Sunday, May 24, 2015

The Boy

"Joey, could you kill that for me?" I say.

I gesture with my elbow to a gangly-legged spider on the sill. Betsy in arms, she nurses through the jostle. If Joe were a puppy, his ears would be perked straight up. He furrows his brow, zeros in on the spider.

"Yeah," he says. Two strides to the window, one bear-ish swipe, and he smooshes the arachnid. "Did it," he says. He pinches up the leggy remains. "Gonna throw it away," he says.

"Thanks, Joe." He's half way to the kitchen, stalled out studying the black crumple. I call after him. "You are brave," I say. He frowns, looks up, cocks his puppy head.

"'AM," he says, the monosyllable a boulder clunking from his mouth. With the seriousness of a knighting we nod.

"Yeah," I say, but really I'm just keeping time to the synchronous nodding between. "Yup," I say. That masculine matrix resounding, I memorize that face, courage unfettered.


5917. Craig makes waffles for breakfast.

5918. Joe fills his M&M wrapper with Play-Doh.

5919. Coral chair and hand-me-down-yarn.

5920. We celebrate Great-Grammie's 100th birthday. Everyone sings her favorite hymn: How Great Thou Art. Ribbons of harmony encircle us. I've always wished I could sing harmony.

5921. Yellow scrubby dishrag yarn.

5922. The mind is the lackey of the heart. I mull over John Piper's words on my morning run.

5923. We buckle down on chores. Everyone strains against the reigns of discipline and then embraces the freedom.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

A Gift

"You really don't enjoy a thing unless you know the person who gave it," Lucy says. A pile of doll clothes on her lap, she strokes a navy blue onesie. "And that they didn't have to," she says.

"Yup," I say. Dolly clothes, a birthday present.

"They just want to, and they hope you enjoy it," she says. She shakes her head.

I nod. Gratitude and spontaniaty hold hands like old pals.


"Do you hear that noise?" Myra says.

I pause at Betsy's seatbelt. Crickets chirp. "Yeah," I say.

"What IS that?" she says. Myra and Joe stand like small statutes, ears perked to crickets. I pull Betsy's arms through the tiny belts, the sun a symphony around us.

"It's crickets," I say.

"Oooooohh," Myra says, her head swiveled back like a baby bird. "I thought it was coyotes," she says. I shut the car door, Betsy slung over an arm. I stretch a pink knit blanket around her and remotely lock the car.

"Nope," I say. I reach for Joe's hand and the three of us fall into step.

"'Cause when I hear-ed the coyotes before it sounded just like that," she say.

"Oooohh," I say. "Nope."

The sidewalk suddenly at an end we all stop and then at my signal, trit-trott across the street.


"This is a-MAZing grace," Jack sings. "This is un-FAILing looove." Betsy, there in his arms, he sings in almost-melody. Broad shoulders stretched tight with muscles, he holds Betsy and sings to her.

The other the children gather swimsuits and towels. Bare feet scamper down the hallway. But Betsy eclipses them all. Jack hardly sees them, just Betsy's blue eyes.

He sits down on the hearth and other children join the song. A chorus encircles us.

This is a-MAZing grace. This is un-FAILing loOOove.

Amazing grace. Unfailing love. When we chose a big family I didn't know it would look like this.


5906. I finally get the hang of knitting baby booties. I knit two pairs and start a third.

5907. We plan out our summer schedule and chores.

5908. Myra says she doesn't like peanut butter. "But that's ok," she says, "I'll learn to like it."

5909. I continue reading and researching a variety of topics and find great peace in the result.

5910. I transplant 51 zinnias and prepare 50 marigold to transplant next week.

5911. Jack recovers after Joe smashes his spider.

5912. I play chess with Craig. It ends in a stalemate (a non-loss!!).

5913. Craig stains a fence out back.

5914. Myra and Lucy both have birthdays (5 years old and 7 years old).

5915. "Momma, I have MORE chives. I am ABLE to get more of those," Joe says. He pokes them into the table bouquet.

5916. We work in the yard and in the house, our lives entwined with each other. A cord of security and friendship forms between us.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

A Bite

"Joey, don't forget to give me a little bite of it," Myra says.

Myra bobs behind me as I whisk through the house. Blankets and pajamas, mismatched socks, the bathroom rug, a rumpled quilt -- vestiges of a flu bug spill from the laundry. I step around a stack of dirty clothes, but Myra stays behind.

"Joe-Joe, don't forget," she whispers in chime-voice.

Joey, spectacle-of-the-morning, stayed dry all night, and as per usual, had claimed his candy treat. Reeces there, smeared around his lips, he halts.

"Myra, you're sick," I say. Everyone stops, including me now wheeled around watching them. Willowy red-head, blue eyes blank as the empty sky, blink-blinks back at me.

Then, as if to mitigate disaster, Joe snaps the Reeces in half, gestures to Myra.

"Here, that mean her not sick," he says. Medicine. Love is medicine.

Joe almost always gives half of his candy to Myra.


5898. I begin knitting baby booties. The first two flop. The third is looking good.

5899. Craig takes me on a Mother's Day date. There in the Mexican restaurant I fix in my mind the ochre yellow and sky blue of the walls, the cinnamon horchata. Then we run errands. Perfect.

5900. The children make me Mother's day cards.

5901. Craig buys me a peony.

5902. I begin playing chess again.

5903. Yarn new, new yarn. I rub the soft skeins against my face.

5904. Craig stains the garden arbor and the new dresser he made.

5905. Life settles into a fresh and gentle rhythm, something new.

Monday, May 4, 2015

The Flu

When the flu hits, our bathroom is the loft of recovery.


5896. Craig is home after a week out of town.

5897. The flu bug is very nearly vanquished from our house.

Sunday, April 26, 2015


"Unlock that," I say.

Craig just into the garage, Joe snapped the deadbolt. There, at the garage door, he hangs on the crook of the door handle. He swings his head back far enough to see me.

"He is like part animal," Jane says. There across the table from me, we watch Joe. He's just beyond a scatter of soup bowls and miscellaneous grated cheese, dinner clean-up.

"Unlock," I call again, through the cacophony of dishes.

Joe holds me in peripheral vision then reaches up, snaps the deadbolt back.

"It's like when he's eating oatmeal," Jane says, "and I predict he's gonna grunt, and then he does."

"Uh-huh," I laugh. I grin at Jane, then turn just in time to see Craig in from the garage and catch Joe's smile.

"He's always grunting and growling," Jane says.


Then it's Sunday morning there at the table. I gobble up honey toast. Myra wipes down breakfast crumbs and oatmeal smears.

"You're getting good at that," I say. She holds the cloth just perfect guiding it over every inch in systematic fashion, doubling up on messy parts.

"Reeeealy?" she says.

"Yeah," I say.

"Thanks, I've been watching Jane," she says. "Ew, that part's still dirty." Head tilted, she checks the table reflection, then polishes it clean.

I lick a honey drip off my thumb and pop the last corner of toast into my mouth. I note again that when you lead one, you lead all. Ripples of influence surround us all.


5684. We begin planning summer art lessons.

5685. We spend time with Craig's parents while he installs a kitchen faucet for them.

5686. I find a pair of flip flops for summer.

5687. Pizza and salad night, chocolate chip cookies for dessert.

5688. I transplant 70 tomato plants and a handful of marigolds. I soak in the sun with the baby plants.

5689. We eat a late lunch, multiple children in trouble, straining to be sweet. "When the manger's empty, the horses bite each other," Jane comments. Full bellies feel so good.

5690. Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. We listen to Andy Stanley teach on this. The children begin to grab on and understand.

5691. "You've seen me struggle," I say. "I'm not perfect. You don't love me less, do you?" Jane shakes her head. "I don't love you less either. I just love you," I say, "even when you struggle." We hold each other in a long hug, love, a pulse between us.

5692. Joe drapes himself over my shoulders, presses his cheek to mine.

5693. Craig builds me a bedside table out of an old dresser and barbecues gourmet burgers in his free time.

5694. I embrace again reading for pleasure and knowledge.

5695. The week closes with a sense of purpose as if every footstep mattered. Indeed. Influence encircles us.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Noodles and Bowls

"You can take care of my bowl, Joey," Myra says.

The flop-end of a noodle bobs as Joe grabs her bowl. He reaches for an adjacent bowl, a plate, and miscellaneous silverware. He stacks them in size order. I watch Myra watching him, elbow leaned out on the table.

"I hope you know how nice he's being to you," I say.

"Yeah," she says. "I do." She nods, looks at me, looks at him, nods again as if she's had servants all her life and this is what they do. A small pause yawns before us. "And he LIKES to take care of things," she says.

Of course, she's doing him a favor. I grin as Joe's brutish ways soften to spoil Myra.


5675. We have a plant emergency in the greenhouse. A third of the plants wilt. Jane carries tumblers of water out to my waiting hands.

5676. Craig builds a garden arbor. Jane waits patiently, her saved up money in a little white dish. We plan a date to buy her grape vines.

5677. "I know in Daddy's class it says you should love your neighborhood as yourself," Myra says. She blinks, cocks her head, "What does AS YOURSELF mean?"

5678. "I don't the least bit care about ANTS," Myra says as we scramble to fight an onslaught in our kitchen. "All I care about is PEOPLE," she says and tip-toes into the sunroom.

5679. Jack and I take a date thrift shopping. He brings home a packet of gears and builds and builds.

5680. I continue to mastermind a copy of the sweater my gramma made me as a baby. A baby bootie book waits in the wings.

5681. We visit Lucy's optometrist and enjoy his usual humor, intelligence, and good advice.

5682. The children help me make four gallons of minestrone soup.

5683. Betsy fusses her way through a day and a half. I bundle her up extra warm and she chippers right up.

5684. Another week settles in around us. As I look back over my shoulder, the steadfast love of Jesus is there in every moment.

Sunday, April 12, 2015


"Joe-Joe, what are you going to do if Betsy licks your hand?" Jane says.

Jane and Joe hover over baby Betsy. Joe leans down, smooshes his chest on her. He grins two inches from her face. "Her likes me," he says. She flaps her arms.

Joe sits up. He takes her face between pudgy hands and turn-turns it to face him. "Baby Betsy wikes me," he says.

"Joe, what are you going to do if Betsy licks your hand?" Jane says.

He cocks his head, pauses to look upward as if the answer were hidden under his eyebrows. "Wipe it on my shirt," he whispers.

"Joe, what if she licks you?" Jane says.

"Wipe it on my shirt," he says again, this time his eyes caught in the gravity of Betsy's face.

Jane grins at me. We shake our heads.

"Baby Betsy wikes me," Joe says his hand already fumbling hers.

We watch him affection pouring from us to him to Betsy.


5671. Joe turns three. Aside from him coaxing the corner of a baby orange into Betsy's mouth (two months old); and eating brown sugar and toothpaste straight from the receptacles; and getting into Jane's embroidery needles; and emptying the vacuum, getting most of it in the trash; and opening the oven to "check" on the chocolate chip cookies; and trying to poke more stuff into outlets; aside from the normal thrum-drum of training, it was a normal and relaxing birthday.

5672. "Jesus," Joe prays, "please help that Betsy will be healthy and whole. And please help that tomorrow will be my birthday again."

5673. "I love what the oven does to the cookies," Myra says.

5674. Life chitters on. Endurance unbidden finds us, holds us like the curve of old jeans snug against all the tired parts. Something better than pleasure embraces us.