"These guys are orphans," I sweep toward a long brown hallway. The children follow my fingers -- two foot tall prints of black children in the mezzanine of a local gallery, their eyes so shiny I see the photographer's reflection in one, his red shirt.
"That means they don't have any parents," I crouch down next to Lucy. "Can you believe that?" Irises round and blue, she blinks at me like a marble turning over. I glance sideways and see Jane's furrowed brow, Jack's raised chin.
"What would you do if you didn't have any parents?" They stare at those lucent brown eyes. Opening night and the gallery bustles at our elbows, still they gander and stare.
Lucy turns, "They gonna have to learn to pray by their own selves," she says.
We nod. "Yup." Snippets and tails of adult conversation settle like dust on our shoulders. And we stare. "Do you think you could do that?"
Lucy raises the rudder of her eyebrows, opens her mouth like a sail, "Nooooo," she whispers, shakes her head, ponies wobble side to side.
I mimic her wide eyes, trace out the moment. To pray -- if only we could learn to pray. For a moment I see the linchpin of the whole operation.
1450. Lucy's gratuity, "I don't mind if Rosie drools on my pillow. We can just wash it."
1451. And her prayer, "I pray that all the people at our house would love the food on our table and be healthy like us."
1452. A coral zinnia in a sea green bottle.
1453. Little brother and his wife for dinner and how no one minds that I catch the burgers on fire, except the screaming children, and how we visit late into the night.
1454. Jane's confession that she can fit through the small chicken door and down the ramp, "'Cause one time the other kids locked me in the chicken house and said, 'You can't get out; you're stuck in here,' but they forgot the other door was open. So, I just slid down the ramp."
1455. How we chase a big ol' black cat with a pink collar and tiny bell out of the chicken house.
1456. How Lucy calls, "Mom, look how I hold my baby," and tucks her under one arm and adds, "She likes me so much.
1457. Jack's reminder as I brew coffee and pour granola, "Mom, 'member, read your Bible first thing."
1458. Lucy all of three and overnight at Grampa and Gramma's for a date. Her decisive nod when I ask, "Are you sure?" And her incessant chatter over the highlights.
1459. All the details of a good date, mac-n-cheese, fries, a new bloomin' red shirt, stacks and stacks of stories, tractor pancakes, a cinnamon roll and candy for the road. And Grampa and Gramma's love.
1460. How when I hold the door for the entourage of her return, Craig's dad slips in to hold the door for me.
1461. How Craig's just like him.
1462. How Lucy whispers love in her babies ears and kisses their faces.
1463. Jane's offer, "I can crack the whip for ya, Mom."
1464. Her assessment, "Momma, Jack's starting to have that stubborn heart again where he won't let me correct him."
1465. How Lucy recites The Tiger by William Blake when I come to discipline her. As I come around the corner she chirps, "...and what dread hand, and what dread feet."
1466. Lucy in Jack's Spiderman nightshirt feeding Rosie frozen corn.
1467. A round of home baked cinnamon rolls when I return from my morning run.
1468. Jack's gentle, "It's okay if you burn 'em," when I make us plum toast for our date.
1469. How later he slips and enormous chartreuse ring on Rosie's finger and blinks into her blue eyes, "Wanna marry me, Rosie?"
1470. Rosie walking on wobbly legs.
1471. Just enough tufts of red hair on the tip-top of her head to make a teeny-tiny ponytail to match cousin Rockie.
1472. Lucy singing, 2-4-6-8-10-12-14... all the way to 20.
1473. How she stores chewed gum under her pillow, and it miraculously doesn't stick.
1474. That special moment when everyone in the family has clipped fingernails.
1475. Tuesday with my mom.
1476. More drawing class and time with the girls, a better-than-last-time self-portrait, and meeting Dad and Mom's house guest, the president of a nursing school in Kenya.
1477. Warm apple crisp with melty soft ice cream.
1478. Black grapes, crisp and juicy.
1479. Homemade cinnamon rolls rolled tight with spirals of cinnamon.
1480. A thousand piece puzzle of chalk sprawled on the coffee table.
1481. An invitation to the beach.
1482. Another ultrasound of our tiny baby, 13 wks, and how the tiny child rolls from back to tummy for our smiling eyes.
1483. How Craig fashions and attaches a nesting box to our hen house for the awaited first eggs.
1484. And how he teaches reading for me on Friday when I have a doctor appointment.
1485. A date! Craig and I go on a date, the kind of date where you walk in step all night, swing your arms, and feel light as a feather.
1486. Jane's note, Momma, I love that you teach me.
1487. Our big brown recliner that swallows me mid-afternoon on the days I'm too tired to even breathe.
1488. The gradual passing of seasons and how it mirrors the changing of my body with this baby inside.
1489. Learning every day to lead better with both discipline and love.
1490. How when Craig tells me to pray for more fruit of the Spirit it's actually and antidote to everything.
1491. Discovering that a lot of life's pat-answers that used to offend me are actually just sensible advice.