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

Sunday, November 6, 2011


"Momma," Jane rests a hand on my shoulder, "maybe Jesus will do something nice and make the splitting headache go away."

I press fingers to forehead, "I hope so," I offer.

"Let's pray. Jesus," she starts, "please make Momma's splitting headache go away. Amen."

I sigh, let the words surround me. "Amen."

In gentle strokes the evening eases in. Headache ebbs by gradual degrees. Through the haze I see Jane's blue eyes blink back at me.

"Do you want me to turn the lights off?" she asks and scurries to pour a glass of milk next to the window's fading light.

I pack a scoop of coffee in the espresso basket, press it down. I feel Jane at my elbow, her curls long down her back.

Black and frothy sweet, espresso pours out the double spout. We watch it fill a tiny metal pitcher, meniscus bulging. Hands like feathers I swoop the mahogany shot into waiting coffee cup, a long foaming stream, perfect aim.

"I'm always amazed you don't spill that," Jane says.

"Yeah?" Our eyes glued the chestnut liquid, I add several sloshes of hot water.

"I love watching," she says. "I think it is so cool." And I hear it, the admiration. Even a simple slosh of coffee is perfection to her.

The weight of influence presses in tight around me.


1582. Butternut squash fresh from farm cellar.

1583. Jane's whisper in my ear, "Momma, want me to make you eggs?" as I rise for the morning.

1584. How Rosie clamors up on the couch with Jane and Jack, desperate to do flashcards.

1585. Jane's smile, "I'm glad I gave that gum ball machine away."

1586. Jack's hug and nod as I kiss him goodnight before bed, "I know you need to get out to your husband," he says.

1587. Lucy's nose smudged with dirt when she comes in from playing outside.

1588. And how she assures me, "Momma, every year you're just looking more old." Her approving nod.

1589. How Jack unlocks and hold the door for me when I leave to meet some friends.

1590. Jane's description of my cooking, "Usually all your things are spectacular, you know."

1591. "And so they went to Bethlehem..." Lucy's sing-song voice from on the couch as she reads to a dolly perched in her lap.

1592. Jane fresh in from out back calls to the kids, "Wanna sing Rock-A-Bye Baby with me and the dulcimer?"

1593. Myra Rosie's sweet, "Ma-ma," when I go to hush the kids to sleep.

1594. Lucy's determination that grown-ups don't stay up late because, "They're tired, and they're scared they're gonna have a headache."

1595. How she cuddles her baby and follows me around, "Mom, my baby always wants to read Bible stories. You can read on right now if you want."

1596. Jack's exclamation, "Mom, LOOK, I can walk like a penguin!" red rubber band around his

1597. Big news: our baby's a BOY.

1598. Lucy's explanation, "Our baby has a part we call a tail."

1599. The six of us circled around the ultrasound screen and my doctor's assessment, "I'm 'bout as sure that that's a BOY as I am that the sun's gonna rise tomorrow."

1600. Dinner at Jesse and Libby's -- the soup, the apples, carrots and cornbread, pear honey and the bond of family that encircles the spread.

1601. Rockie Amelia almost one, all blue eyes, wide smile, and her daddy's adoring gaze.

1602. Sudafed, a cup of coffee, a bowl of cereal, and how my cold's almost invisible for a few hours.

1603. How Jane makes applesauce oatmeal for all the kids, feeds Rosie, and recites Never Tease A Weasel for breakfast entertainment.

1604. A spur of the moment afternoon stroll with a dear friend and her twin boys.

1605. Jane's exhortation to Jack, "You have got to stop whining. I do not help kids that whine."

1606. How she tries to help when I have a headache, "You can just give us stuff already made, and you can have apples and peanut butter for dinner, if you want."

1607. How Jack closes up the chicken coop for the night and confidently adds, "I said, 'Jane, don't bring a flashlight 'cause I'm gonna lead you.'"

1608. Another morning volunteering with the kids.

1609. Learning again that it's easy to give in a public setting, but how it really means the most in the privacy of home when my head is throbbing and my children need me.

1610. The baptism of giving.

holy     experience