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.









Gratitude:

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-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.



Sunday, March 29, 2015

Will




"Joey, don't" I say.

My feet propped, babe in arms, I lean into the plaid couch. Craig and I pause conversation and stare at Joe. He wheedles a stack of Would You Rather cards on the desk, looks right at me.

"JoOOeey," I say.

He grins, tilts his melon-sized head, blink-blinks those glossy blue eyes.

"Go. Ahead," I say and blink-blink my glossy greens back at him.






"I won't," he says. He retracts that hand, blink-blinks again. He blinks. I blink. He blinks.

"Go, ahead," I say again.

He backs up. His grin slack, he arches his eyebrows. "I WON'T," he says. He pivots on a heel, something like control suddenly there before him.

"Go. Ahead," I say.

He seizes it, self-control. Like the tail-end of a flag fraying in the wind, he seizes it and runs. It's a banner trailing after him. Self-control.

Go, ahead," I call.

"You heard me," he shouts. It's a drumroll down the hall, those feet pattering away, Joey driving the chariot of his will.








Gratitude:

5664. Butter croissants.

5665. Coffee.

5666. Craig rototills the garden.

5667. Jack wrestles his hardest at the last wrestling match.

5668. Jane and Lu go to a tea party.

5669. Jack finishes practicing piano. "You hardly played any of the time." Jane says. "Yes, I did. I just had to look at how the song goes," Jack says. "I don't want to hear excuses," Jane says.

5670. Excuses, indeed. We work to eradicate the nasty pests.



Sunday, March 22, 2015

Maple Bars





"Momma, I know we never -- we're not even supposed to THINK about keeping secrets," Myra says.

A casual lunch and she's risen out of her seat, standing on the table bench next to me. I scrape a tortilla chip around the rim of my soup bowl, scoop up chunks of salsa and beans. I glance at Myra.

"What made you think about that?" I say.

"I was just thinking about SECRETS," she says. She leans her hands on the table, peers around me into the kitchen.







"Huh," I say another triangle tortilla scooped full of taco soup. I pop the whole thing in my mouth. It shatters into salt and mango salsa sweetness.

"I think she saw Jack and Lucy whispering by the donuts," Jane says. There wedged between Myra and me, Jane and a bowl of steel cut oats. She ladles the remnants of Sunday breakfast into her mouth.

"Oh," I say. I peer into the kitchen, the stack of maple donuts half gone. Rightly so, though, I gave them for dessert. I picture Jack and Lu whispering over who gets the biggest one.







"What makes YOU feel better Joey?" Myra chirps. She's squatting on the bench now, flower bike shorts and polka-dot shirt. She leans elbows out to the center of the table.

"DONUTS," Joe says. "Donuts make me feel better." He grins. Those wide-set eyes smile at the corners. His spoon slopped to the side of his bowl, a beard of steel cut oats and brown sugar, he grins.

Maple bars. News travels fast. Good news. We share dessert, each maple bar a handle hold on a moment together.









Gratitude:

5656. Jack wrestles the hardest opponent so far. And wins! I bite my fingernails, literally.

5657. A fresh mango, perfectly yellow.

5658. Daffodils and hyacinths, the house full of their scent.

5659. A birthday party for a nephew. Deviled eggs, olives, and bacon. Coffee and donuts.

5660. A package of diapers. Soap for all the kids. Joey blanches joy.

5661. Craig puts up shelves in the greenhouse.

5662. I make an orange scented cleaner using vinegar and orange peels.

5663. We circle up with the kids to pray before bed. All those little hands linked through my elbows, slung over my shoulders, patting the side of my neck, stroking my face -- love encircles us.






Sunday, March 15, 2015

Family Date





"Like eat lots of oatmeal and homemade soup," Jane says.

"And fruit and sandwiches," Jack says.

There in the front seat, the litany of food interrupts my reverie. The car bounds over a humping hill, each cross street a bounce in our path.

"It's like you can't just eat chips all day," Jane says.

"Yeah," says Jack, "except if you're pregnant. Then you can have nachos for lunch every day."







Sunlight, soft through the passenger window filters across my face, more cross streets intersect. We lull to an uphill stop at a red light.

"Well, when you're pregnant," I say, "it's like you can eat good food and throw up or eat not so good and not."

"And you have to eat lots of little meals all day," Jack rallies.

"Yeah, and you're fat anyway," Jane says.

"Yeah," Jack nods.

Craig and I muffle belly laughs in the front, mirth like a ping pong ball volleys between us, our grins like rubber bands stretched beyond return.

We hide our flapping hilarity, disguise our voices with the rolling gait of normal. Still, Jane senses it, something off just a hair.







"Or at least the skin is all stretched out," she says, levity like tiny smile lines crease around her eyes.

Levity, skin, the tissuey crinkle of belly skin stretched and re-stretched around babies ensconces us.  Beauty, like skin all stretched out, creases into smiles.









Gratitude:

5642. Jane makes chocolate chip cookies.

5643. Jack wrestles gold. The family convenes for our weekly wrestling match reunion.

5644. Baby oranges.

5645. Hand-me-down quilting scraps.







5646. Why Revival Tarries by Leonard Ravenhill.

5647. Craig's mom stops by for the posthole digger. "Hi, sweetie," she says.

5648. I have my weekly communion with the women I love.

5649. "We found this in the closet," Myra says as I emerge from my room, bed-head and squinty eyes. She holds up the hook-end of a half gone candy cane.

5649. Pi Day - 3.1415.







5650. We make a family date of buying garden seed.

5651. I begin to knit at a more leisurely pace, frenzied knitting lulled to normal life.

5652. Betsy blows out her diaper which I change on the front seat of the car.

5653. I have my six week postpartum appointment, get a clean bill of health.

5654. Jane finishes her math book; we order the next.

5655. Life gently enfolds us with challenge and love. We hold on to each other.



Sunday, March 8, 2015

Dishes





"I kind of like the books that are harder," I say. Evening dishes and Jane and I talk literature.

"Yeah," she says, she with bowl in one hand, me with a wrung out rag draped mid-air.  "It's not really fun unless you have to work for it," she says.

"Yeah," I say. I stroke the counters with the limp rag. I nod in time with the circles. Bits and toast crumbs lodge in the hot pink weave. She knit the rag for me this past Christmas.

"Sort of like on summer break," she says, "where the first week is fine and then you're like wasting away." We lull like foam between waves of surf.

"Yes," I say, "just like that."







We laugh and lull, then take notice of a smudged plate left out, a dirty fork skid to rest by the coffee maker, gunk in the bottom of the sink. We imitate work, but really it's just a carrier for conversation. We catch the crest of the next wave. Work and love intermingle.









Gratitude:

5629. I knit a baby bootie. When I run out of yarn on the second boot, Mom has extra I can use.

5630. Yarn with ribbon in it.

5631. A new water bottle.

5632. A pillowcase for the body pillow, soft as kitten fur.







5633. Craig raises the greenhouse. "This is really pleasant in here," Lu says.

5634. Hand-me-down quilting magazines.

5635. Jack wrestles his first tournament of the 2015 year.

5636. I start reading RC Sproul's Essential Truths of the Christian Faith.

5637. A neighbor gives us a surplus of steel cut oats and extra hand soap.







5638. Joey takes up vacuuming as a pastime and hobby, the only real "machinery" he can get his hands on.

5639. The children continue to help out with the chores that make our house run smoothly.

5640. Wonderful, Merciful Savior redone by Michael W. Smith.

5641. We trace the glory of God through another week. Our hearts well up in adoration.



Sunday, March 1, 2015

Business





"I'm gonna make oatmeal with plums and sugar," Myra says. Friday and no one made bread, lunch plans collapse and the children have oatmeal.

"Oh," I say from the couch. Betsy nurses. I read. Myra masterminds plum oatmeal.







"I'm not gonna spill ANY sugar," she says, "'cause bugs like stuff that is reaaaaally salty, like sugar." I glance up at her, orange t-shirt and aqua leggings, jean skirt on sideways. She cocks her head. "We don't want ANY bugs in our house," she says.

She shakes her head along the curve of each word. Stork-like limbs and a perfect symmetry of logic, she shrugs. She plunks a white cereal bowl on the table and starts to fill it.

***





Sunday afternoon, and the children retreat to the garden. They dig and dig. They turn up the soil, open big swaths of earth. Down in the corner, Craig builds a greenhouse. I watch, then head inside to warm up.

"Yeah," Lu says.







I'm about to round the corner, but stop, watch her out of the corner of my eye. She spades the earth with her shovel, fishes a rock out and plunks it a bucket.

"Yeah," she says, "but it's our fun money, so we should use it to do something fun together."

The chop of shovels, the plunk of rocks, Craig had offered them a dollar for every bucket of rocks: fun money.







"Or maybe buy seeds," Jack says. He hacks the dirt as if his hoe were a splitting maul. They listen for the tink of rocks. Someone fishes them out. And they talk: fun money. The business of family strings them together.









Gratitude:

5620. Craig splits open his free time and builds me a greenhouse.







5621. Size 4 knitting needles and the perfect pearl buttons for my sweater.

5622. I make sloppy joes. We lack a third of the ingredients so I make up the rest, and it's perfect.

5623. We visit Craig's parents and share a meal together. We linger with Great-Grammie. Three months from now and she'll be 100.

5624. Jack makes peanut butter cookies.







5625. I take my first outing without the baby. Mom drives.

5626. Betsy smiles at me. She smiles and smiles.

5627. I notice the rosemary plant made it through the winter.

5628. We all begin to dream about the garden. Labor and pleasure converge. Shared reverie envelopes us.