Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Tooth

"Jack, supplies," Jane thunks a bowl of ice on the table, rectangular mirror and wash cloth in hand. "If you just sit here," she points to the kitchen bench, "I'll hold the mirror."

I plop a stick of butter into the Kitchen-Aid mixer, watch Jack reef on his loose tooth. "Wow, that looks like it hurts." He bends if forward, back, forward. I turn to Jane, "He's tough; that's what he is."

"He's a BOY," she adds, "that's what he is."

They rotate: ice, mirror, bend the tooth, mirror, ice, have Momma try. Jane flops the wash cloth on the table, leans on an elbow. I add brown sugar and eggs to the cookies, whirl the mixer.

And then, he pulls it out. We cheer. The children erupt, I smile, pat his back. And I watch over his shoulder. He holds it up, jagged white pebble, and whispers, "Look, a newborn baby."

Tenderness, folded like moth wings, unfurls. "Can I have a tooth holder," he says. So, I dig out an old baby food jar. The tooth rattles like a metronome inside.

"Jane, let's go downstairs and look at my tooth and do the puzzle," he shouts, and ragtag band of adoring sisters trot down stairs to look at his tooth.

Another moment, another milestone.


1852. Up before six Tuesday morning and Jack's incredulous, "Momma, did you stay up ALL night?!"

1853. How before bed Jane kisses my hand and croons, "You're so sweet," then cuddles my it to her face.

1854. Lucy playing house, "Raise your hand if you're a marigold."

1855. How when Myra cries Lucy lulls, "Yes, my dear?"

1856. How when I tell Jack he can sit by me at lunch, he won't take a bite until I do.

1857. How at the first sign that tooth is loose he bursts, "Can we have a party when my tooth falls out?"

1858. How Jane clomps upstairs after half an hour, "I don't know why they think seeing teeth is so interesting."

1859. A tooth party with all the fixin's.

1860. New pants.

1861. How Lucy rotates a load of laundry when I mention it needs being done.

1862. How Jane makes name tags for place settings when we have company and makes a big card: Find Your Name.

1863. How Lucy copies her.

1864. How Myra eats the core of her apple.

1865. Lucy trying to sound grown-up, "Black widows like BANANAS."

1866. Jack at breakfast, "If you let me make toast, I'll let you HOLD my tooth."

1867. How when I ask Jane what God's teaching her, she pauses, and says, "He's reminding me not to get angry when people do things I don't like."

1868. How Lucy makes me a card, "It's just important to write Momma whole bunch of times."

1869. How she hugs her dolly and sing-songs, "I'm thinking you're getting cold." And how she turns to me, "I'm taking my baby on a date to the store."

1870. How Jack reads a book while he brushes his teeth.

1871. How when I return from getting my pregnancy rhogam shot, Jane bounds to the door, "How was your rabies shot, Momma?"

1872. Lucy's explanation, "Jane let me use this toothbrush."

1873. How Myra toddles over, lays her head on my shoulders.

1874. How Jane sets a coffee cup out for me, grinds the coffee.

1875. Three girls gathered around to watch me brew it.

1876. How Lucy rotates another load of laundry without me asking.

1877. Lentil chili and fresh bread on the farm.

1878. The kids' new game: Mad Tea Party. The cacophony that ensues.

1879. The insight from my mom that God put beauty here to comfort us.

1878. Jack's affection to Myra, "Hi, little mother duck."

1879. Lucy's question, "Mom, wanna know what study means? It means win the race."

1880. Better than playing house, "We're pretending Jack's Peter Pan, and I'm Captain Hook," Lucy says. "And Peter Pan always wins on me," says adds.

1881. The deliberation to slow these days, enjoy them as they come.

holy     experience

Sunday, January 22, 2012


"Ok, about five more minutes, then you should be done." I poke my head out of the kitchen, raise my eyebrows to Jane.

She nods, cups a hand over four remaining math problems. She scratches another answer on her paper then pauses, "I try to hide it from you," she says, glances back at the paper, "but it's just like, you're no dummy."

I laugh. She grins then rotates her pencil for the perfect hold and scrawls out more answers.

From the kitchen I chop onions for stew. I think of how Myra tried to eat a penny a couple of days ago, hand cupped over her mouth.

Jane and her math, Myra and her penny, I turn the images like smooth stones in my pocket.

Later, schoolwork a stack next to the jar of sharpened pencils, stew heated to a simmer, Jane lingers in the kitchen. Conversation orbits around dirty dishes, smudgy cutting boards, the way the world works.

"Maybe you should pleasure read," I suggest.

Jane leans on the counter. I plop a dish in the sink. "I sometimes just pleasure read," she says, "because I know I can get away with not doing school work if I hurry and start reading."

"Oh. Well, I guess that probably works, doesn't it?"

She nods. I laugh.

We visit, make the afternoon long and wide, a place we can hold hands and explain the world.


1819. How Lucy tries to help Myra be big like her. "Do this, Myra. Walk like a KANGAROO."

1820. How the story of David and Goliath collides with the topic of child birth and Lucy concludes, "I guess he just popped out ENORMOUS."

1821. How I corral Myra for bed and Craig warns me, "She may still have potatoes in her mouth -- although she did brush her teeth, twice."

1822. Lucy's raised eyebrows when she reports, "Jack said that if I peed on a towel in our room again he would give me the cold he caught."

1823. How Myra discovers fuzz between her toes and pulls all ten apart to check for more.

1824. The realization that she's been eating it.

1825. Jack's matter-of-fact, "You weight more than you used to," as he nods to my belly.

1826. How Lucy holds her baby doll up to the chalkboard and makes her write school stuff.

1827. Nearly a foot of fresh white snow.

1828. Myra decked out in diaper, hats, mittens, and cowboy boots vying to play in the snow.

1829. Lucy's assessment, "We played in the snow today for nine hours. Or five hours."

1830. Trying to figure out why kissing boo-boos really actually helps -- if the kiss actually lands exactly RIGHT on the boo-boo that is.

1831. How Lucy miraculously develops the skill of looking me in the eyes when she gets in trouble in Fred Meyer.

1832. How she tries to soothe Myra, "Myra, cool your jets off!"

1833. A new baby wrap for the new babe.

1834. Making a new friend and her kindness to our family.

1835. How kindness is contagious.

1836. How Jane wipes Myra's face after lunch.

1837. How Lucy prays at dinner, "God, thank-you that we have enough food to fill up our bodies."

1838. Her description, "Huh-HA. It's a bad word. It means YOU'RE WRONG."

1839. How Craig announces at breakfast that he felt the baby kick and Lucy's incredulous, "You have a baby in YOUR tummy?"

1840. Watching Myra try to whisper during school.

1841. How I listen to a Chapter 2 of Learn the Bible in 24 Hours, and Jane responds, "People are naughty from day one."

1842. How Lucy sings Holy, Holy, Holy in three-year-old soprano while she works a puzzle.

1843. How Myra makes an eight pretzel tower with her lunch.

1844. Homemade pizza and caesar salad with friends and how the children play games all night while we relax.

1845. Ice cream with peach rum sauce and an evening of reading by the fire with Craig.

1846. The sledding run he sculpted outback.

1847. A black baby for Lucy given with love, one that fits into to all her favorite baby jammies. "This one just popped out of my tummy," she says.

1847. Her admonition, "Be VERY quiet because my baby's to sleep in the stroller. He didn't sleep very well, and then I gave him a kiss and a hug, and he fell right asleep."

1848. Learning how to dye.

1849. Myra on my back shouting, "BOO!"

1850. Taking one thing at a time and feeling capable of at least that.

1851. Reading how the people of Israel said, "What is it?!" the first time they saw manna, and realizing I say that to most of the best blessings in my life.

holy     experience

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Hold My Hand

"Mom, MOM, wanna go check for eggs with me?!" Jack tumbles into the kitchen, a circus around my ankles.

I splash dinner's silverware into the sink, shake crumbs out of the rag, sigh at the cutting board, cheese grater, and avocado peels scattered on the counters.

"Sure." I measure out the word, blink into his blue eyes. Sloppy bowls from taco soup frame the kitchen. Still, I dry my hands, slip into shoes and red coat.

He tilts his head, "I like going," he says, "with people I love, so I want to go with you."

We step into the black night, winter air wet around our necks.

"Here, hold my hand," he encircles my cold fingers. "Just follow me," he pulls my hand over the frosty grass. "I don't want you to get lost," he says.

His shoulders square against the moonlight, we stroll to the henhouse, creak open the nesting box to peek for eggs. None, just straw.

And so he clunks it shut, gathers my hand, tugs us back, over the grass and into the house.

While I wipe smears of avocado off the kitchen table, slosh bowls from the sink, call for children to change into jammies, it all feels light, a comma between moments.


1801. How Jane holds up a picture of Jack's, "The question," she says, "was how do you get salvation, and Jack tried to draw a picture of a person praying."

1802. How the children take the extension cord from their alarm clock and use it to plug in the toaster at the dining room table before I'm out of bed Monday.

1803. Jane from the backseat of the car, "The candy sometimes falls on the floor, and then throughout the year we find some of it and eat it."

1804. Lucy burping one of her baby dolls, "Mom, there was a spider in one of the strollers, and I killed it with my bare hand."

1805. Laundry done in shifts, everyone helping.

1806. Learning again the importance of eye contact with the people I love.

1807. Jack's determination, "I want to be a farmer when I grow up."

1808. Lucy's wide-eyed, "Did you see me DROOL?" when I tuck her into bed. And her matter of fact, "I still sleep pretty well when I drool."

1809. Frank conversations with the people I love.

1810. Stew and a table set for us, family gathered to enjoy it.

1811. Learning when to give small acts of service to our children as tokens of love.

1812. Saying no to small expenses that add up to a lot.

1813. Learning more how my mom thinks about the world and finding it change me.

1814. Jane's scrawling on the chalk board for Craig when he gets home: I love you, Daddy. Thanks for working so hard.

1815. Homemade pizza with cold Pepsi.

1816. Lucy's exclamation, "Mom, when I get in the other kids' bean bags, they whip a banana peel at me. And it's very FUN."

1817. My resolution to let banana peel-whipping be on the list of things I call now fun.

1818. An imperceptible shift toward being a little less sharp, a little more willing to let things go.

holy     experience

Sunday, January 8, 2012

The Woman in Blue

"She's being rude." Jane leans her face to my ear, gestures at a woman on stage.

I nod, furrow my brow. Myra snores on my lap. Jack flaps the sermon outline like a flag. Jane frowns at the woman in powder blue.

The woman in blue huffs and slouches next to her green purse. She makes her words sharp, her chin jutted -- a crisis of faith. A sketch. Jane measure out the woman's gestures, traces the arc of the her eyebrows, and cross of her arms, the staccato of anger.

Her story circles like a raven in flight. Jane watches the trajectory, her lips parted and brow furrowed. The story lilts in softly. Adults clap, nod.

The moment broken, I feel Jane at my shoulder. Oblivious to applause and grown-up nods, she leans to me, face in my ear. "She was the rudest person I have ever seen," Jane says.

On the way to the car she wants to know, "Was that woman just pretending? 'Cause that was so disrespectful."

"Yes, it was a sketch. She was trying to show us what happens when we believe a lie."

"Oh." She steps over a puddle. "I still don't really think it was a good idea to be so disrespectful up there."

The kids and and I trundle over parking lot gravel. I turn her words over in my mind and marvel at how the research is true. Kids internalize what's modeled. The model is the message.

And while I weave the pastor's sermon and woman's sketch together for her to see, it's just a footnote to her.


1777. A gallery meeting, Jane and Jack quiet at my elbow, how they insist that they love coming.

1778. Jane in the tundra of spelling homework, "I don't know what's come over Jack, but he is being all SWEET."

1779. How Lucy assimilates whole pages of letters and shapes intent to do homework like Jane and Jack.

1780. Her serious voice, "Mom, I put my finger in my mouf, and it hurt. That was a good lesson."

1781. My insistence that the kids fold towels on the couch because I don't like to dry off with dirty towels and Jack's cheerful, "I can dry off with dirty towels no problem."

1782. How Jane and Jack spar over noise levels during school and Jane ends with, "I wanted to say, KNOCK IT OFF, but I knew I would get in trouble so instead I said, Jack I love you."

1783. How when I leave a note on the chalkboard for the kids before bed, they answer with a note in the morning.

1784. Jane resorting to, "I have to tell on you, BOY," when Jack steps on her last nerve.

1785. Taco soup with sausage and cajun seasoning.

1786. Jack's question during math, "What does, DON'T MAKE A PIG OF YOURSELF, mean?"

1787. And how he peeks around the corner at Jane doing spelling, "From time to time can I go see how Jane is doing and tell her GOOD JOB?"

1788. Lucy's conclusion, "Two plus two equals ORANGE."

1789. Jack trying out theology, "Lucy, you are NOT home." How they spar at the kitchen table over who is home and Jack trumps with, "No, HEAVEN is your HOME."

1790. Her follow-up, "Jack YOU can take care of my plate."

1791. How he does.

1792. Raspberry pie, the kind that Gramma makes and ends up in brilliant streaks on Myra's face.

1793. A whole freezer full of farm fresh meat.

1794. Jane's gratitude, "Dear God, thank-you for our family and how I like all the people for different reasons. Thanks that I get to have people that I love in my family. Amen."

1795. Jack's report, "I'm at least a little bit close to God everyday."

1796. The six of us gathered in my doctor's ultrasound room for another peek at sweet baby boy, 26 weeks now and doing well.

1797. Four boxes of hand-me-downs!!

1798. Jack's prayer, "God, thank-you that we have clothes so we can be modest."

1799. Learning the liturgy of going to bed early.

1800. The rest that ensues.

holy     experience

Sunday, January 1, 2012

A Ton

"When are we going to read Bibles?" Jack flops his blue Bible against the black leather couch. "Momma, when are we gonna read?"

I walk shoulder tight, balancing morning fog and taut headache. "I'm comin'."

The children plop like marbles next to Jack, bump and bobble, squeeze in, Bibles stacked on knees.

"Where am I gonna sit?"

They shuffle a narrow slit between Jack and Lucy, optimistic of my swelling body. The couch reshuffles around my landing.

"Ok." One at a time they pass me Bibles. I read. I string the words together, hope they sprout wings and carry the day.

We trundle through 1 Chronicles, the temple, King David, how he donated hundreds of tons of gold to build the temple. Donated. Whole tons of gold. I wonder if my piano weighs a ton. A hundred tons. I wonder how much a garbage truck weighs.

In the barrage of images I hardly notice David's charge, "How many of you are willing to set yourselves apart to the LORD today?" It's between paragraphs. I take a breath.

And before I read on Jack blurts, "I am!"

Jane choruses, "I am." And I hear it. They're following the threads. All I have to do is read.


1762. How the children gather baby dolls and diaper bags, load them in the rocking chair, and Jane calls out, "Okay, everyone, start your motors." One by one, they punch start on their mechanical toothbrushes, pretend their car has a real hummin' motor.

1763. How Jack bombles past the computer desk, "Mom, you're doing a good job cleaning." We blink at each other. "If you were cleaning," he ammends.

1764. His confession, "I know grown-up-talk." And the explanation, "It's how to talk and like it."

1765. Jane's breakfast commentary, "When Lucy opened the door it sounded like a whole sea was rushing in."

1766. Jack's observation as he bounds in from the henhouse, "When cats run they spring up and down," eyes wide.

1767. A morning playing with cousins in the winter sun and grown-up visiting amongst mothering.

1768. How Jack pats his new Bible, "I like this Bible better than all my others even though it doesn't have pictures."

1769. Chocolate chip cookies baked with browned butter.

1770. How Lucy plugs an ear, shrieks, and calls, "Can you HEAR me?"

1771. How Jack offers to make my bed, wide grin and blink-blink of blue eyes.

1772. How I find his fake snake slither between the sheets that night.

1773. A pot of winter stew and the company that came with it.

1774. New Year's Eve with cousins run blissfully wild among adults and hors d'oeuvre and an early night's sleep.

1775. Jane's, "Come on guys, let's go downstairs and play house," when my neck and shoulders strain against the thumb-drum of the headache.

1776. A new year, 25 weeks into this pregnancy, and pressing on, rounding the 17th mile of this marathon.

holy     experience