Wednesday, September 30, 2009


She's perched on the top bunk. Her blue eyes roam the ceiling as if an answer were tucked between the wooden boards.

"Jane." She avoids my eyes. "Is there anything else you need to tell me?" I stare. My eyebrows form an impenetrable fortress. She's breathing in and out like a road racer. "Jane." I bark it out sharper than I expect.

She hugs the ladder and fidgets, all elbows. Then suddenly, like a pop-tent collapsing, she claps her hands, covers her eyes, and bursts into a whisper, "Dear God, please give me the strength to say it. Amen."

As I exhale, the room seems small. Even as she wrestles the truth out like a long splinter, inside I shrink down to the size of a penny. Courage unfolds and I am undone by a thimble-full of confession.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Bike Rides

This is the girl who wipes down our soap dispenser with a hair bow when I ask her to clean for company. And her side-kick who sits on on the counter and watches with complete adoration.

She always spots the biggest trees.

And he pedals the fastest.

Sometimes this makes for a tangle.

Or a long ride.

Thursday, September 24, 2009


"Jesus, thank-you that I get to be with my mommy today. Amen." And here I thought she was going to bless the food.

Later it's nap time. Jane strings hugs and kisses into long tangents. Her small hand on mine, she grins, "My whole heart is full of kisses, Momma."

I play along, "Oh, I save them for when I am sad." I say.

"Hey Momma, is it ever hard to get out just one?" They're all bumping together and filling her with giggles.

"Oh, I usually take a whole handful because they all just sort of stick together. Is that what you do?"

"Oh. No. I just take them all out in my hand and just look for the one I want. But you have to kind of be careful and not tip them or they will fly all over. I actually had that happen once and then they get mixed up with everyone else's and they are hard to find." Kisses are serious business.

"So what did you do?"

"Well, for a while I put my name on them but that kind of works."

Every kiss has a name. Sometimes I have so many I almost forget.

**Special thanks to S. Cowger for the pictures.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Now, I Won't Get Dead

"Now, I won't get dead," Jack announces. "Like some people get dead, I won't get dead." Faith and fact the same to him, he raises both eyebrows, "THAT a good point."

My Dad's kitty died. Just sort of disappeared for all Jack knew. No one noticed. And still, I told him. "Honey, the kitty's dead." In a fumbling sort of hopeful way the story of Jesus and dying, sin and salvation tumbled out. A miracle unspooled there on the bed all gossamer and delicate.

"Do you want to pray about it?" He stares at me. I want to repeat it. I wait.

"Well..." he eyes the ceiling, "that mean I will die?" It's as if he's never considered this. "You pray for me."

In a counterpoint of mother and child we weave ideas. Grace and wickedness, fresh as the dawn, brush against each other. In the afternoon sun my man-child becomes a child of God. I want to hold my breath and not rumple those first understandings. I'm swamped in the simplicity: God died. For me.

"God DIED for me!" When in doubt he shouts. And the whole room shatters into a million tiny slips of ideas like chaff blown away.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Open Wide

"Go wash your hands with SOAP, Jack. Daddy said that WAS poop." Thankfully, picture and quote happened on different days. However, given his soft spot for Lulie we're all singing yippie-yahoo that no one is sick. We seem to have a theme lately on bowels and other grossness. I am getting a little de-sensitized.

On a lighter note, my life is filled with unending sweetness: Jack measures Lulie's pudgy baby arms with salad tongs. He pulls back a living room-sized bed for her and Jane. Janie declares she's, "Just feeling sort of gentle," and needs a Momma-date to Starbucks. The odd kaleidoscope swaddles me up, a corset of love.

Friday, September 11, 2009

The Edge of the World

"And so all the shepherds went into Bethlehem to find Jesus!"

I realize she's been staring into space when Janie turns her head to me, "So who watched all the sheep while they were gone?"

And then later, gathered around a small deli-table eating Costco pizza, "Daddy, when can I touch the edge of the world?"

It's hardly minutes later that our edge-less world rolls few paces down the field. At first it's so funny with Lucy there passing gas in the food-court. With the confidence of a presidential candidate she is cracking one, then another. And then all of the sudden we wondering how she's managed to soil right up the back of her shirt, onto the cart, past the seat belt, onto the floor. Of course Janie and Jack begin to shout that there is some on the floor and a giddy swarm of flies gathers.

"Janie!" Her eyes are HUGE. "Jane. Pretend like you don't notice." It is a command. She stares at me. "Pretend like you don't notice." It is sort of hard to ignore the flies, but she does a very serious fake-stare at a nearby advertisement for blinds. Craig sprints to the car. And for a moment, I begin to wonder if I might actually be at the edge of the world after all.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

6 Kids, 6 Days - Part 5

Puking is a fine art. Apparently when children sprint to a public toilet they quite likely will barf a second too soon. During the slip-and-slide effect, said child may actually careen completely under the toilet. Remember public toilets are wall mount? Sometimes it takes a few tries. Don't lose heart if at first you have a neat and tidy urp only to napkin it off.

On the way home watch for signs of round two mop-up. Pull over at the slightest groan. Most likely the almost empty wet wipe box can double as a has-mat container. The remaining three wipes will shine away an amazing amount of soggy shrapnel. You may feel like you are on a wet wipe commercial for their valiant effort. Of course, it will be dark and nice drivers will light up the smeary mess for your convenient clean-up.

By the time you reach home everyone will feel a little less barfy and just tired. Whoever hops in the shower first may miss another display when sibling pukes explosion style. Then again that may wait until morning. Of course, you'll have company to share the wild ride. Why keep it boring?!

At this point, a 21 gun salute to the modern disinfectant wipe is in order. And to Craig. THANK-YOU.

Here is our SECOND water park visit. This time I am queasy-green and in denial. Thankfully, I did not puke until we got home. Look what I would have missed!

Just a little taste of the fun we had.

Special thanks to the boys' chaperon who was also wonderful. Feel free to visit his blog HERE and donate if you want. Enjoy the videos of the boys fishing.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

6 Kids, 6 Days - Part 4

There is always a lull before bedtime. One night we painted.

Don't children always draw their mothers, the ones that tuck them into bed?

"Tell me about your picture."

The pause is long, as if the images cannot coalesce into English words. There is a woman. An airplane. A cane and swirling light.

"It is Grandmother."

For a moment he remembers a far away place. It's invisible to me. His quiet words splash out onto the table like a stone in a pond. And the moment is gone.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

6 Kids, 6 Days - Part 3

"I really like my friends. Can they stay with us for 11 years?" Janie's eyes shine with possibility. Eleven years is so much less than forever. She's thinking I'll probably say, "Yes!"

Sunday we head for the park. Including the boys' chaperon, "Uncle" Chris, we are a party of nine. We walk through the wideness of green grass and tall oaks, pines, a footbridge, rushing river. I remember that morning weaving elbow-to-elbow through church. For a moment the mass of people had swallowed up Janie. And as I had turned to shout for her, a little black boy, quick as if released from a gun, had grasped her small hand and pulled her through the sea. To me. And for just a second, I saw the essence of being a man. I wanted to stare at that reflex to protect, the pool of safety that gathered at his feet. I wonder who taught these boys to be men. As we walk, each one is the epicenter of something extraordinary. And though we cut a wide path no one is beyond our reach.

Friday, September 4, 2009

6 Kids, 6 Days - Part 2

The Fishing Trip

"That the BIGGEST fish I ever saw!" Jack is shouting. His fish swallowed the hook. The other children, clutching their catch run up and down the river bank. Even Jane is bare-handed holding a little squirmer, slime and all. Thanks, Huck Finn. It's a first ever fishing trip for two of our boys.

The kids hold up their fish for us to admire. This after reassurance that they don't bite. Craig puts his index finger in the fish's mouth. Everyone laughs and tries it. I notice the boys' small hands. Eight years old. Only three short years more than Jane. I wonder where the boys were born and who cared for them. I wonder who released them to America.

Thanks to Gramma's fried chicken, mashed potatoes, corn on the cob, and apple pie, we finish fishing with full bellies and wide smiles. Ain't nothin' can touch the hospitality on the farm.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

6 Kids, 6 Days - Part 1

Jack keeps praying, "And Jesus, please keep Daddy safe BACK to Africa." Sometimes he adds a phrase or two about Janie and Lulie and Momma and him too. We sort of shrug and wonder if he will pray that again tomorrow.

Then, Janie wants to host the African Children's Choir, "Because I want to see a little part of how Daddy felt in Africa," she says. Africa. Daddy. She wants to be like her Daddy, her hero. A small breath of completely-inexperienced-hostess from me and I realize I'll have six children for six days.

(Lulie not pictured.)

Slum kids. They're slum kids. Orphaned. The paper said not to ask about family. 10 days of airplanes and airports, bus rides, duffel bags, fresh clothes and three little African boys land in the middle of our family.

Derrick, Benson, and Reagan sleep in our sun room for almost a week. A little corner of Africa unfolds. They arrive all grins, belly-laughs, and wide eyed fascination with everything they see. Our world is stretched and turned by these three boys. I've never seen such sterling manners and unbridled joy all in one package.