Monday, April 30, 2012

Finding Normal

"Mommy, I put the laundry in piles for you." Jack tosses a sock onto one of the piles, the living room now six towers of laundry.

"Thank-you, honey." I smile. He crosses his arms. He wrestles a pile of jeans and darks back into the whicker laundry basket. I watch from the couch, babe curled in my arm nursing.

"I heard you and Daddy talking," he says, "and I thought, I can help."

Help. That prickly conversation still inside, I watch him stuff the rest of the jeans in the whicker basket. The weight of my words circle back. I wish I'd spoken kinder to Craig.

Then it's Wednesday. The table a-skitter with sandwich crumbs and dribbles of honey, Lucy lingers.

"And when he's a husband," she nods to Jack, "he's gonna have to SHOOT bears and lions." She crunches into her apple and says with a mouthful, "That's really hard work."

She nibbles her apple down to the core, down to the seeds, french braids wild and fuzzy like the wind. Pink tee, denim shorts, flower eye-patch, she leans on an elbow and bites around the apple stem.

"And the new baby's gonna grow up and be another daddy," she carries on. "And he's gonna SHOOT stuff that will hurt you." She nods. I smile.

Shoot stuff that will hurt you. Daddy protects us. I don't appreciate this enough.


3040. How Jack tickles the back of Myra's neck when she's sad about having to obey me.

3041. How Lucy comments, "Daddy can handle the dark. I can handle the dark too."

3042. How I try to explain postpartum recovery to her and she responds with, "Do you feel normal?"

3043. The second retaining wall built in the back yard by Craig's strong hands and back.

3044. Bales of yellow sod rolled into place for recovery.

3045. Snickers bars.

3046. A sunhat for red-headed Myra.

3047. How I ask Jane what she likes best and least about her life, and she says, "Best -- that God takes care of us. Least -- that Adam and Eve sinned."

3048. How we talk about lying, and Jack says he can't tell if someone is lying. And Jane pipes up, "I can, by their actions."

3049. Myra's confession that she's eating stale toast out of the trash.

3050. Her crooning to Joe, "You love me, boy."

3051. Lucy's announcement, "Actually, I give my babies PIG milk."

3052. How I ask Jane what she worries most about and she says, "Like if something happened to my family."

3053. Little Joe slung over my shoulder like a newborn sack of potatoes.

3054. The most wonderful professional photos of Joe taken by my sweet sister-in-law.

3055. How Lucy procures a pair of baby sunglasses and wears them around for the day. "These are really nice," she says, "even though they have some toothpaste on them."

3056. How the strange migraine symptoms my dad has turn out to just be migraine symptoms.

3057. Avocado salad with cabbage and cilantro.

3058. Ham.

3059. Two new changing covers sewn by hand, wrapped in yellow rickrack, and hand delivered over a thousand miles. And the hands that made them.

3060. How Lucy comes a step closer to understanding germs. "Germs are as little as a roley-poley," she says.

3061. A bouquet of yarn and knitting needles and pages and pages of baby hats in every color.

3062. Jack's explanation of how I salted the popcorn. "I guess you just like lots of salt when you're recovering from pregnancy," he says.

3063. How he hugs me at bedtime and reaches around my shoulders to hug Jane too. "I love you, too," he whispers in her ear.

3064. And how he whispers in my ear, "I could do this forever," and we hug tight.

3065. Learning again to stop and look our children in the eye every time they need.

3066. Having to tell Jane for the first time, "Stop reading and listen to me."

3067. Myra coming around to her sweet self as we redefine the boundaries again.

3068. How when the kitchen gets harried with dinner preparation, Jane slips away to draw a picture. It says, "We are happy. I love my family."

3069. Craig steady as ever, the rudder of this ship. And how he makes my every worry look small.

3070. Learning to sustain myself in scripture. Again. And again. Everyday.

Monday, April 23, 2012


"Have you been liking the way I've been acting?" Jane slips barefoot into the kitchen.

I pause over a white cutting board of strawberries. "Yes," I say. "What's come over you?" I grab her in a sideways hug. She melts into me.

Clad in flannel nightgown, she smiles up. "Before I do something I think, Will Mommy and Daddy like this? and, Will God like this? and if no one would like it," she shrugs, "I don't do it."

I pause to slow the moment, "That's good." I nod. "And you're thinking about if the right people like it." I let her go and chop the top off a strawberry, "It doesn't matter if everyone likes it. But with God and your parents it really does."

She lingers at my elbow. I chop a pile of strawberries into cubes and pile them in white dishes. She weaves conversation, one question to the next. While the rest of the brood brushes teeth and tries to find jammies, Jane and I tie up the loose ends of the day.


3017. How the kids keep calling Joe chubby-chubby-CHUBBY but have no idea what it means. "I think it means cute," Jack explains.

3018. Having a sister-in-law who is a professional photographer who completely spoils us with pictures of the baby and all the kids. (Soon to come.)

3019. Lucy's prayer, "And I pray we see Great-Grampa at Heaven."

3020. How the children plan their birthdays at breakfast and labor over how they will have chips without MSG for me at the party.

3021. How the children braid my hair during morning devotions.

3022. Jane's summary of Jack's wrestling season, "Guys that look tough aren't usually. And guys that don't really look tough are."

3023. Her conclusion at the end of the week, "The best thing ever would be to just sit here and visit with you."

3024. How she tells me at breakfast, "There's nothing worse-er than hating Jesus."

3025. Lucy learning theology, "Everyone that loves Jesus," she says, "is the light of the world. If you pretend to love Jesus but actually don't, you're not the light of the world. But I am the light of the world 'cause I love Jesus."

3024. How Myra keeps saying, "Hi BOY," to baby Joe.

3025. The three girls sitting in the bobcat outback watching Craig roll a rotten stump into the trailer, Jack loping around in flip-flops.

3026. Black rice. BLACK rice and the whole meal built around it.

3027. Sausage tomato soup with kale in it.

3028. Two bucketfulls of white popcorn.

3029. A jacket for spring weather.

3030. Conversation with my mom and how every time I gather advice and encouragement, strength and prayer like manna from heaven to bring home.

3031. Learning the rhythms of a house with five kids and feeling made for it.

3032. How Craig unplugs the kitchen sink with a 25 ft. snake before breakfast on Saturday.

3033. Jack's announcement at breakfast, "Chives can't grow really big -- like as big as Ellie and Andrew's apple tree."

3034. How I hear him crooning to the baby, "You have really chubby little hands. You're gonna be really strong like your daddy."

3035. How he asks offhand this afternoon, "Hey Mom, at May should I pack up for July?" as he dreams about camping with Daddy this summer.

3036. Jane's request to visit Great-Grammie. "I just love to give Great-Grammie hugs," she says.

3037. How Myra's eyes make happy crescents when she smiles and big moons when she doesn't.

3038. How the neighbors band together to help us level the back yard. How my brother sweats in the afternoon heat to help shovel 12 yards of dirt into place. And how Craig works tirelessly between work and home as if life were made perfect by the good work we've been given.

3039. The good work we've been given.

Monday, April 16, 2012

The Wall

"Nope." Across the table Lucy cuts a floppy chunk of oatmeal with her spoon. "I don't love you because you're good," I say. "I love you because you're my child."

She fishes the oatmeal lump out of her bowl, eats it. "Oh." She peels up more congealed mush, flops it over, pauses. "When I am a grown up," she says, "I might be like that."

I watch her hold her spoon as if she's forgotten it. "I bet you will."

Like a fermata the moment passes and the chink of spoons keeps time for the morning.


2096. How Jack lets the girls wear his wrestling metals, and they all pretend they are cops.

2097. How the children spend the first hours of Spring Break trying to dig a hole to water.

2098. Lucy's assessment of how babies are born, "There's a lock on Mom's tummy so the baby won't come out when you go pee-pee or poo-poo. Mom, what kind of lock is it?"

2099. How when I worry over Joe's birth, Craig throws his hands in the air and says, "This is gonna be FUN." And how I start to think, this is gonna be fun. And it is.

3000. Healthy baby boy, smooth birth, great doctor, wonderful nurse.

3001. My beautiful mother-in-law who ably cares for our children while we are in the hospital, even cleans the house.

3002. How my parents are both at the birth and bring treats, how the whole day unfurls like a parachute to catch me.

3003. The gift of a phone.

3003. Jack's affectionate, "Your tummy's still pretty big, though not as big as it was," when we get home from the hospital.

3004. The new garden and all the help we've had planning and building.

3005. Craig tilling the dirt and digging worms for the kids.

3006. Orange terra cotta plates they pile the worms to feed them to the chickens.

3007. How they find a row of last year's carrots buried in the garden and turn them in the dirt, orange and green speckles in the soil.

3008. Jack's conclusion at breakfast, "If you ate 20 bananas THAT would probably fill you up. I said 20."

3009. Jane in from out back, "Momma, it's HOT out. I'm just sitting in the shade with Jack and his chicken sweating."

3010. How Myra slips into snow boots and a bathrobe when she hears Jack say he's going outside.

3011. Lucy's charge to one of the other kids during a board game, "FIX your attitude."

3012. Craig building the brick retaining wall for our new garden, the children a rodeo of fun at his elbows. Did I mention the nursery blocks weigh 80 lbs. each? Near as we can tell he moved over six tons of stone in one day.

3013. Myra's upgrade to a diaper and pink cowboy boots as the work wears on.

3014. Dedicating baby Joe at church and the cloud of witnesses that join us.

3015. Family gathered for lunch after and how everyone brings everything and we just come with the baby and the kids and let the afternoon run long.

3016. Finding Christ's love at every turn in meals for our family, pots of soup, sandwiches, chicken, pies, gifts for every one of us, conversations and encouragement, friendship and the never ending chorus: You are LOVED. At every turn I am humbled and filled.

holy     experience

Sunday, April 8, 2012


Joe Chapman

Born Maundy Thursday
April 5, 2012
9:39 pm

Burst from the womb like a cork.
Joe - the LORD may increase.
And so he has.

Blessed beyond words.

~His whole family

holy     experience

Sunday, April 1, 2012


"I just want some slow quiet moments," I say, "where we can stop and think about where we are in life and enjoy it." I knock the hair clippers against my hand. A clump of hair dissolves into tiny pieces that litter down Craig's back.

"I don't even like moments like that," he says. I frown, buzz the clippers up the back of his head, mow down hair in long strips like grass. Tiny hairs fall everywhere. He brushes the overspray off his legs. "I just try to enjoy every moment as it happens." He slaps his legs.

I frown, sight, grab the scissors and comb. With short scoops and snips I even up the crown of his head. We let the words sit like prickly hairs piled on the kitchen floor. All the while I wonder if this is true, if I could just enjoy each moment as it comes.

I sweep the hair and vacuum the kitchen and for a moment feel like he's shown me another window in the house.

Photo courtesy of Urban Rose Photo.


2076. How Myra plays in the rain until she's drenched, then falls asleep on my lap.

2077. The kids with flashlights shined in the washer to watch the laundry suds up.

2078. How when I mention Great-Grampa, Lucy blurts, "He's so sweet."

2079. Jane's question, "Momma, why does Jesus tell us that when there are wars the end is near?" and the conversation that ensues.

2080. How she offers, "Want me to get you a highlighter? Then you can put it back in the drawer. If you can -- I mean you ARE pregnant."

2081. Two new scarves, spring green and summer red.

2082. How I hear the four children playing on the top bunk. "We're in the Battle of the Bulge, Jane," Jack shouts.

2083. How Great-Uncle Alan actually fought in that battle.

2084. A new haircut for me too! And how even a few inches trimmed off makes my head feel lighter, and all the hair just fall so much nicer.

2085. Praying for miracles in person and over e-mail, intercessory prayer for the people we love.

2086. Pizza pie and blackberry pie all in one meal and all the laughing that went with it.

2087. Jack's admiration, "Mom, you're HEAVY-WEVY, like one billion," and the happy blink of his eyes.

2088. Jane's evaluation, "Daddy could lift up this whole world and have it be so light."

2089. The last wrestling match of the season and how all the family gathers and cheers for Jack and the cousins.

2090. How it's a proving ground for strength under control and the sheer will to never give up.

2091. How the menfolk nod their heads and relive their own proving grounds.

2092. Sausage tomato bisque and artisan bread, three types of pie and maple bars for dessert. Family gathered for lunch.

2093. A new month and the exhilaration of being at the tip top of a roller coaster.

2094. Learning to enjoy every moment.

holy     experience