Sunday, September 25, 2016

Measuring





"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.





Gratitude:

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

Life





"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.





Gratitude:

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

Edmund





"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.





Gratitude:

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.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Cursing





"Lucy said that Joe's cursing," Jane calls from the kitchen, the children a tornado of cleaning, Craig just about to leave for church without them.

"What'd he say?" I call back.

"HURRY, we're not gonna make it!" she relays.

"Ahhh," I say. Jane pokes her head around the corner, shrugs.

"I guess that's one person's definition of cursing," she says.

"I guess so," I say. We grin, the joke a ping-pong ball bouncing between us.









Gratitude:

6054. After much searching we find the perfect grain mill to replace our broken one. Pristine condition, LOW price, and buckets of grain to go with it -- it's like a miracle.

6055. We take a road trip to pick it up. Joe perennially comments on all the deer we see, herds and herds of them: actually cows.







6054. After more bathroom stops than you can count, we decide to go back to our old plan: no water until we get home.

6055. I confirm the age old truth: 12 dried apricots in one sitting is WAY TOO MANY.

6056. A Trader Joe's run: chocolate, peanut butter cups, kale, and pure Castile soap.







6057. Betsy releases Jack's praying mantis. I find it -- landed on my neck and scream.

6058. Craig drives home from El Paso, TX in 31 hours with a suburban to fit our soon to be bigger family. We all breathe a huge sigh of relief.

6059. Lucy explains to me that she always though idiotic meant weird. A couple of things she said recently suddenly have more context.







6060. My cousin Claire marries her sweetheart.

6061. The garden explodes in tomatoes. The children rapture with bliss.

6062. Betsy takes note of the new school routines and concludes pencils are the special-est toys of all.

6063. I stay home from church after the dried apricot incident, but the day ends solidly, heart bowed in worship to the Lord.



Sunday, August 28, 2016

Jane





"Hey, honey," I say, phone cradled to my ear. There at a bbq someone lofts a beach ball. It deflects off a picnic table and thuds in the grass next to me. I turn away to focus on the phone. "How's it going?" I say.

"Oh, good," Jane says. A boy in khaki shorts scurries over, grabs the ball, and hoists it over his head. He slaps it back across the yard.

"Everyone being good?" I say to Jane. She, home watching the kids, I called to check in.







"Yeah," she says. "Welllll, actually Joey was being kind of wicked at first, but then he ate and sobered up," she say.

"Ooooh," I say. "Is he being good now?"

"Oh, yeah, he's been being a perfect angel ever since," she says.

The cacophony of adults visiting and children volleying the beach ball all but vanishes as I listen to Jane. She waxes on about Joe and dinner and the kids all helping. I close my eyes and picture our home. Jane, she's a paradox of grace and confidence and yet eager for approval, carefully examined approval.







I'm not sure when the tide turned, but these days she goes after rightness more than pleasure. It's a strange turning, as certain as walking on water, as if everything and nothing depended on our guidance.

Like every great work, we fall on our faces and pray for God to have his way.





Gratitude:

6040. Craig starts decluttering the garage.







6041. We get and load the kids' new spelling program.

6042. Our tomatoes start producing well. Jack goes out and picks them everyday for me.

6043. We make salads for most lunches.

6044. I find a new pair of sunglasses to mitigate my light sensitive eyes.







6045. We settle into the school routine like a trail we've traveled enough times to make the turns without thinking.

6046. I connect with a new friend/missionary in Mexico.

6047. Jack makes zucchini bread with produce from his garden.

6048. I finish Plague by Judy Mikovitz.

6049. I finish all but the arms on a new navy sweater for baby boy.







6050. I buy some fresh, high quality cocoa powder in preparation for fall hot chocolates.

6051. We move Betsy to a big-girl-bed.

6052. My parents celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary. What a cornerstone. What a legacy.

6053. The old familiar turns of fall so close at hand we enjoy the gradual turning of the days. Each season rolls in new, fresh, and familiar.



Sunday, August 21, 2016

Potatoes





"Mom," Jack says, "I put some potatoes in the fruit basket for you," his potatoes, his own, fresh dug from his garden. His head poked in my room, bright freckles and a sky-blue shirt, I smile at him.

"Oh, thanks," I say. Perched on the edge of my bed, I've been staring at the open closet trying to extract something that will fit and look appropriate. The children bustle down the hallway behind Jack. Everyone's prepping for a day at work with Daddy.

"You can use them for whatever you want," he says, "like making chips or fried potatoes or WHATEVER you want." I smile, watch his eyebrows curve around those blue eyes. "'Cause, I like to have a little surprise for you any time I'm gonna be gone," he says. That closet full of clothes and nothing to wear and then this.

"Aw, thanks, Jack."

"Yeah!" he says. With that he clicks the door shut, scampers down the hallway, and soon the house is quiet, just Betsy and me.

All day I think about those potatoes. I fry them up for dinner, split them with Craig. We agree, hands down, the best potatoes. Ever. Could have eaten a whole bushel of them. But the nourishment, that was all Jack.





Gratitude:

6032. We have a garage sale with Pete and Rosie, a huge success.

6033. The kids help Craig move everything back into place in his classroom after the painting is done.

6034. I finish another sweater for baby boy.







6035. And a blanket.

6036. We finish the first week of school. Memories of the self-discipline required for learning begin to re-emerge. It feels good.

6037. We celebrate my mom's birthday.

6038. We celebrate Craig's dad's birthday.

6039. We land on Sunday tired and grateful for rest. It's the long afternoon nap, laundry forgotten on the couch, and bedtime come early.



Sunday, August 14, 2016

Knock-Knock





"Can I do a knock-knock joke on you?" Myra says. "It'll be really quick."

There in fleece jammie shirt and pink running shorts, the only jammie shirt/short combination she could find, Myra laces her fingers together and turns her hands inside out. Knock-kneed, she does a half-squat.

"Okay," I say. There at the table, I lean on my elbows, a book sprawled open and half finished between them.

"It's one that Jane always does on me," she says. She rolls her eyes up and to the left as if tossing a pinball over her shoulder.

"Okay," I smile.

"Knock-knock," she says.

"Who's there?"

"Abraham Lincoln."

"Abraham Lincoln, who?" I say.

"You don't know who Abraham Lincoln is?" she says a grin unspooling. I giggle, Abraham Lincoln, but that grin, wide like a tomato split from ripeness, it lingers past the punchline.

"That's a pretty good one," I say.

"Yeah," she says. I stare, there leaned on an elbow. She blooms and retracts like a geyser, a fountain. She blinks, something slow and quiet. And if simple attention could give nourishment, there it is. In a moment, we've consumed something intimate as breath and formless as water. Manna.

"Okay, go get in bed," I say. And she does.









Gratitude:

6018. Lucy slices a pile of apples from the neighbor's tree. She hums as she fills her bike helmet with the slices to share with cousins out front.







6019. "Jesus," Lucy prays, "I pray you make our country strong and healthy and whole, but not the kind of strong where everyone is cruel."

6020. The kids clean out Craig's shop.

6021. Then, they help him move all the things in his classroom to the middle of the room so the walls can be painted.







6022. Jane tries to "help" one of the other kids more than they want. "Just wait for him to ask for help," I say. "But he has a little problem with pride," she says, "he will never ask for help." We still grant him the dignity or at least the adult correction.

6023. "Thanks for birthing so many hard workers," Craig says to me. Bliss.

6024. We attend a leadership seminar with all of our kids.

6025. We finally FINISH the library, studio, and all the school supplies for starting school tomorrow. Everyone is so excited.







6026. I get a couple of new shirts that stretch all the way around by growing belly.

6027. Chocolate. The simple note of love that a chocolate bar sends.

6028. We make sleep the priority it should be and schedule it into our days as a strict discipline.

6029. I continue to recover from heat exhaustion. Each day I gain a little strength.

6030. We have a special dinner to celebrate the end of summer break and beginning of school. It even includes mac-n-cheese cheetos.

6031. Another year, another season, I note the gradual turning of the days. It's almost as if I could see the ripening of each child.