Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas

Photo courtesy of Urban Rose Photography.


1747. Jack's attempt at adult conversation, "Myra's such a little childhood."

1748. How Lucy calls Craig's spiky hair, spicy hair.

1749. Jane's confesses when we ask about Christmas grafitti scrawled on the dining room wall: MERRY CHRISTMAS with holly berries.

1750. How Lucy says she like her baby because it has happy eyes.

1751. Jane's response when I ask her to tidy up the bathroom, "Momma, I don't really want this to become a cleaning day."

1752. Lucy up early from nap, "Mom, my thumb hurts. I took off the hangnail carefully my own self."

1753. How Jane tires to talk politics, "Why won't they grab the bull by the horns?!"

1754. Her commentary on me making Christmas goodies, "Mom, you're actually cooking, like COOKING-cooking."

1755. How Myra pushes a recipe book off my lap and climbs up to snuggle.

1756. How Lucy taps my leg, "Momma, I want you to dance with me where you hold me."

1757. Jack with a handful of grapes, "Guess what I did? I presented treasures to Myra."

1758. How all our kids want to dip their Springerle cookies in my coffee.

1759. All the family and gifts gathered to celebrate Christmas down on the farm.

1760. The bliss of cousins wound up and full of cookies and nuts and cheese and candy canes.

1761. A movie and popcorn with husband.

Photo courtesy of Urban Rose Photography.

holy     experience

Sunday, December 18, 2011


Photo courtesy of Urban Rose Photography.

"And God," I squish my eyes shut, lean against the bunk bed, "please forgive me for being so cranky today." I sigh.

From the top bunk, "I couldn't tell you were cranky," Jane whispers.

A smile pulls the corners of my mouth, "I know you don't want me to treat these kids and Daddy that way," I pray. "I'm sorry, God."

The night rocks in quietly like a ship docked in still water. We snug covers around children's shoulders, kiss their warm foreheads.

I climb the ladder and smile at Jane. "Did you say you couldn't tell I was cranky today?"

"Huh uh," her voice like a songbird, "You were just your normal self."

I hug her, her warm cheek against mine. "I love you."

I trundle down the bunk ladder, step into the hall. My normal self. Am I cranky so often it's the normal-me or does she just see normal-me in all I do?

Like most days, I pray for grace to cover me.

Photo courtesy of Urban Rose Photography.


1732. How Lucy breaks up our writing lesson with a whispered, "Momma, you have stinky breath."

1733. How she mimics Jack sounding out words.

1734. Her charge to Jack, "Let's pretend we're RATS."

Photo courtesy of Urban Rose Photography.

1735. A day of Christmas shopping, a new vest and Christmas clothes, the festive clomp of our feet on tile floors and camaraderie of looking together.

1736. Jack's examination of Daddy's Lincoln Log house, "How'd you DO that?" And Jane's spontaneous, "It's cause he's amazing." And Jack's, "You're TOO amazing Dad."

1737. How Myra keeps kissing the characters of the nativity on our hearth.

1738. Jane and Jack's chorus during dinner, "Dad, you're the smartest man in the world."

1739. Craig's appreciative, "Wow. THAT hit the spot," as he polishes of a plate of pot-stickers. And Lulie's, "Why'd you eat a SPOT?"

Photo courtesy of Urban Rose Photography.

1740. Jane's continued infatuation with my growing belly, "Do you think people think you're fat or pregnant?" We stare at each other a moment. "Probably pregnant," she adds.

1741. The gathering of family to celebrate Christmas with my side. And how weaved between the gifts and fancy food: two days that unfurl like a long sigh.

1742. Playing Pit for the first time and laughing to tears in the playful banter.

1743. The full feeling of spending time with a people who love me for who I am, the weight of that anchor.

1744. Loving them the same.

1745. In the teetering excitement, Craig's question to Jane, "So, do we need a present for you?" And her confident, "No. I don't really need anything."

1746. How every gift is perfect in that moment.

Photo courtesy of Urban Rose Photography.

holy     experience

Sunday, December 11, 2011


"Why does Emma and Jack get to do two pages of writing?" Lulie plops her three-year-old self next to me on the hearth, warm fire at our backs. She blinks her wide eyes.

"Do you want to do two pages?" I tilt my head.

She nods. "I already did one."

I curl my back so my blue jersey shirt pulls tight and warm against me. "Ok, you'll have to do another one," I say.

She nods her head, bobbling and serious. "I will," she says.


Later children gallop through the house. The kids hang on for dear life, piggyback on Jane. All bomble and chortle, they climb off the ottoman onto her back and thumb-drum the house full of squeal and gallop.

She dumps them in bed for naps and soft as a bunny pads back out to the living room.

"You just have to enjoy 'em when they're little," she says to me. She shakes her head, "Each year just feels like half a second." We nod in that grown-up way, let an adult moment pass between us.

Half a second. Grown-up moments spliced in between.


1708. Nutmeg logs. Christmas cookies, little brown logs that taste like butter rum.

1709. Pulled pork and black beans Brazilian style, a whole week's worth.

1710. How Myra puts a pair of Lucy's unders on her baby doll.

1711. Janie's hands rough with callouses.

1712. Expressions of genuine respect from her. The growing ability to risk social awkwardness to show respect.

1713. How every time I'm pregnant I'm a little more aware that this body won't last forever and savor the moments.

1714. How when I go to bed upset at Craig, I remember all the ways he overlooks things I do and loves me anyway. How I'm not mad anymore.

1715. Knitting with my mom.

1716. Lucy's admission, "I was getting out of bed to be naughty," when the babysitter tells on her. Her sorry note.

1717. How Jane points to Jack riding piggyback, "There's a backseat driver!"

1718. How half through tidying the living room Lucy announces, "Jane and me are just enjoying the time we are laying here [on the ottoman while everyone else cleans]."

1719. How Jane opens the cottage cheese at dinner, furrows her brow and reads, "LOWFAT. There's not much fat in this. Guys, I'm sorry."

1720. Roasted nuts crackling as they cool.

1721. The snarl of wrapping paper spread across the living room. And how the kids keep wrapping up their toys to give to each other.

1722. When I ask why, Jack replies, "Well, we've got other ones. And I know Lucy will share. She's really nice."

1723. And how when I suggest we take away his remote control car if he's naughty he adds, "Well, good luck with that. It doesn't really belong to me anymore," before getting in trouble.

1724. Jane's, "You did a great job, bud," in response to Jacks masking tape encrusted wrap job.

1725. How when I fall into an afternoon nap down on the farm Craig's parents somehow fill in all the gaps and keep the world spinning.

1726. How Jane tries to talk politics, "I hope someone like Aunt Janey and Uncle James gets voted president when Obama gets voted out."

1727. Jack's conclusion, "Mom, sewing machines are REALLY expensive. They are like a thousand dollars, 'cause I know they're really expensive -- like a thousand or a hundred."

1728. How Myra tries to pull her red corduroy pants onto Madeline, the rag doll.

1729. Jack's joyous, "I heard an egg rolling around so I just reached under the chicken and grabbed it," as he bounds in from the hen house.

1730. How Craig surprises me with an early Christmas gift, and how I repeat over and over like a parrot, "I can't believe you did that!"

1731. Letting this Christmas season pass slow and even, full of presents wrapped with masking tape and cookies with finger pokes in the frosting.

Sunday, December 4, 2011


"Mom, a rooster is in the nesting box," Jack calls all a-tumble into the living room, winter coat and boots molted by the back door. "Looked like it was grunting," he says out of the side of his mouth, eyebrows raised.

I fold a pair of blue jeans, watch him lilt around the room. "Oh," I say and add the jeans to a stack of folded laundry.

"I guess that rooster comb isn't a rooster," Janie adds and shakes out one of Myra's white undershirts, folds it into a square.

Jack jumps off the hearth for the bliss of it all. Jane gathers laundry piles and heads for the bedroom.

"What if the chickens actually lay a baby?" Jack whispers, a marionette puppet at my elbow. He makes his eyes wide and round.

"Oh, they can't do that, honey. They just lay eggs 'cause there's no rooster."

"But Momma, what if they accidentally lay together in that special way?" he persists hardly able to stifle a giggle, smile round in his cheeks.

"But if there's no rooster, they don't do that," I say.

He hops on one foot, makes lap through the kitchen, then trots back out to the henhouse for another look. Oh, the mirth of all these eggs.


1685. How Myra says, "Yay," and hugs her head when we give her Greek olives.

1686. How Lucy holds her baby's finger to follow along with the words while she reads.

1687. Jane's comment, "I don't love love math, but I love arithmetic," her grin and teehee. "It's a grown-up joke," she says.

1688. How she tells us, "My favorite part about Christmas isn't getting the gifts. It's GIVING them." And the subsequent hours sewing away on her machine.

1689. How we decorate the tree and they want the backstory on every ornament.

1690. How so many are from my Gramma, and Jane determines, "She spoils you rotten, Momma."

1691. The children trying to make a compliment, "Mom, this tastes as good as store bought!"

1692. Jane's determination, "If you love Jesus, you can't love animals more than people."

1693. How Craig's parents treat the kids and I to a night out when Craig's out of town for a couple days.

1694. How the children whoop into laughter and a heap of wrestling chortling screams when Craig returns, a tornado of glee.

1695. How Myra climbs up and rests her head on my tummy when I fall asleep on the couch.

1696. An afternoon with dear friends, 10 children between us, miles and miles of history.

1697. Fresh eggs.

1698. How the children mop up their own messes, clean white hand towel not withstanding.

1699. Watching Myra Rosie try to sort laundry.

1700. Feta with charred pineapple sauce.

1701. Meyer lemon cookie thins.

1702. The continual tap-tap of baby limbs in my womb.

1703. Lulie's exclamation, "Momma, Momma -- we're playing where I'm a bear and they're shooting me." How Jane and Jack pound by hand cuffs, goggles, and nerf gun in tow. "Not with a REAL gun," Lulie adds.

1704. The kids tidying the living room before lunch. Jane's frown and, "Momma, I'm trying to work, but it's hard when a bunch of kids are acting like one-year-olds."

1705. And her assessment as she seams a bookmark, "This might kind of clash together, but it's just what I made."

1706. How when I ask her what God's been teaching her lately she says, "To not be angry when I do something wrong." And while I pause she adds, "'Cause when I do something wrong I just want to get all worked up."

1707. All that drive for perfection gradually, day by day, smoothed still by grace.

holy     experience

Monday, November 28, 2011


"Are you wondering why I'm doing this?" Lucy pulls a long strand off her string cheese, flops it onto a pile of white wisps.

I lean an elbow on the mini card table between us, ease another bite of turkey soup into Myra's mouth, "Actually, I am," I say.

Lucy pulls another strand, pauses, raises her eyebrows, "It's 'cause I like it," she says.

Then she peels and pulls that whole stub of cheese until it transforms into a little white haystack. I watch. And like most of our Thanksgiving, moments unfold, miraculous, like white little haystacks.


1660. Thanksgiving at the ocean.

1661. Jane's assessment, "Seems like just yesterday Jack was a little BABY."

1662. Pumpkin squares left on my doorstep, perfect frosting.

1663. New earrings, a blue glass bead and a silver dangle.

1664. Jack's shout, "Daddy's a smarty pants." And Lucy's incredulous, "He's got smartie in his bottom?! Oh, SPORTY pants."

1665. Lucy's semi-annual eye exam and the good news: almost perfect vision!

1666. Jack instructing Lucy, "ER. That's how you spell hospital. It's only two words: E R."

1667. Thanksgiving meal, the table heavy with feast and how we talk and laugh, weave a few more turns in our heritage.

1668. How family travels long from the ends of the earth to meet at the beach.

1669. The open arms that greet us.

1670. The ruckus of cousins, hide-n-seek, fighting the bad guys, cars, trucks, crayons, a cardboard house, paper monsters, animal pillows, and all the merriment of toys given with love.

1671. Banter with grown-up cousins as they prepare for college interviews.

1672. Watching identical twins express passion, poise, and class in completely different ways.

1673. How the kids run down the beach in rain boots.

1674. A sneaker wave that gushes over our boots, the mirth and screams of surprise.

1675. Jane in a vest the color of sky.

1676. Her smile to Lucy, "I could tell by the tone, you were joking."

1677. Jack's determination, "Myra cannot have Swedish fish 'cause they're too rubbery."

1678. The kind eyes of my cousin who watches the kids so Craig and I can have a date.

1679. A fancy dinner out with my parents and uncle and aunt. The way they include us in their world, let us listen in on their lives, their wisdom.

1680. Balderdash and laughing to tears.

1681. Visiting until the wee hours of morning.

1682. Craig who drives the whole 12 hr trip home, how he turns the world upside down to make it good for me.

1683. How home, back in the real world, he paints circles of kindness around me. And how I find my faults show neon in his goodness, and I beg God to change me.

1684. How home settles like a sigh around my shoulders, and I'm happy for our life.

holy     experience

Sunday, November 20, 2011


"If Jesus had any sins, he would have had to die for HIS sins." I pull at a snarl of nachos, dislodge a chip. Lucy bites the corner of her peanut butter and jelly.

"And we would have to die for OUR sins on a CROSS," Lucy wrinkles her forhead, her cheeks round with sandwich, "and Myra would cry and cry on the cross." She pats little Myra's hand kitty-corner around the big black table.

"Well, you wouldn't necessarily die on a cross," I scoop up a diced avocado, "but you would go to Hell when you die and that's the part that would hurt."

Lucy tilts her head, "And Myra would cry and cry until they let her out." She nods and copies my matter-of-fact eyebrows.

"No, they never let you out. It lasts forever," I say.

She sways her shoulders, "Yeah, it lasts forever like amphibian."

"No, inphibian," Jane calls from the end of the table.

"INPHIBIAN," Jack shouts and jumps off the leather ottoman.

"Infinity," I say.

"Infinibin means forever and it never stops," Lucy recovers.


"Infinity," she punctuates.

With that we eat lunches down to clean plates and scattered crumbs. The children dicker over what books to bring to the beach and what to eat for breakfast in the car.

I tread lightly, let the current carry us.


1638. How Myra tries to give me a back rub.

1639. How she whispers, "Love," in my ear.

1640. How Lucy calls the salad dressing BRANCH all one dinner and points to the word, "Lighthouse," and sounds out, "Brrrraaaannch."

1641. How when I ask Jane to bring me my school plan book, Myra brings me my Bible.

1642. Jane's offhand comment as I cut sweet potatoes, "Mom, I gotta tell you something. You're the best mom I know of."

1643. Four children gathered around the oven to watch candied sweet potatoes bubble.

1644. First Tuesday in a month to gather with mom and sis-in-laws.

1645. Lucy's assessment, "The stars looked like little pieces of fire, but they didn't fall. And they didn't burn our eyes. They were really pretty."

1646. Myra sacked out in my lap while the older three work away at their schoolwork.

1647. Jane's observation, "Momma, time flaps its wings so fast." And Jack's, "Yeah, perhaps as fast as an American eagle."

1648. Lucy standing on tip-toe, "Mommy, even though you don't want me to grow so fast, I just go on and grow -- until I'm a grown-up."

1649. Youngest girl cousin a whole year old.

1650. How I pause at dinner dishes and see Jane sneaked away to twirl and hum to Christmas music.

1651. How she calls Craig's mom to see what we can bring for Thanksgiving.

1652. Early Thanksgiving with Craig's side, a feast to be sure, and laughter and sledding, knitting and talk over pie and coffee and how the day stretches and stretches on.

1653. How Lucy draws a picture of the baby inside of me: a bubble of sea-green and azure blue.

1654. Jane almost ready for bed, "I feel like I could only move as fast as a stone could move."

1655. Scrambled eggs and peppermint oreos.

1656. Jack's assessment, "I like learning about the world." And his full examination of our globe.

1657. How we hear Lucy whisper from the car's backseat, "Guys, let's NEVER do bad things."

1658. And her conclusion, "If Jesus didn't die on the cross, we're gonna have to go to Hell, all of us, even our DAD," eyebrows raised. "And," she adds, "it's gonna hurt really bad, and we can never get out, and all our teeth are going to fall out."

1659. The pressure, privilege of doling out a little more knowledge each day.

holy     experience

Sunday, November 13, 2011


"I had a dream Obama came to our house for dinner." I flip a pot-sticker, Lucy perched at my elbow.

"Oh!" she stands straight on the black thimble stool.

"And we had to call him Mr. Obama," I say and flop another pot-sticker sideways.

"Did he really come?" she asks, eyebrows arched.

"No. It was just a dream." I rest the spatula on the edge of the pan, catch Lulie's blue eyes.

She furrows her brow, "If Obama came to our house," she says, "you could call him YUCKY Obama."

She purses her lips. I pause. "No. I would call him Mr. Obama." I carry on as if pot-stickers were the universe, flip and switch, brown each side. "Even though I don't like him," I add. "I would show him respect because he's in charge." We listen to the pop-pop of olive oil sizzle in the pan. "Would you do that?"

I blink, and she nods her head like a giant bell. "Yeah," she says, "I would do what you would do."

We nod, furrow our brow and turn the pot-stickers down to low.

Respect, an anchor.


1611. How Lucy pats my face while we pray.

1612. How Myra Rosie wears a rubber band around like a silly band to copy the big kids.

1613. Jack's rally, "Let's go outside and play Billy Goat where I'm the billy goat."

1614. How Myra tries to put my hand in her mitten.

1615. How Lucy belts out, "Holy, holy, holy," while she gets dressed.

1616. Jack's prayer, "God, thank-you that I'm healthy and whole."

1617. How Myra giggles when I whisper, "I love you," in her ear.

1618. How she pulls my face to hers, eye to eye.

1619. How she wraps her baby in a blankie and whispers, "Shhhh."

1620. Finding Lucy in the yard wearing Jack's three-sizes-too-big shoes.

1621. How the kids collect bowls full of marigold seeds and sprinkle them gold over the garden. And their explanation, "We were pretending like it was Jesus' body and we were putting spices on it."

1622. Learning about lying and one child's comment, "I was wondering when everyone was going to find out I was lying." And the realization it's actually better when we do.

1623. How Myra hops in my chair, opens my chocolate bar, and takes a good sized sample when I'm gone a moment to discipline Lucy.

1624. Lucy's sing-song voice, "Jack, I've got a good idea for the house." And his reply, "I know, keep it clean."

1625. Her attempt at conversation with Janie, "Jane, are you a pig? I'm a pig."

1626. Learning about the wolf problem in Montana, how they've decimated wild and domestic game, pretty much wiped out local hunting, and Lucy's summation, "We waaaaant the animals so we can shoooot them."

1627. How Myra Rosie pulls my hand to her face after I rub her cheek. How she squishes our faces together when I rescue her from falling off the kitchen bench.

1628. "And then all the people criiiied out to the LORD," Lucy reading her Bible.

1629. Jane's matter of fact, "Did you know that it's easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to go into the kingdom of heaven?"

1630. And her advice to Jack, "Slow and stead wins the race, Jack. Remember SLOW and STEADY wins the race, about the speed of walking."

1631. My Dad and Mom home safe from Africa. Family gathered to see them in at the airport.

1632. Having parents I'm proud of.

1633. Our living room rearranged, wool rug rolled out for the winter.

1634. Jane teaching the memory verse, "Wanna listen to it a few more times? 'Cause I could hear that you were sort of struggling."

1635. Her furrowed brow as I put on make-up, "Momma, I can't even tell when you wear make-up."

1636. Her sweaty curls and flushed cheeks after nap, "I love you more than the other kids," she says, "not 'cause I don't love them, but because you're my mommy."

1637. Learning more each day how to lead these children and follow my husband.

holy     experience