"Mom, I made a picture of the angels appearing to the shepherds." Jack corners me at the bottle-neck end of the kitchen, "and the shepherds and the sheep." He flaps the the paper like an eagle's wing.
The afternoon spins a pirouette under my feet. I stop, let the details skitter on. "Here, let me see."
He teeter-totters the pencil sketch, creased and curled corners. I wobble my head to catch the images. He, a marionette of motion, I capture his wrist and steady the paper.
Shepherd, angels, a bright star and lumpy sheep, and there, scrawled across the sky: MOMMY. He put my name with the angels.
Later we pray our thanksgiving for Christmas. "Can I pray first?" Jack fidgets, his knees gangly as we sit cross-legged.
"Sure," I say and glance over the children as they nestle into prayer.
"Jesus," he starts, "thanks for being born in a barn. And thanks that you died and rose again. Thanks for saving us. Amen."
A stone skittered on glassy pond, his prayer skirrs and scatters ripples. The other children pray, but I'm encircled by that old barn and the child inside. Died and rose again. What a miracle.
3881. "You can pick ONE person to help you," I referee as the children beg to help Jack launder Joe's diapers.
3882. "In a verse it says the devil seeks to devour us," Lucy offers as we wrap up gifts for Christmas.
3883. "I can make practically anything that doesn't use the oven," Janie says as we frost nutmeg logs.
3884. Jack and Jane wear goggles as we chop onions for stew and listen to Joy To The World 49 time on auto repeat.
3885. I notice stripes of soot on Jack's hands. "What's that on your hand?" I ask. "Ash," he says, "from the fireplace, of course."
3886. I settle in to nurse Joe. "Are you nursing a piglet?" Myra chirps.
3887. We pop cookies out of my pastry press. I turn my back and Lucy fires it at Jack.
3888. "I like FROSTING, Mom," Myra announces as I come in the kitchen. "Mmmm, that is GOOD."
3889. Myra tears a strip of wrapping paper. "That is FUN," she says.
3890. I ask Jane if she likes Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle. "Yeah," she says, "you should totally read it. It's just totally you." Then she narrates how pristinely strict Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle is and we both giggle.
3891. As we frost more cookies, I tell Jane she is not thinking about leading the other kids in a very grown up way. She pauses and then pipes up, "When you see that, I'd like you to tell me." And suddenly it seems grown up after all.
3892. Joe belches. Myra nods. "GOOD boy," she exhorts.
3893. We traipse off caroling at my parent's house, 18 of us slip-sliding on ice crusted earth, 300-plus candy canes to hand out to neighbors.
3894. The children tote the candy cane bag and shatter whole passel of candy canes as they slip behind-first on the ice again and again.
3895. Peppermint bark popcorn.
3896. I visit with niece and nephews and love every single one of them, the person each is becoming.
3897. We exchange gifts on my side and draw the morning and two days out long and sweet.
3898. The children build a mammoth snowman.
3899. We continue to engage the children, each at their points of need, and watch them become more poignant versions of themselves.
4000. I reflect again on my Savior, Jesus Christ, and my heart bows in gratitude.