Sunday, October 19, 2014

Croup





"This is a story about Robinson Crusoe," Jack says. "He was on a boat that broke." Book cover permanently curled open, he turns to a bookmarked page part way through. He, seated there on the ottoman, Myra, on the couch, ensconced in the long arms of a fleece throw, Jack begins to read.

"Robinson Crusoe was on a ship for many days," he says. Still groggy with croup, Myra pulls the blanket up under her chin. Jack's voice turns soft circles, lulls her quiet and sleepy.







***

The nap spent, the story gone, me sewing in the basement, Jane checks in, turns in morning work.

"I'm gonna go upstairs," she says.

"Ok," I look up from a blue circle half sewn on a cream colored square.







"'Cause Myra said she feels like no one is by her," Jane says, "and she described being lonely. So..." Jane nods, blinks. "Yeah," she says.

"Good," I say, "good idea,"

With that she scampers up the back stairs. A burden of care shifts from sibling to sibling. Invisible bonds grow stronger each day.





Gratitude:

5476. "I'm starting to realize what CLEAN is," Lu says as I have her wipe down the kitchen table, smudge free and shining.

5477. Joey tries his hand at the microwave. We throw out the ruined bowls.







5478. Joey tries to start the dishwasher. Jack vacuums up the spindrift of dishwasher deterrent.

5479. Joey dumps the refill bottle of nail polish top coat down the bathroom drain. Jane sleuths him out, and we wash it away before it dries.

5480. Joey tries to get into my vitamins. Childproof lids protect him from all but two capsules of Citrucel which leave him "regular" but undamaged.







5481. Joey empties my wallet and dismantles the emergency maxi-pad tucked in a zipper pocket all while waiting on my bed to get in trouble.

5482. Joey lets the chickens out, dumps their food, and shuts one's head in the coop door. Somehow none die, and they keep on laying eggs.

5483. Joey decides potty training is for the birds and pees all over the house and yard. He gets in trouble, LOTS of trouble.







5484. Joey gets in trouble ALL week long. And finally, finally, shows signs of reformation. Glory day.

5485. Joey brings his blankie boy, spreads it over my shoulders, and offers to brush my hair with his toothbrush.

5486. Joey prays for the baby in my tummy.







5487. We have an ultrasound and the sweet baby girl is growing strong and healthy.







5488. Jane continues planning Christmas gifts and takes a secret trip to the fabric store. She glows with anticipation as she narrates the gifts for me.

5489. I take a secret trip to the fabric store.

5490. We make a visit to the farm. Craig's mom passes on some sweaters Great-Grammie made and a vintage pattern.

5491. Craig makes pancakes three times this week.







5492. We finally change out all the summer clothes for winter wear.

5493. Craig and I communicate and miscommunicate all week long and somehow find that steadfast love carries us through.



Sunday, October 12, 2014

Great-Grammie





"I think I might know why Great-Grammie is living so long," Jack says. He trifles through the kitchen jammie-clad and toothbrush in hand.

"Why is that?" I say.

"'Cause, she says, God can take me at ANY time." He stops at the microwave to brush. But toothbrush forgotten, he pauses. "I was listening in there," he points down the hall, the book of Luke a cacophony around jammies and bedtime clatter, "and it said whoever desires to keep his life will LOSE it. And whoever loses his life will KEEP it."







"Oh," I say, dishrag wadded with table scraps and now forgotten in my hand. "That's very true, Jack, very true."

He nods and shuffles the toothbrush over teeth that look too big for his mouth, timer counting down from two minutes. But I just stand and watch. His words, plucked out of evening routine, they sift through my mind.

Whoever loses his life will keep it. So it is. We give.

I marvel that he pulled the thread end of that knowledge almost out of thin air.









Gratitude:

5462. Pie night. Pizza pie, peach pie, salad in between, family all around.

5463. Kleenex, the soft kind. And Carmex. Another cold takes a hit.







5464. I start another quilt, one in all circles, appliqué.

5465. Good thread, the kind that slides through the machine like butter, the kind that doesn't snag or knot.

5466. "Momma, you feel better?" Joe says. "No," I say. "You should go back to bed," he says.







5467. Craig and the kids clean the house while I sleep until 11 and then nap all afternoon.

5468. Lemon soap and coconut cream, Trader Joe's staples.

5469. Lydia turns one. Cerissa throws a party around the Seahawk's game. The children drink gallons of orange pop.







5470. Lucy dresses Joe for church.

5471. Great-Grammie leaves the hospital.

5472. Jane starts planning Christmas presents.







5473. I make our first beef stew in years. Everyone loves it.

5474. I read more of Tim Keller's The Meaning Of Marriage and note again the special agreement that marriage is: a covenant. I turn this over in my mind all week.

5475. We prepare for another week of learning together, all successes and failures bundled into a giant bale of love. Devotion.






Sunday, October 5, 2014

Muscles





"Are you sure you got enough?" I query Jack and his empty bowl. "You have to feed those big muscles you're growing."

"Show us your muscles," Lu chimes.

"Yeah, yeah," the girls giggle.

He flexes, all elbows and baby biceps.

"You better go get another bowl," I say. He complies. It slides down in a sluice of boy gobbling.

Breakfast the next day, Lu stirs oatmeal, while I spread jam on toast.







"One time, when Jack held his muscles up," she tries to describe flexing, "and I held mine up, I said to Jack, Mine look flimsy." The spoon gummed in an oatmeal rut she pauses. "Like it actually looked like you could break mine OFF." Her eyebrows arced in sideways parenthesis, we nod.

"Yep," I say. "He's a boy."

He's a boy. When the new bunk bed came home, Jack helped Craig move it in. A colleague needed someone to deliver a couch; Jack and Craig made it happen.

Over the summer, he and his muscles became a little older, a little more distinguished, a little more man-ish. In the curve of a single season the difference between boy and girl pronounces itself even more. Delightful.









Gratitude:

5648. One tooth gone, Lucy works to loosen more teeth. "Maybe it's like tomatoes," she says. "You pick one, and others start to ripen.







5649. My sweet sis posts pictures of our recent photo shoot. Once again she teases out the essence of our family.

5650. My small group settles into the fall routine. I treasure the time with them.

5651. I come down with a terrible chest cold, and yet everyone pulls together to make life work.







5652. Craig, spur of the moment, takes the family to dessert: frozen yogurt.

5653. I find the perfect camisoles to cover my growing belly.

5654. "Hurry, hurry, Myra," Jane cheers. "Just TRY. You'd be surprised how much mercy Mom gives to people who TRY and how much mercy she doesn't give to people who don't try."

5655. We head down to Craig's hometown for an old fashioned shindig. The children sprawl out to watch Gramma, Uncle, and Cousins play bluegrass in the park.







5656. The day runs long and Craig's mom offers dinner for the seven of us, plus other extended family. With almost no prep, she sets a whole spread.

5457. We linger in the refreshment of family.

5458. Craig cans more plums -- all on his own.







5459. Another week of hard work and Jane sees again the source of all free time: hard work.

5460. Craig comes home from church with a surprise: my favorite cheese. Cheese and chocolate: the language of pregnancy.

5461. We finally settle into the counterpoint of work and play. It's a lolling river to carry us forward.



Sunday, September 28, 2014

Myra





"Sometimes something tickles on me, and do you know what it is?" Myra chirps.

"What?" I say, the the adult world punctured by her felicity.

"Nothing." She nods. Happy discovery dispensed, she hiccups past a sack of sweet potatoes, Joey trailing behind like a synchronizes swimmer.







Later, we pray before bed.

"Please help the baby be healthy and whole," Myra prays. "And please help her to go and be a friend to me. Amen." Her quiet submission lilts lightly across the other prayers. The stillness of a request, the un-presumption, the quiet wait -- here we all wait.









Gratitude:

5639. "Maybe the fruit flies should fly to Costco 'cause there's a lot of food there," Myra says.

5640. I talk my mom into sewing a baby quilt for the new baby. Pinks and greens, old fashioned flowers, a soft cloud of a back, it's perfect.







5641. The Tuesday Girls take communion together.

5642. Craig trades his old phone in for an iPod touch so I can text for free.







5643. Craig and the kids pick buckets of Italian plums, then Craig and I can them.

5644. Rotisserie chicken wraps and Asian slaw, turn into chicken soup for a week.







5645. Lucy loses her first tooth.

5646. A vintage round frame -- my mom brings over an old wedding photo of Craig and me, perches it on the piano.







5646. The children slack off on several school subjects and then learn the good lesson of catching up during their free time.

5647. Many evenings find us dessert-less, and then Craig bring home cinnamon rolls. Bliss.



Sunday, September 21, 2014

Sewing





"Does Aunt Libby sew quilts, or does she spend most of her free time doing math?" Lu asks. Across the room, she feeds the first strips of a new quilt into the sewing machine.

"Um, I guess you'll have to ask her," I say from my own sewing station, a checkered quilt taking shape.

Aunt Libby, now mother of three, taught high school math when she and Jesse got married. When the kids found out she worked old college math problems just for fun, she became a legend.







Lucy holds up the polkadots and stripes of her own checkered blue quilt. "Hey, look," she calls to me. I pause, nod.

"Looks great. You're sewing so even compared to before." She grins, lines up the next strip, rumbles it through with the stop/start of someone perfecting the edge as she goes. I leap frog my own machine to life.







"It's so relaxing," Lu says as I slow at the corner, "to sit and do your quilt."

"Yep," I say.

"Even though it's exhausting, it doesn't really feel like it," she says.

I catch her eye. She's holding up another link in the quilt. We smile, then chatter the machines back to life.

Even though it's exhausting, it doesn't really feel like it. She's named it, the very best pleasures of all. Betwixt the chatter of our dueling machines, pleasure blooms between us.









Gratitude:

5629. "Oh, why are you naked?" I ask Myra. "I don't know," she says. "No, why are you NAKED?" I try again. "Um," she looks at me sideways, "because I forgot to put my clothes on?"

5630. "Everyday I make my bed," she says later. "I'm gonna go check if I made my bed."







5631. I battle the world's worst head cold. When I pull to the side of the road to puke from all the sinus pressure, the kids chorus their comfort. "Do you think the other cars know you are pregnant?" they say.

5632. "When you look at someone who isn't your mom, it doesn't look like they could have had babies," Lu says.

5633. Aunt Rosie takes our annual family pictures. Once again she captures the invisible fibers of who we are. Even Joey smiles despite himself.







5634. I take Jane and Jack on separate dates. Then Craig takes me on one. We use an old gift card we forgot about. I eat the best burger of my life.

5635. Jane and I make apple crisp together. We do that silent communication thing where one is doing the next step before the other can even think to ask.

5636. She offers to make us another peach pie.







5637. Craig saves up for a new phone then gives me his old one.

5638. The week blurs by in a flurry of highs and lows. The steadfast love of Jesus pierces them all, a perfect horizon of hope.



Sunday, September 14, 2014

Sunday





"Mom, Joey is eating the brown sugar," Lu hollers underneath the bedroom door.

Ugh. I roll to my back. "I'll deal with it when I get up," I call toward her voice.

The patter of little feet chase littler feet back toward the kitchen. I throw back the covers and fumble for the bathroom. Then I stare at the closet, mentally assemble nine outfits before I settle on a church sensible ensemble.







"Mom, Joe's chasing me with the scissors," Myra blusters through the door.

Joe, scissors in hand, cavorts to a stop, catches my eye, and hops from one foot to the other. "No, Momma. No, Momma," he squeals.

The morning carries on like this, one lurching stop to the next. We finally land for lunch somewhere around 1:30, Jane ironing out a furrow between her brows and Jack setting the table.







"Well, next time I could just not tell you what's for lunch in case I have to change my mind," I say. "That's what we do for Joey."

"Nooo," Jane sighs.

Little pails of soup, fresh stale bread, butter. We eat. And sit. And slop a little more bread in the broth.  Something like calm settles in, a slush around our ankles.







"Could you possibly find me a book before naps?" Jane says.

"Yeah, I could probably do that," I say. I stack Craig's empty bowl in mine.

"Being book-less," Jane says, "is sort of like being lifeless."

"Yeah," I grin, "I guess it is. I'll be down stairs. Come down when you're ready."







The afternoon gradually sighs to a full stop. Jack clatters the last of the dishes into the dishwasher. Jane and Lucy hang the wet towels half of the family left in a heap wherever they dressed. A thin glaze of order drizzles in the cracks.

I find Joe obediently settled in to the boy's bottom bunk.

"I love you, Joe," I say. I hunker down cheek to cheek and wait for his eyes to settle on mine. "I love you," I say. His pupils trace my face.







"Need hug," he says. Plaid shirt and checkered blankie, we melt into a hug. He blooms affection.

And then like a treasure hunt, I search out each child, smile into their eyes. We hold still, feel the slow moments of love.

The harsh moments fill out with muscles and flesh. Discipline frames us in. Affection nourishes us.

"Look Momma," Joe calls as I tarry past his room. "I covered myself up." Checkered blankie stretched from toes to shoulders, his voice rings to me. We smile as I pass.









Gratitude:

5608. "I read this much just to see if I could," Lu points to page in Because of Winn Dixie. "And then I was salivating to read more," she says.

5609. "We don't have to do your hair," Myra instructs Joe, "'cause it's all boyish."

5610. Roasted pineapple and habanero sauce.







5611. Salad in a bag. Two of them. The kind guests bring and leave the extra for another day.

5612. More homemade chocolate sauce.

5613. Jane finishes a paper on Christopher Columbus and Jack a fable.







5614. Lucy finishes her first quilt, a dolly one.

5615. We cut the fabric for another one all in blues.

5616. The children practice again the age old principle: free time comes from hard work.

5617. Jane makes a peach pie. We eat it all in one sitting -- the nine of us all on the farm.







5618. Craig scrubs the floor underneath the table until it shines.

5619. He trims the gangly banana plant into something more indoor-ish and less likely to take over a seat at the end of the table.

5620. The children help us harvest the last of the garden. Joe breaks out a lifejacket for the occasion.

5621. Plum picking.







5622. Craig turns an old wrought iron patio table into a fire pit.

5623. Craig's mom bakes a ham for us and sends us home with garden fresh green beans.

5624. Half the kids pile in the four-wheeler with Craig and his dad to bring a pile of corn stalks to the neighbor's horses.







5625. I start cutting the fabric for a new quilt of my own. Coral reds, lime greens, garnishes, and twists, Lucy helps me lay out the fabric.

5626. Jack gets a book on how to draw animals.

5627. All week the children leave me notes with chickens and rhinoceros and giraffes and magpies. I even get a kingfisher. I marvel at how a year of practice has taught them to shade.

5628. We all come down with sore throats and colds, and still, we weave a life together, just keep right on going.