Sunday, July 24, 2016

The TENT





"Joe," I say, "Joe, come here."

"Yeah?" He trollops around a peninsula of kitchen cupboards.

"We have to stick together today," I say. I pat the table bench next to me, a small safety zone separate from general mischief. "To HELP each other," I say.

"Weeeelllll," he says, "can I play with Betsy in the sunroom?"

"What are you doing in there?"

"Throwing an ant in a spiderweb." He mimics my raised eyebrows, furrows his brow. "But the web is INSIDE," he adds.

"Well," I sigh, "where is it?"

"By the door. Can I?" he says.

"Ahmmm. Ok."







Later he trollies past the kitchen, orange diaper bucket in hand.

"WHat are you DOing?" I say.

"Making a TENT," he says.

"With the DIAPER PAIL?" I say once again burrowing a furrowed brow into his blinking eyes.

"I don't want Betsy to BREAK the TENT," he says over-anunciating "break" and "tent". I blink. He blinks. "Maaaaaybe I will use a stool," he says and tromps off.

Later a clatter in the pantry. "What is that sound?" I call from the table.

"The oatmeal bucket," he says.

"Oh," I say.

"I keep needing BUCKETS," he says.

"For WHAT?" I say.







"For the TENT."

"Might have to switch to something ELSE," I say. He stares. I blink. The oatmeal bucket two feet tall and still slung over one arm, he blinks.

"Maaaaybe a stack of blankets instead," he says.

"Is this to keep Betsy out?" I say.

"I already have THAT," he says.

"Sounds like a lot to clean up," I say, my eyebrows creeping up my forehead again.

"I like," he sways. "I like," he frowns. "I don't CARE," he finally says. We grin an informal truce. The tent burgeons in the sunroom. Coverlets, quilts, blankies, two black stools, an empty bucket, and a rocking chair flesh out the tent.

I carry on with chores. He builds, then cleans. Something like work unfolds betweens us. We ride it like a trolly car, satisfaction like a lunchbox on the seat between us.









Gratitude:

5984. A long week, Craig gone some of it, the kids and I band together. The house feels so empty when he's gone.

5985. In the void, the children and I talk and talk and talk. We map and frame their small worlds, memorize the important principles.

5986. We watch most of the Republican Convention and talk and talk and talk. Jane notes all the moves. I watch how she sees the move behind the move and generally assess the trajectory of ideas with accuracy.

5987. We find a feed of the convention without all the commentary and talking heads that tell you how to think. Just the speeches, please. Together, we make our own opinions. Everyone joins in. It's like a party.

5988. I find a recipe and make sourdough tortillas.

5989. The basement floods with a thunderstorm gully washer. I come face to face with how Craig shines in house emergencies and I, well, don't.

5990. We clean up the best we can, set up a fan, and heave a huge sigh.







5991. "Ya know," Joe says, "garbage-mans actually have HOMES." He watches the garbage truck with religious devotion and dreams of being a garbage-man one day.

5992. The baby kicks and kicks and kicks up a storm. Small reassurances.

5993. I sometimes help with dinner prep; otherwise the children make and clean up dinner.

5994. Many days I look outback to see Betsy marshaling a mass of blankets, babies, and stuffed animals, with Joe and Myra.

5995. The responsibilities of life swirl around us. Each day they feel both heavier and lighter. The yoke is easy, and the burden is light. I'm beginning to see how this is true.

5996. Each day we work to bow our hearts to our Savior, and each day our love for Him grows.



Sunday, July 17, 2016

Sketch Exercises





"Look," Myra says, "it's actually kind of easy." Seated in penmanship form she circles her pencil in whorls that perfectly match the width of wide-ruled lines. "I can't wait to show Grammie," she says.

"It's nice," I say. Askew at her elbow lies a key of all the different sketch exercises Grammie assigned to the big kids. She pauses, finds her place in the key and starts the next shape.

"I bet Zeke is doing this now," she says.

"Oh," I say.







"Now," she says, "I'm gonna have to start doing ACTUAL school work, don't ya think?" She looks up, all eyes and eyebrows.

"Suuuure," I say.

"Yup," she says and continues down the exercise list, determination, more like an accessory than a burden.








"Where are the other kids?" Myra says. Sunday afternoon, slack and leisure, the house tidy, quiet, and full of sun, we settle into quiet corners. Craig and I hold down opposite ends of the leather couch.

"Napping," Craig says, "so they can go with me tonight."

"Oh," Myra says. She darts off, a dead run down the hallway. We hear a thump on her bed. All the kids want to volunteer in Daddy's class. Even Joe begs each Sunday.







I note how as we've limited their exposure to marketing and some of the trends their peer pine after they find different things to desire, different goals to strain for. Trimming out tv seems like a gift more than a burden.

Craig falls asleep on the couch, and I while the afternoon away in quiet.





Gratitude:

5971. Libby gives birth to a perfect baby, sweet niece, Wylie Sparrow.

5972. I make two raspberry pies. Enough of the drips on the bottom of the oven begin to smoke that we have to fill the house with fans and open the windows. The result, though a little burned, is delicious.

5973. Jack and I figure out how to make sourdough pizza crust. Whole wheat too! Everyone agrees, it's a real find.







5974. Heavy whipping cream, bread-n-butter pickles, balsamic glaze, dried mangos, a few kitchen essentials restocked.

5975. Fresh almond ice cream.

5976. We harvest the first garden cucumber. I give it to Jack, but he gives me lots of samples.

5977. I get the curriculum library almost organized while the big kids help Craig at work.

5978. Joe skins his knee climbing trees out back. It forms the thickest scab I've ever seen. By some miracle most of it falls off on it's own. "Now, I'm gonna find my scab," he says. "It would be FUN if I found it."







5979. I finally figure the ins and outs of dying baby items safely. We collect the supplies and begin the process, a stack of muslin blankets ready to transform.

5980. "I cleaned my room," Joe says. "I'm gonna go see," I say. "You gonna look under the beds?" he says. "Yeah," I say, "ya wanna go finish?" He nods.

5981. Myra and Joe run something over to Cerissa. Betsy mopes around, cries, and finally settles on my lap. "Are you looking for Myra and Joe?" I say. YES, she nods emphatically.

5982. Tomorrow Jane turns 12, such a lovely age. We prepare for the unfolding of a young woman over scape of this next season.

5983. We fall each night into bed completely submissive to the refreshing lull of July. Summer tarries on.



Sunday, July 10, 2016

The Egg Dish





"Soooo, are you attached to this?" Craig says. He hold up a serving dish, little egg indentations around the plate's perimeter. It's painted in six-year-old script, Jane's.

"Uhmmm," I say.

"'Cause I'm NOT," he says. I'm sitting on a plastic food bin, the two of us in front of the pantry, miscellaneous, boxes, bags, and cartons stacked around us.

"Wellll," I say, "I'm not really either, but I'm not sure how to get rid of it." I smile with my teeth, blink-blink.

"I'll let YOU have that conversation with Jane," he says.

"Wellll," I say, "maybe we could just break it. Not really." I grimace.

"Here," he says. "Jaaaane, come here." From the kitchen a spoon clanks. Jane appears. "Hey Jane," he says, "are you attached to this?" He holds up the dish, rubs his finger in one of the little indentations.







"No," she says.

"Oh," I say. Craig looks at me. I look at him.

"I was just sort of waiting around for it to break," she says.

"Oh," I say.

"OH," Craig says. We split grins; giggles spill out our cheeks.

"I guess we were too."

In that moment, I realize again what my momma always says: It's not the things that matter; it's the time spent together. It's one of my favorite things about her. Things are just things.





Gratitude:

5953. Fresh basil, the biggest, hugest hand-sized leaves of fresh basil.

5954. A few staples: garbanzos, fish sauce, ginger ale, and tiny peanut butter cups. Manna.

5955. Linen for a baby blanket.

5956. Quilt batting.







5957. Fabric dye, navy blue, apple green, apache black.

5958. By miracle we retire the old hole-y living room couch for a new-to-us perfect couch. The whole house feels brand new.

5959. Raspberries fresh picked by Craig and the kids.

5960. Betsy starts trying to dress herself.

5961. We earmark more things for a garage sale.







5962. Small efforts in organization: quilts folded in size order, toys corralled to a bin, budget paperwork marked and filed, the pantry reset.

5963. The children help Craig at work. Manual labor, they come home exhausted and happy.

5964. A clean kitchen sink fills the kitchen with pleasure.







5965. Each of the kids grow a little more opinionated and a little more kind. It's better than fine dining or expensive clothes. Confidence sprouts when we're not even looking.

5966. July lulls unexpectedly cold, the smell of cool rain, evening breeze.

5967. We await the arrival of a brand new niece.

5968. Jack gives me a daily tour of his garden, each leaf worthy of inspection.







5969. "I've missed you," he says after helping Craig all week. "I could just talk to you for hours," he says. Me too.

5970. Each night closes like a long sigh. Goodness encloses the moments.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Peas





"Hey Momma, I made your toast," Jack says. Blinding headache, I walk slowly to the table, sit as if in slow motion.

"Thanks, Jack," I say. I squint at the plate, toast propped on the lip to keep it crisp. I sigh, press fingers to my forehead, swallow a wave of nausea. Next to the plate I spy two fresh picked pea pods.

I look toward the kitchen, Jack smiling back at me, waiting like a cat to see me notice the peas. I smile.

"Thanks," I mouth.

"Yep," he says. "It's your medicine."

And so it is, every meal and in between he brings me peas from his garden. Medicine. I like to bring you things you like, he says.

Forty-eight hours and I begin to feel well again, but even before that, it is well with my soul.









Gratitude:

5934. "Mom?" Jack says. "Yeah?" I say. "When I have a day off," he says, "I almost don't want to go anywhere, like not even to frozen yogurt. I just want to be in nature and look at it." Me too.

5935. Craig and the kids take over meals, housekeeping, and diaper changes while I recover from the headache.

5936. I continue to track down food additives I'm allergic to. I feel better and better as I eliminate the culprits.

5937. Joe trounces in from the backyard. "Mom, MOM," he says. "I was watering my garden, and I got ALL wet. I'm not REALLY sure how." Drenched waist to toe, he leaves a trail to the bedroom.







5938. Life slows to a snail's pace, and I notice happy moments line almost every scene like props on a wide stage.

5939. "Mom, I somehow got up to the top of the tree, but then I got down again," Joe says. He's in again from outback.

5940. The kids stake my 120+ tomato plants. I realize we understand "staking the tomatoes" differently and rescue the plants.

5941. New tank tops.

5942. A paper punch to replace the lame 2-hole one we've been using.







5943. A couple new kid's books.

5944. Encouragement finds me like an oasis. Best friends know what will help.

5945. I finally mastermind the waistband and rolled collar on the chartreuse sweater.

5946. Cool evening breeze drifts in the house hot with summer heat.

5947. We still squeeze in homemade pizza night, a new pizza stone to add to the collection.

5948. Craig and the kids clean out the pantry. The stack of things to sell or donate grows larger.







5949. I find time for evening reading, The House With The Seven Gables. Hawthorne's language and imagery capture me.

5950. We sleep with a down comforter at our ankles, just enough to pull up under my chin when the house finally cools.

5951. "Betsy, where is I," Joe rings in sing-song voice. They giggle hide-n-seek.

5952. July, my favorite month of the year, we settle in to let it wash over us. Refreshment. Slow living. It arrives at the usual pace.



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.





Gratitude:

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

Dough





"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.









Gratitude:

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

ACTUALLY Real





"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.









Gratitude:

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.