Wow. Why?" I say.

"I don't know," she chirps.

"Oh," I say. I stare, consider finishing my mascara, but just watch her instead. All set for church except for her hair, I marvel at the electric display, curls grown by sleep and smeared into frizz and knots.

"'Cause, it's sort of like running, ya know," she says.

"Oh," I say. "Running. What do you mean?" She pinches the rubber band with the tips of her fingers, willowly frog like fingers, and stretches the band wide then returns it to size.

"Like how you go for run and you get your energy out," she says. "Like that, cleaning the toilet's like that."

"I see," I say. "Running. Like that."

Common sense. She says these things as if they were self-evident, obvious, pedestrian. And all the while I trace the unexpected arc. Cleaning the toilet is like running, the best; it gets your energy out -- the perfect solution for all those days I have too much energy.


5874. "When you're the pregnant lady, you get more chocolate than other people," I tell Joe. "I know," he says.

5875. Green beans and okra. "These are my favorite," Myra says of the hot dish our friends bring to dinner. "You have to learn to make these," Jack says.

5876. We meet new friends, and they come to dinner. We talk theology, children, and life. It's a feast of words and food.

5877. We discover Betsy is terrible at sharing. We never noticed that all her favorite toys are the ones no one likes, no one except for the guests' kids who liked them too.

5878. A neighbor, expert landscaper, pulls a stump for us. It looks like a miracle, the shaken out stump sitting there next to the sandy hole, not even a leaf of Jack's garden nudged sideways.

5879. We go through the childbirth-like-pains of cleaning the house as a family. It ends with new requirements for the children: don't even ask to play outside if your room isn't clean and your chores aren't immaculate.

5880. The weather gradually becomes warmer and sunnier. Rumors of summer begin to circulate. We finish our last school unit. A last little bit of testing, and we're don'e for the summer.

5881. A dear friend's mother and family friend passes on to heaven. We heave heavy hearts for the loss. Even with the hope of heaven, the pain of loss is so present. In the middle of it all, my parents join us for dinner. It's as if we are all bearing witness to her passing.

5882. Craig and I visit with the neighbors. Jane trails along with us mostly listening but jumping in with humor and comments. I begin to picture her as a grown woman.

5883. With the house tidied and clean everything feels simpler. I make plans to spring clean and give away more stuff.

5884. When our grain mill begins to have problems, we find another one on ebay for a smashing price. It works better than I could have imagined. Jane takes over grinding and bread.

5885. When Craig and I wish we could order in pizza or cheezy sticks, we have fresh bread with garlic butter instead and it's ten times more delicious.

5886. Craig's mom takes me and three of the kids out for the kids' birthdays. Coldstone Creamery, new running shoes, it's a lovely time.

5887. Craig's Grammie celebrates her 101st birthday. She's so happy when we sing Happy Birthday to her.

5888. Another week settles at our feet. We thank the Lord that we are alive and content. We await expectantly on this next season.

Sunday, May 22, 2016


"Hey, why are you being so grumpy?" brow furrowed I raise an eyebrow at Lucy. Slouched at the end of the couch, she huffs and sighs, knees gathered up at her chin.

"I'm not," she says.

"Yeah, you are," I say.

"I don't know," she says.

The other kids milling into the sunroom, they find seats while Lucy stews.

"Well, think about it," I say.

"It just seems like the other kids are telling me what to do and bossing me around," she says. She makes her face placid but narrows her eyes and enfolds irritation at the edges of her mouth.

"No," I say. "That's not it. You've been grumpy about too many different things lately. It's something else. What is it?

"I don't know," she says casting proof across the couch at me.

"Well, think about it. Usually when someone is bothered by a whole bunch of different things, it's actually something else that's causing it all. I'm going to ask you again in a little bit so I want you to be thinking about it, okay?"

"Okay," she shrugs.

We circle in prayer, the usual landing of the day. Kids gather to hug me. They drape and snuggle and wrap their arms around me in an applause of affections.

"Can you wait for just a minute?" I whisper to Lu.

"Okay," she nods.

The children mill out as they came in more like the wind whisping across the yard than a troop of boots.

"Sooo," I say to Lu. "Did you think about it?"

"There's nothing, Mom." she says.

"I know we love each other ALL the time," I say, she looking at me out the the tops of her eyes, "but I was wondering if maybe you haven't been FEELING how much I love you lately." She stares. Blinks. "I was wondering if you just want to sit and snuggle for a while."

In answer she sits next to me, next-next to me, as close and she can sit. My arm slung around her shoulder I pat her knee. The cuddly child, I haven't snuggled her in a very long time. Before long, chatter is running like a drippy faucet.

Though I'm never one to go easy when discipline calls, tonight the answer was this.


5865. My cousin and her five kids come to visit. Pizza and a break from school, it's a party. They can't stay long, and I feel like we could talk forever. Such a treat.

5866. A grain mill! Lori passes an flour mill onto us.

5867. We buy a few buckets of wheat berries from a friend and start a bread making adventure.

5868. I begin brewing sourdough starter on our countertop.

5869. Cerissa and I compare food prep notes.

5870. We almost finish planting the garden. I notice the kids out planning and cultivating their plots with more dedication than I can show my own.

5871. I finally get everything planted in the main garden except a few rows of herbs left for tomorrow.

5872. I finally settle on which independent evaluation to use to close out our school year. We re-assign chores and begin planning for summer.

5873. The next season gradually moves closer. A sense of peace gathers and settles around us.

Sunday, May 15, 2016


"Jaaaaack, Jack!" I call.

"Yeah?" his voice a smudge around the edge of the house.

"Jack, COME here," I call. "There's a really weird SPIDER over here."

"Where?" Myra says. Loping around the yard, she circles past my elbow, and peers, her face six inches closer to the ground than I want mine.

"It has a big white thing on it's back," I say. I point, finger conservatively recoiled. We all stare, Jack, now crouched over the general vicinity of my point, his eyes locked on a small robotic body with white mystery sac.

"Oh," he says. "I think that's a wolf spider."

"Oh," I say,

"They carry their egg sacs on their back." It wriggles around a fresh tilled dirt clod.

"Ew," Myra squeaks.

"And then they carry their babies on their backs. They're really good mothers," Jack says. He cups a hand around the spider's path.

"Huh, that's neat," I say.

"Maybe we should move her so no one steps on her," his eyes never leave the spider.

"Oh, she's pretty fast and smart," I say. "I don't think you need to worry."

"Ok," He watches her a moment more then trots back to his garden, a plot carved out of the old wood pile spot. His garden: homemade stakes and trellises, gnarled, but tilted straight, wound together with twine or yarn, plants nestled in the ground like small children and babies, it's the beginning and end of every day for him. He tends them with the love and tenderness I imagine one day he will show a wife.

They're really good mothers. The thought flutters in my mind; that's what he took away from the science book. We pluck the details that compliment our worldview. And they trickle out, tiny exhales of ideas that frame everything. Invisible as emotions and as powerful as gravity: worldview. This is the unfolding of the human mind.

The unfolding of the human mind is far too grand of a thing to entrust to just anyone. 
~Charlotte Mason on Home Education


5862. I meet a new and already dear friend for coffee.

5863. We take the full girth of Saturday and plant 120 tomatoes in my part of the garden. Everyone pitches in.

5864. As the day wraps up Craig explains to Jack, "Mommy feels love when you spend TIME with her and talk to her. So when you said you wanted to go help Thad with his garden, she felt sad." Crouched over a tomato row, he looks up, "Oooooh." Revelation and sorrow ripple across his face. And mine: acts-of-service-boy is the exact replica of Craig. Mirth.

5865. Lucy turns eight. Lovely and more self-aware, the blissful-years begin the transformation to complexity, exquisite.

5866. As we celebrate, Joey's enthusiasm for ketchup envelopes hands, face, elbow of the person next to him. When he tumbles off the table bench, I warn his tearful self, "I'm going to hug you, but don't put your face on me." Sweet boy.

5867. Craig and I invest in some wheat berries to try our hand at making actual fresh bread. My cousin surprises us with a grain mill she'll pass on to us.

5868. We spend some time with Climbers For Christ. The three older kids rock climb a short but impressive section, and we visit with the founder. He and his wife have 12 kids. Best of all they emanate the love of Christ.

5869. I place five additional plates in our cupboard. They're the ones that never break but always seem to be MIA, the favorites. Five more feels like a lot more.

5870. I make the leap to try stevia in my cooking and get a tiny measuring spoon set to go with it.

5871. Cerissa gives me the recipe for apple-cider-vinegar-lemonade. Rapture! It's so delicious.

5872. I come across a recipe for the world's best coconut brown rice and eat two bowlfuls right out of the pan.

5863. Spring begins to unfurl before us. The old familiar smells and chores fill us with joy. Hours roll by as we work and visit shoulder to shoulder. Phones, TVs, and computers can't seem to find their niche in this world.

5864. Sunday finds us this week with a soft landing. Our house could be tidier, but our hearts are content.