Sunday, October 4, 2015


Sigh. "Today has just been like a trial and a tribulation," Jane says. She shakes her head, curls swing around her, a bowl of steel cut oats slack at her hand.

"Yeah?" I say. I watch her from the kitchen door, Sunday afternoon bunched up around us. Her daily chore just barely finished: tidy the living and dining room.

"It's like test, test, test," she nods and whirls her hands in a wheel motion. Myra left oatmeal smeared on the table. Lucy splattered water on the floor. Jack didn't put his laundry away. Joe hazed the table in crumbs.

"I think you are doing remarkably well," I say. "It's always hard when you don't get enough sleep."

"It's just like I wish they could be staggered a little," she says. She tilts her head, sighs again.

"I know what you mean," I say. Chores, the act of laying down our lives again and again -- it's serious work.

She scoops a swath of steel cut oats and swipes it into her mouth. She gathers more bites, the tink of her spoon, marking the tock of time.


5587. My parents throw the annual party for summer birthdays. Another round of encouragement and love, it's so good every year.

5588. We take the kids out for bike rides. They burst with bliss.

5589. A neighbor invites us to can pears.

5590. Another neighbor passes on leftovers.

5591. We go on a walk and chit-chat with the people we see.

5592. A friend passes on hand-me-downs.

5593. We continue to step forward confident of God's goodness.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Breakfast and Dinner

"Momma, when are you gonna get up?" Joey says only his head leaned through my bedroom door. "We made you EGGS," he says.

"Pretty soon," I say. I sigh and roll over. He clatters the door shut and shouts down the hallway to Myra. 

"PRETTY SOON," he says.

Pretty soon. I sigh, open the covers like an envelop and slip out. 

Joe pokes his head in again, then whispers in full voice," SHE'S UP," to Myra.

"We made you EGGS," Myra says. 

"Thanks," I say.

"We made you eggs, but we didn't make you toast," she says. "Not to be mean, but 'cause we don't know HOW," she says, shoulders raised, arms protruded in explanation.

"Ahh," I say. "Well, thanks." She can fry an egg but can't make toast. The eggs were delicious; they even had a fat tomato waiting for me.

"Every church day you want me to make me eggs like that?" Myra says.

"Sure," I say.

"Okay! It might be kind of loud," she says, "I'm just telling you. Want me to make them tomorrow?"

One good deed leads to another.


"The house is actually looking pretty good," Jane says. She pats my back. 

Dinner guests. House prep. Four o'clock and I'd forgotten to put potatoes in the crockpot. A new blitz in full gallop, schedule careening: ham, potatoes, and brownies spindling through our shoebox-sized oven; I pause. I force myself look at Jane, feign calmness. 

"Yeah," I nod.

"Just a little more CPR," she says, "and the it'll all be up to snuff."

CPR. House CPR, humor splashes the landscape. All hands on deck, we pump this home to life. A party unfolds. Family communes. We laugh and serve plates high and deep with green salad and ham, potatoes just in time. The butter runs out, but there's plenty of olive oil. Brownies and ice cream.

We eat with the people we love and celebrate the birthdays of our children. By evening's end all the preparation feels like an honor, like making eggs. We cook for the people we love.


5576. A wonderful birthday dinner with family. Everyone takes the time to write cards of encouragement to the children.

5577. I go on a date with Lucy and a walk with Joey. I memorize their luminous faces.

5578. We have a game night with the kids complete with popcorn, cookies, and ice cream. We let loose and be silly.

5579. I come across an old book of Lincoln's speeches. The editor calls Lincoln a humorist. "It is the great humorists who have drawn the truest pictures of human life, because their humor was a constant corrective against one-sidedness." I consider this in light of Craig's knack for humor.

5580. Laundry bags. Three.

5581. I find second-hand snow boots for the kids.

5582. Running shoes.

5583. Jack inundates me with all manner of bug facts.

5584. He finds another praying mantis.

5585. Craig and the kids harvest what they can from the garden before it freezes.

5586. We settle into an autumn pace of life, let the emphasis fall to academics and late afternoon sunlight. Memories of so many autumns before greet us like old friends.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Cucumbers and Bananas

"Thanks for picking a cucumber for me," I say. Joe trots over the backdoor threshold. His three-year-old stride does double time at my elbow. "Thanks," I say. I brush spiny prickles from the cucumber.

"Yeah," he says.

"I think I might give you some of it," I say. I pat the cuke.

"Well," he says, "I actually was kind of wanting ALL of it." He arches his eyebrows and raises his shoulders.

"Oh," I say. "Nope. But I'll probably give you a piece."

"O-kay," he says reminiscent of Alvin and the Chipmunks. We trit-trot inside and build a salad together.


"Can I have a brallilla?" Joe says.

"A what?" I say.

"A brallilla," he says.


"A BRALLILLA," he lopes to the fruit basket and points.

"Oooh," I say, "a BANANA. No, I think I might make banana bread."

"Oh, but I want a banana." he says. "I could maybe peel this one off and you can have these." The bunch now in his arms, he makes as if to peel off one.


"Oh," he sighs. "I wonder why you're not making PIE," he says. I pause and look into his blue seas of eyes. "I wonder why you're not making PIE actually," he says.

"I know," I say. I smile, optimism alights his face. "Me too," I say.

"You SHOULD," he says.

"I might," I say

"'Cause it's YUMMY," he says.

Yummy. Yes. I'm caught in the hurricane of his face. Happiness and expectation turn long arms of conversation. "Pie, huh?"


"We'll see," I say.

So it is, optimism meets me in the morning and at every turn. The unfolding of the human mind is so grand an affair.


5561. A neighbor brings over four bags of garden tomatoes.

5562. Another neighbor gives us four buckets of pears, a tub of grapes, and a lovely afternoon.

5563. New soap.

5564. Craig throws and end-of-summer carnival for the kids at church. Cousins come, and we play.

5565. Craig and I go on a thrift shopping date. I find New Zealand wool yarn for $0.50 a skein and books for $0.29 each.

5566. I learn how to make lemon bars from scratch.

5567. I ferment a couple more gallons of vegetables and start a second gallon of apple cider vinegar.

5568. "Thanks for taking care of us," Jack says as I wash dishes at the sink. "Oh, you're welcome," I sigh, then pause. "I like taking care of you," I say. "That doesn't go unnoticed," he says.

5569. I round the home stretch knitting Betsy's winter jacket. I might have enough yarn left over to knit a bonnet.

5570. We watch the Republican presidential debate. Circled up as a family, it rings in with the excitement of a playoff game. We talk politics like game strategy. Jane doesn't miss a thing.

5571. "What's Planned Parenthood?" Jane wants to know. There at the table, it's lunch, all eyes on me. So, I tell them. Jack and Jane tear up, speechless. Me too. The littles don't seem to notice. "Maybe one of you will be the one to stand up and stop this," I say. Indignation and resolve. Something changes in the room.

5572. We continue to tidy the house.

5573. Jane writes a seven page paper on Clara Barton.

5574. I make stew, then doctor it up with mushrooms sautéed in a stick of butter and rosemary. That plus a little salt, it does the trick.

5575. The house vacillates in varying levels of tidiness, but in each frame, there we are. Unmistakable and unbidden, love springs up between us when we least expect it, the soaring wings of devotion.

Sunday, September 6, 2015


"Do you think I should make this for the fair or just so that I like it," Jane says. She pokes a darning needle through the bald-face of a knit bunny. She pinches the seams tighter and squints at the nose placement. She knit the bunny.

"I don't know," I say. I micro-turn a red yarn-ball, wind away, making a floppy skein into a perfect ball. Neither of us look up.

"'Cause I don't think those are going to be the same thing," she says.

"Yeah," I say.

"Seems like people now a days are like, What's the CUTEST?" she says. "And I'm like, What's the most LITERARY?" She tilts her head, studies a knotted blue eye she's secured on one side, gauges its placement.

"Yep," I say. "Me too."

"The cute stuff usually isn't very literary," she says.

"They like the stuff that's more cute, and you like the stuff that's more REAL," Jack chimes in.

"Yup," Jane says.

"I mean cute's good to an extent..." Jack trails off.

Projects.  Conversation. We sew up the evening in leisure. Jane embroiders the face on her bunny. Lucy crochets a dolly dress. Jack turns a rope into a basket. Myra snuggles into Craig's chest, the two of them slumped into the soft gold couch, limp with sleep. Joe jumps off the table bench, thunks the floor with cannonball weight, grins and tweedles Betsy's belly.

The evening comes in for a soft landing. We work projects and visit. Cute. Literary. We map the world and choose our sides.


5547. Betsy cuts another tooth and rolls and rolls with the agility of a gymnast.

5548. Fall bbq and family gathering.

5549. I start knitting a winter coat for Betsy. A third of the way in, I realize I'm short on yarn. In a flurry I find the very last skein at the yarn shop and buy it up, and on clearance too.

5550. Magic erasers.

5551. Betsy plays peek-a-boo and exerts her opinion with increasing clarity.

5552. The children stray from our school schedule and get in trouble. The next morning I awake to fried eggs, a full breakfast, and repentant hearts.

5553. "You take such good care of me," I tell Jack. "You remind me of your daddy," I say. "Yes," he says under his breath and pumps his fist.

5554. I give all the boys hair cuts.

5555. The weather turns to rain and we eat soup. Chicken soup with barley.

5556. Basil blueberry beet salad, the latest at our kitchen. The kids and I love it.

5557. Fried chicken on the farm and the family that went with it.

5558. Jack dotes on his pet praying mantis.

5559. Rosie sends us a beautiful bouquet of family pics.

5560. We settle into the school year, enrobe in new routines, and make learning our work.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Stand Off

"Well, you BOTH have to work it out with each other," I say. There in the kitchen, Jane crosses her arms.

"But HOW?" she says. She prickles, shrugs off sisterly devotion, and stares at me.

"You BOTH have to actually LOVE the other person," I say.

"But Mom, it won't work," she says. "She won't listen." Slouched on the oatmeal bin opposite her, Lucy frowns, hair wisps around her face. Shoulders sagged, she billows irritation.

"You have FIVE minutes," I say, "then you're BOTH in trouble." I bleep-beep the microwave timer to five minutes. "Solve your problem," I say.

A stockpot of chicken soup bubbles on the stove. I pull barley from the fridge. I shovel soup bowls full, then drown them in broth. Cheese and tortilla chips, I gather the lunch fixin's, let anxiety circle them like wolves.

They posture, circle. Emotion courses. Timer counting down, weight firmly on their shoulders, one finally reaches across that line, lets down all rights to winning. It pierces the bubble. Something better than dominance rushes in.

Three minutes, forty-five seconds. Friendship and humility turn newborn faces toward us.

"I bet you want to hug," I say. I watch the gangle of arms for daggers of resentment. They're just arms and elbows. "Good," I say. "Good job, you guys."

The battle dumped in their laps arises as camaraderie. Conflict resurrects as devotion. We carry on gem in hand.


5536. "God is holding the world with his hands," Myra says. "And the Holy Spirit," Joe says.

5537. "It is cute outside," Joe says. "The wind is cute."

5538. "In heaven you will be a kid," he says to me, "and I think there will be a couch for you to flip off of." He somersaults off the red plaid couch.

5539. Rain. Wildfires ravage though our area. Smoke fills the valleys. Rain finally comes, wipes the air clean.

5540. A couple nuggets of fabric to add to my stash. I plan two or three quilts in my mind.

5541. I get to see my mom.

5542. New jars to ferment vegetables. I do the research and the kids chop the veggies as fast as I can process them.

5543. I finish a sweater and a bonnet for Betsy just before the weather turns. She wears them to church.

5544. I start a new sweater from an old knitting book. It's a vertical knit. I've never done one like that before.

5545. I turn my focus to being a strong but benevolent leader, not mean, not permissive, intentional and immovable.

5546. We come together as a family, each person an irreplaceable piece.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Dinner Prep

"Can I run this over to Logan and Thad's?" Joe says. He holds up a cucumber, pickle sized, thrust up like the bounty it is, snapped fresh from HIS vine.

"Um, sure," I say. The evening sprint to get dinner on the table in full roar, I stop to look at his plaid shorts and shark shirt. Deciding he's passed the visual exam, "Myra, you and Jane can go with him," I say.

"OK," they cheer and peel off formation. Everyone playing a role, I calculate their absence, nod, and they're off.

"Why can't I go?" Lucy says. There, slack at the stove, shoulders sagged, she peers across the room to me.

"I'm going to have you help me set the table," I say.

"What's your reasoning?" she says.

"Well," I say, "I think Myra and Joe can be kind of hard to manage, and I think Jane is a little better at that, because she is older, so I sent her."

"Oh," she says, and with almost no pause, "I guess she is more mature than me." For the sheer guilelessness of her words, I slow in the thrum-drum pulse of dinner prep and look at her, something so still and peaceful.

"You are very mature for your age," I say. I pat her head. She reaches for the dishes. We weave a dinner spread in tandem. Something akin to a gong of love reverberates between us.


5525. Joe jumps and dances circles around Betsy. She giggle her applause.

5526. "You read to go?" Craig asks. "Yeah," Joe says. Dressed in just a button-up shirt, he pauses, shakes his head. "Oh! I forgot my shoes," he says.

5527. The children begin school chores and a sense of order ensues.

5528. I begin rolling all the yarn in the house into balls. Even the old cheap stuff looks jubilant rolled into a perfect ball.

5529. My mom and Craig's dad celebrate birthdays.

5530. Jack's praying mantis dies. The Lord provides another, beloved creature that it is to Jack.

5531. I make friends with a new neighbor on my morning run.

5532. I buy five boxes of books for $20 at a garage sale, two sets of encyclopedias included. Encyclopedias, we've already used both sets. Bliss.

5533. Craig takes me on a date. Thrift shopping and a movie, it's the good ol' days.

5534. We settle into the anticipation of a new school year. Books begin arriving at the house. The children organize their supplies. The privilege of learning buoys us all.

5535. We thank the Lord for another year together.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

The Lake

"Good job, just giving Betsy a quick snuggle," I say, "before finishing your job." Crouched over Betsy,  Jane looks up, her face luminous.

"Thanks, Mom," she says.

"Sure," I say

"Really, thanks,"she says. "I maybe looked like I didn't notice your words, but," she taps her temple, "I did."

I nod. She smiles like a ribbon uncoiling, loping in the wind. She tips her head to me in minute salute and jollies on. The room reverberates from her example.


5522. My mom makes me a quilt for my birthday, my very own handmade quilt. It has linen on the inside and all my favorite colors on the outside. Love.

5523. Craig's parents join us for dinner. My favorite moment is when we all pray before bed with the kids. Each voice sounds a worshipful chorus.

5525. Peaches, fresh peaches. A whole family-sized bowl of them. Sweetness.

5524. We spend a weekend at the lake with family. A whole weekend with one responsibility, love each other, bask in our friendship. Riches.