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.

Sunday, August 9, 2015


"Jack's gonna get home," Myra says, "and he's gonna be like That's not a plane." She holds up a blunt-nose paper airplane, my design.

"Oh," I say.

"And," she says, "I'm gonna be like, YEAH, it is. Mom said it is, so IT IS." She leans her head forward, eyebrows arched. "And look it even really flies!" Purple running shorts, red curls like a bouquet of exclamation points, she flings the plane in a corkscrew nosedive.

Mom said it is, so it is. Creation. For a season, I speak things into being. Splendid.


Evening comes. We all squish next to each other on the long gold couch. Prayer circles and envelops us. We linger, the dregs of the day settle around us.

"I can't wait until we go backpacking," Myra says, "so we can make peanut butter cookies and stuff like that."

"Yeah?" I say.

"Um-hm," she says. "And play babies. We definitely have to play babies."

"Sounds good," I say.

The boys go backpacking. The girls stay home. We play babies and chop delicious salads. We quilt and paint watercolors. We read and linger over chocolate. We mold our attitudes to honor each other and God. Deep affection grows inside of us.


5520. Backpacking transforms the boys into men and the girls into ladies.

5521. We linger at the all church barbecue, something of a fair or festival, and soak in the camaraderie.

Sunday, August 2, 2015


"So, what's something you hope happens this next year?" I say.

Jack in the passenger seat, me in the driver's scooted way back, we balance pizza on our knees. Paper plates barely thicker than coffee filters show signs of grease leaking through.

"Um," Jack says. It's his birthday. We're on a date, napkins piled on the console.

"You can think while you eat your fuel," I say. "Jet fuel," pizza.

"Hmm," he says around a bite. "I hope I get better at sharing," he pauses to swallow, a deliberate chin tuck. "And being all the fruit of the Spirit," he says.

I nod. "Mmmm," I say, his answer as deliberate as that bite. "That's a good one. Me too."

We shuffle pizza from one knee to the next. Leaned over, dabbing grease and sauce at the corners of our mouths, careful to keep piece B from falling off as we eat piece A, a bronze awning reflects sepia over us.

"So how are you going to make the fruit of the Spirit happen, big guy?" I say, my pizza long gone. He  glides an enormous bite to one cheek, then swallows.

"Pray about it," he says, "and try to do it." Conversation is like this with him, one gentle lob, and then another, back and forth, forth and back.

"That's a good one," I say.

"'Cause that's how you do it," he says. "You don't just do it perfectly or just become all rotten. That's why they call it fruit. It starts green and has to ripen." Pizza forgotten for a moment, he stares straight out the window, scans the horizon.

"That's true," I say. He takes another bite, a vineyard of ideas elapsed in that moment. I watch smile lines at the corners of his eyes.

"That's why I kind of like that it's called fruit." he says.

Fruit. It's a year of fruit.

Jack turns nine.


5511. Jack turns nine.

5512. I turn 37.

5513. Betsy shows great affection for daily routines and giggles if we change them the slightest bit.

5514. My legs feel better each passing day.

5515. The kids clean the house so the Tuesday Girls (and kids) can come over.

5516. The children continue a summer society of paper airplanes, handmade weapon fare, book club conference calls with the Dishman Hills Bookclub, Hardy Boy books read by the armful, and a menagerie if hand caught bugs in mason jars with holes punched in the lids.

5517. The girls and I plan a last summer project of lap quilts. When we shop for them, they get the fabric cut themselves.

5518. The summer continues to roll by in the strange combination of a trickle and freight train.

5519. We set our hearts to enjoy every minute. The art of joy interlaces our moments.

Sunday, July 26, 2015


"Lord, thank you that we had lots of opportunities to show love today," Jack prays. "And I pray that we will have lots of opportunities tomorrow. We love you. Amen."

"Jesus," Lucy says, "thank you that we had lots of opportunities to show love tonight at dinner. And thank-you that we can see you working. Amen."

See you working. Prayer circles. One by one we practice; we worship. Let's pray for the fruit of the spirit, Craig had said. So we start with love.

Like the laying out of cobblestones, roads appear before us.


"Did you know that this morning at church when I was worshipping, Daddy was looking at me?" Myra says. "And I was looking at Daddy?" Daddy the teacher, Myra the student. Earnest eyes on rollicking shoulders, she lifts her arms.

"That's sweet" I say.

"That was when I was up by the stage," she says, her arms up, up to the sky.

A father's love. She watches Daddy to see Jesus. We all do.


5501. Daisy fabric for baby trousers and blanket. Yellow-yellow daisies.

5502. A lap quilt for Joe in a patchwork of blues.

5503. Pins! Fresh, sharp, unbent straight pins -- luxury.

5504. Lucy lays out her pinwheel quilt. Craig helps her find the perfect arrangement.

5505. Craig bleaches the sink while marshaling an all out cleaning effort with the kids.

5506. I resume running, a beloved old friend.

5507. Betsy makes rolling over a regular habit, her body all muscled and limber.

5508. Every day, multiple times Jack peppers me with the same exact question: Wanna go look at the garden with me, Mom? It just changes so much every single day. He cultivates those plants like the souls of people.

5509. Barbecued burgers and hotdogs. Pickles, dill pickles. Potato chips and salad. Summer treats.

5510. We grow another week in our love for the Lord. Worship, it's the one thing we really want to get right. And everything, isn't everything worship?

Sunday, July 19, 2015

The Ring

"Mom, is there ANY way that you can show me my ring tonight?" Jane says. I slip-slip-knit a stitch on my blanket then look up at her. Miscellaneous dinner dishes out, she's paused, the kitchen rag flopped over one hand.

"I don't know," I say. "We'll have to see." My feet elevated from the surgery, I watch her from a perch on the couch. She swallows, dips her chin, wraps disappointment in cheerfulness.

"I mean," she continues, "I could get the stuff out at the table and help you, and just do whatever. I just was wondering if there's ANY way."

"Hmmm," I say. I watch the journal of her face. "What made you so excited?" I say.

"Oh, I don't know. It just seems so fancy," she says. Fancy slides off her tongue with uncharacteristic ease. Flashes of unworn clothes pushed to the very back of the drawer, tights and cardigans strangely divorced from this newly formed fancy.

"I didn't know you cared about that," I say. "I mean I like that, but I didn't know you did."

"Hmm, how do I say it?" she says, "I used to see girls who just care about being fancy and are crazy about it. And I was like I would do anything to not be like that. I would rather just look like a bag than to be like that. But now I realize you can be fancy and not really be that way." Ribbons of ideas settle around us, new ideas. The feminine mind circles and settles.

"Huh. You're right," I say. "You're getting older. I like the way your mind works. I never really liked girls like that either.  I just never was that way."

"I mean, I try not to despise it," she says.

"That's true," I say.

"Yeah, when Logan and I are talking and we talk about those girls we call them the kissy-girls," she says.

I nod, a grin around my shoulders, another language forming up between us with words like fancy and kissy-girls and not despising. "That's a pretty good name," I say.

"Yeah, oh, those are the kissy-girls, we say." She shrugs, "It's just a name."

Just a name. Words encircle us, reshape our horizons. Fancy. We compare them like agates on a beach, then scoop them up, smooth stones in our palm, smooth agates of ideas.

We take her ring out and look at it. It's an agate all its own.


5498. "No, no eggs," Craig says for the eighteenth time to Joe. "No. Eggs." Joe sighs. "But Dada, maybe we can make EGGS," he tries again. "Shhhhh," Craig says, "shhhhhh, shhh. What did I JUST say?!" Craig arches his brows. They both pause. "Shhhhhh?" Joe says. We notice symptoms that Joe is listening.

5499. Jane turns 11. Sweet girl. Craig and I go with her to get her ears pierced.

5500. I take note of her growing mind and treasure every minute.