Sunday, May 22, 2016

Grumpy





"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.









Gratitude:

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

Husbandry





"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





Gratitude:

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.



Sunday, May 8, 2016

Growing Pains





"There are FOUR," Myra yells. The duck pond glistening just beyond the bridge rail, she points, an exclamation mark emphatic. "Last time there were only three ducks. They had a BABY," she effuses.

"Oh, WOW," I say. We watch them, her excitement a foaming ocean lapping against me as she points and hops and bungles against my shoulder.

"They put their heads in the water like that because they don't want to look at us," she says. All three ducks momentarily troll the shallow water for niblets on the bottom.

"I think they might be eating," I say.







"Oh yeah," she says, "they're eating." One at a time they poke heads up then trollop back down, tails in the air. "OR," she says, "maybe they are scratching their beaks."

"Oh," I say. "I think they're eating."

"But they MIGHT be scratching their beaks," she says.

"Well," I say, "I guess so."

We watch them bob and dive and eventually flap their impossibly orange feet up on shore. Myra sidles as close as possible before they edge back into the water.







***

"Do you remember me rubbing your leg last night?" I say. Now back in the car, the afternoon heat swollen around us, we scroll the windows down, and pull out. Something of a breeze flaps across our sweaty foreheads.

"No," she says.







"Remember you came into my room and asked me to ruby your leg?"

"Oh, yeah," she says, "I forgot because I did my same thing."

"Your same thing?" I say say. In the rearview mirror, I see her hand's out the open window. She's cupping it to the wind.

"Yeah," she says, "remember? I pray and ask if Jesus will make my leg stop hurting, and then I rub it while I fall asleep."

"Oh yeah," I says. "That's good."







"Yeah," she says.

It hadn't seemed my careful massage helped much, but then this newly turned six year old has a way of fixing things herself. These middle born children, these unflappable ones, they're a mystery to me. They quietly formulate answers, blaze trails, and invent solutions without audience or fanfare. They observe more than they bluster. They're almost invisible unless you look directly at them, and they are becoming more rare every day. Strange to have a nation of so few middle borns.









Gratitude:

5853. We go on vacation with extended family. Moments and memories ensue. They glide in on the wings of sea birds. They slurp in with the tide. They glitter and gleam in piles of agates. They howl and crash and encircle us with unending fellowship, mirth, and strength. The children begin to weave the matrix of family. We pull together and find the fabric of family surrounding us.







5854. After numerous beach adventures, treasure hunting unending, trails and waterfalls eternal, we slide/crash/collapse in to our own beds 2:00 am Thursday morning. Since I married Craig, we enjoy everything to the very last possible drop.

5855. Myra turns six. She becomes six as if it were the next very best version of herself. Best of all, she wears it without looking over her own shoulder hinting for compliments.

5856. We celebrate the Mother/Daughter Tea with Craig's mom in his hometown. The featured speaker shares the story of her life. We can hardly blink for how miracle after miracle unfolds in her life.







5857. The children share things they love about their mothers at the tea. "I love that my mom is kind, but she doesn't let me get away with things," Jane writes.

5858. The children gradually settle into their regular routines. We put things away and tidy the house.







5859. "If you stay out playing basketball," Joe advises, "you might get goosebumps." Myra nods. "They don't hurt," he adds.

5860. "The white eggs don't have a yolk," he confides.

5861. As we settle back into routine, we find the break has changed us. All the conversations of loving each other, sacrifice, giving when your tired and hungry and upset, they've made marks on the inside of us. We love each other more. We've made a little deeper groove of sacrifice.







5862. So it is, we give and that makes us love. I pray these bonds grow stronger each day.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Seaweed





"Can you play nine again?" Myra says. Nine, it's a hymn: Before The Throne Of God Above.

"Sure," I say.

En route to church Joe, Betsy, Myra, and I play hymns, a collection, modern but old. Before the throne of God above, I have a strong and perfect plea; a great High Priest whose name is Love, who ever lives and pleads for me... The words peal through the car like tiny bells, like pearls scattered across tile. We listen to them bound and ripple until the car is silent.

"Momma, can you play nine again?" The invisible seam between song and cerulean sky, drooped low through our car, snaps back.

"Sure," I say.

My name is graven on His hands, my name is written on His heart; I know that while with God He stands, no tongue can bid me thence depart. I weave perfect stitches through traffic. Myra in the back, me in the front, the music, as if alive, joins us.







"Nine, Momma," she says.

"Ok," I say.

Because the sinless Savior died, my soul is counted free; for God the Just is satisfied, to look on him and pardon me. The words encircle us with smallness and grandeur.

"You and me, Myra, we're the same," I say. "We like to listen to our favorite ones over and over and over again." I laugh. Those tiny glimmers of exactness, exact copies of me in tiny slivers, I laugh at the likeness.

"Yeah," she says. "It's sort of like the seaweed -- just one more, just one more, just one more."

We laugh and laugh. The seaweed. One afternoon I ate an entire package of seaweed that way. It was so salty and crisp, just one and another and another and the whole entire package disappeared. Delicious. It made me terribly ill, but such extravagance of repetition it's an engine. Myra sees the match. A whole roomful of possibilities and we see the exact same one.

Something tender and in perfect agreement springs up between us.









Gratitude:

5840. "Hey Mom, this needs new batteries," Joe holds up my watch. "Look, it burned out." Between Jane and I we used it until the battery died.

5841. Jack makes us a double batch of peanut butter cookies.

5842. A bag of groceries from Trader Joe's, bliss.

5843. Some new clothes. Spring treasures, a few new things, and we feel like kings.







5844. Craig opens a fb account for me.

5845. We end the week with 147 freshly transplanted tomatoes and change, 16 flats total.

5846. Craig's mom offers to babysit the plants for us. We have pizza and roasted brussel sprouts and homemade vanilla ice cream down on the farm.

5847. "Ya know," Jane says at breakfast, "Now that I know what the Cuban Missile Crisis is, The Cuban Muscle Crisis [a political cartoon in World Magazine] is a lot funnier."

5848. Each of the kids grows a little older, a little more different than each other. I see how they notice and recall events each with their own bent. The difference is striking.







5849. We start taking a family walk after dinner.

5850. We begin praying with the kids for "big" things, things only God can provide. We watch for His hand at work. Whether in the simple or the grand, His presence is everything.

5851. "This is so FUN," Joe says as he lays on a pile of pillows. Betsy squawks her agreement.

5852. "Betsy, where's your baby?!" She frantically searches under the pillows with Joe.

5853. The responsibilities of life lay heavy on us, but joy fills in all the cracks.



Sunday, April 17, 2016

Family Brekfast





"But Mom, it's like dripping in butter," Jane says. One toast in hand, the other leaned against her plate, she frowns. Family breakfast. Every Saturday Jack and Lucy cook eggs and toast for the family. All the rest of us have to do is roust our tired selves from bed.

"How much butter did you use, Jack?" Craig turns to the end of the table, Jack and Joe seated together on an antique toy box.

"Like one and a half sticks," he says.







"Oh," I say, "so 12 tablespoons, 14 pieces of toast, that's less than a tablespoon per piece. That's less than I use."

"Than YOU use?" Craig says.

"Yeah, at restaurants even they give you a tablespoon per piece," I say.

"A tablespoon?!" Craig raises both eyebrows, perfect arcs reaching all the way to the middle of his forehead.

"Yeah," I say.

"'Cause of all the times you've had toast at restaurants," he says. Something ticklish flits across his face.







"Yeah," I say, "you know that one that's shaped like a train, they used to do that. Oh no, they used that paintbrush to put the butter on and THAT was drench." I laugh. "That WAS a long time ago."

"A paintbrush?!" Jack says.

Conversation orbits. I notice Jane poised, toast still in hand.

"Yes, you still have to eat it," I say. She frowns with her shoulders. "You need to show appreciation for the time and the money that went into this."

"Oh," she says. With quiet deliberation she smothers the butter in jelly and slides the egg on top.

"That's actually pretty good," I say. "Jelly and egg on toast, yum."







"Yeah." She forces her manners to take the shape of quiet obedience. She nibbles the crust off, and in gradual turns eats toward the middle. We talk for longer than you'd think possible about that paintbrush in the butter at Frank's Diner. Something akin to resignations gradually ripens and becomes laughter around the table.

"Yeah," she says later, "it wasn't as bad as I though. I just sort of had a bad idea about it." The toast. Breaking fast together, the food is just a prop.









Gratitude:

5826. Our family suburban breaks down. Craig ferries us home in shifts in the little black pick-up. My dad has the car towed with AAA. And in defiance of our panicked emotions, the repair is less than $200. God is so gracious.







5827. Someone blesses us with a special dinner in the middle of the chaos. It's like manna from heaven.

5827. Craig and I make a date of retrieving the car from the mechanic.

5828. We have our garden topsoil tested. The results show almost no nutrient value. We strategize on how to correct it.

5829. Browned butter shortbread cookies in the shape of tin shoulders.







5830. Apple cider vinegar, turns out it can even cure diaper rash.

5831. Lucy gets approval for more eye therapy.

5832. Red bell peppers, black bean noodles.

5833. Lemon soap.

5834. Daniel, Craig, and the cousins tear out two jumbo shrubs at Daniel's house.







5835. Peter takes the big Professional Engineer Exam.

5836. We have a couple for dinner and completely rearrange the dining room in preparation.

5837. We continue to plant and tend seedlings.

5838. Everyone rallies to lift each other up. Immediate and extended family, we feel their loving hands reached toward us.

5839. In the face of true riches all else fades.



Sunday, April 10, 2016

Blood





"If you wash off blood it will come off really fast," Joe says.

"Yep," I say.

"'Cause I poked my finger with a stapler, and blood came out," he says, "and I went in the bathroom, and it washed off REALLY fast," he says.

"Oh," I say.







"But if you squeeze it, blood will STILL come out." He's in teacher mode, eyes round as the moon, his face slanted with the tilt of authority. I watch, perfectly facing his face.

"Yep," I say.

"And I WILL wash it off."

"Yes," I nod. I let his words roll across the room like rice at a wedding, the newness of discovery married to his bright face.









Gratitude:

5836. Craig and I plant two plum trees out front, one golden, one Italian.

5837. I make a new friend, a Christian. It's amazing how the Spirit of God resounds between Christians.

5838. I sprout 172 tomatoes and 54 zinnias. They come up long and leggy. I hope they will get their second set of leaves before I have to transplant.

5839. Our small group meets for our monthly dinner. Such good friends.

5840. Sunny weather continues to bless us, the children deep in the pleasures of basketball.







5841. I eat something I'm allergic to and fall into the deep well of a headache. A night and a day and I emerge. The absence of pain feels like bliss.

5842. A friend has her blood tested for food intolerances and is shocked by the results. I'm intrigued.

5843. Craig takes me on a date to the coffee stand down the road then we head to the greenhouse a little farther down.

5844. I continue to care for my husband and children and find each sacrifice an act of love.



Sunday, April 3, 2016

Basketball





"I can't do it," Lucy says. Basketball under one arm, she frowns an inditement over my basketball instructions.

"Sure you can," I say. "Like this," I position one hand under the ball, the other guiding, and then shoot. Swoosh. "Just practice," I say.

"But I can't do it," she says. She captures the ball and lobs it like a rock. It clatters against the backboard.







"Well, then practice," I say.

"I can't," she says.

"Practice and you will get it."

"BUT I can't do it," she says, her face impenetrable, as if the force of her will could redirect the force of gravity.

"You should probably quit then," I say.

"But I CAN'T do it," she says her shoulders squared up, a tear squeezing out, a huff splayed across the apples of her face, as if helplessness could be blackmail, as if I were a fragile shell of a person and her will could crumple me.







"Ok," I say. "It's time for you to go inside. Put the ball away. Set the timer for ten minutes. And after that, if your attitude is better, you can come back out."

"Oh." Sigh. "Ok." Something of taking the reins over herself, she chases the ball now three houses down the street, dribbles it up, and lopes in the house. Later I find her cheerful, buried in a book, and about half-an-hour of practice behind the other kids. A bur like that in her saddle, she'll be the first one out tomorrow.







It's not the smart or the strong or the clever who win, but the unusual soul who sets their mind to practice. Any talent can be captured by practice.





Gratitude:

5824. We complete our kitchen cooking set with the perfect pot to cook barley. Barley, it fills in all the cracks, makes any meal bigger, basically every large family's dream.

5825. New sewing machine needles. I broke five needles in my last project. The mei tei wrap turned out great, the needles not so much. Now I'm armed with jean grade needles.







5826. Bit by bit the family is finding our way back to physical health. The hacking cough, the terrible sinus and ear pain abating. Health never felt so good.

5827. Craig's brother puts up a basketball hoop, and our children discover they LOVE basketball. The whole neighborhood congregates around this new attraction.

5828. "You have to keep pushing down the ball or it will hit you in the nose," Joe narrates dribbling.

5829. Jane and I invent an ice tea recipe where you make it by the glassful. Delicious.







5830. The weather continues to warm up. The sunlight fills our days and makes long tasks seem light work.

5831. We play Bingo with the kids at the nursing home. Craig's mom runs the game. It's a memory to treasure. Great-Grammie sleeps through the whole thing, and then we visit with her.

5832. With wrestling over Jack resumes his weekend routine of cooking family breakfast on Saturdays.







5833. We continue to study and internalize the concept of practice. It makes me long for the hours I didn't practice piano. Even simple repetition is so pretty to me now.

5834. Practice makes easy. I find myself saying this again and again. A simple antidote, an impenetrable fortress.

5835. Another week, thank-you Lord Jesus.