Sunday, February 24, 2013


"Don't use this all up, but," Jane presses an orange Chiclet box into my hand, "you guys can have some." It's a heavy stone of a box bowed and bulging, the compilation of three or gum four packs. "Mom, I want you to make sure and have a good time with Jack." She sways, a shawl of curls around her shoulders. Me, half in the suburban, perched on its balcony seat, I smile at her flushed cheeks, freckles, blue eyes.

At the coffee shop Jack totes a plastic shoebox of crayons. My shoulder bag anchored down with animal magazines, we scout out tables. We eye a row of round ones.

"Let's pick this one," he gestures to the one on the end. "It's a little bit bigger."

"Ok." And we settle in, bag loped over the back of the chair, crayon box propped open, papers shuffled out, steamer and hot water somewhere near the middle.

"Mom, could you please read?" He paws through the crayon box. I reach for Nature Friend and leaf through.

"There's one on a woodpecker," I say. He stirs the grumble-growl of those crayons, rakes his fingers through cerulean and dandelion, magenta, deep midnight blue. "Blue whales. How about blue whales?"

"Um. Ok." He tilts his paper and smooths on a streak of orange.

"Blue whales can be 70-80 feet long," I pause. "70-80 feet, whoa." He looks up arches his brow, boings his head. "Do you know how big that is?"


"That means it's longer than from the front windows to the back over there." I motion to a trio back by the bathrooms. A twenty-something with jet black hair looks away. I turn back to Jack, grope for words to capture the whale-size. "A telephone pole's about 30 feet so it would be like two telephone poles and a bit more stacked up or laid end to end."

Jack rounds his eyes to match a forehead wrinkled in anticipation. He drops his voice. "We've GOT to tell Jane that when we get home." I scribble a note of the gargantuan whale. "I wish I had a blue whale as a pet," he blurts. "Then it would scare away all the people that are not on my team." I try to picture an 80 foot whale playing cowboys and indians. "I've GOT to tell Jane this," he repeats.

I memorize the flabbergasted blue of his eyes, the unselfconscious shake of his head, how the coloring rests completely forgotten there at his elbow.

"I wonder what is in the INSIDE," he furrows his brow. "That would be interesting to me." That picture in his mind so vivid, so pungent and full, I feel almost invisible. And then, "Oh, my," he says. "I want you to read more about that. I feel like I can't be patient." And so we do.

Eighty feet, 174 tons, a sight to behold, our imaginations split like overripe fruit.


4146. "I've got a couple of favorite foods," Lucy announces. "Some are protein, but some are not, but I'm just learning to like beans."

4147. "Lucy your bathroom's FLOATING," Myra blusters from the bathroom to report a flooded toilet.

4148. "Air is blowing out," she shouts. "Get OTTA here. SMOKE." She points to a pot of boiling pasta. "Guys DON"T touch that. Go, go!"

4149. A lovely afternoon with a dear friend sipping coconut tea.

4150. "If we put poopy in the house that NOT be funny," Myra blurts.

4151. "Jesus keep me SAFE," she nods.

4152. "I'm gonna brush my teeth. You can smell my breath, Momma," she offers.

4153. Lucy empties a sink full of dishes, loads the dishwasher, and scrubs 10 pounds of fresh dug carrots.

4153. "Joe's not in your heart," Myra offers. "JESUS inside your heart. Jesus in your heart and my heart."

4154. "I'm smelling the onion with my EYE," Myra blinks away tears.

4155. "I've got a question for you," I say to Lu, "Do you know how much I love you?" She looks straight into my eyes and in her soft drawl, "Maybe as much as God."

4156. African peanut soup, chicken bacon bean soup, it's a soup bar and we play Be The Person On Your Left with our guests.

4157. Baby white bowls.

4158. The kids try weaving like the people in ancient Mesopotamia. Jane weaves the first three inches, and Jack reflects, "It was probably pretty special to get clothes back then."

4159. Thursday slows to a gentle pace of spelling tests and art projects. "I just love spending time with us here," Janie says.

4160. "Do you think Obama knows that absolute power corrupts absolutely?" she asks that night.

4161. "If I wait longer to get the thing I really want, I will like it more," Lucy says.

4162. I slip into warm sheets at night and like Corrie ten Boom thank the Lord.

4163. Curry sauce.

4164. Broccoli salad with bacon and cashews.

4165. We have guests for chicken and soup, dinner rolls and apple slices, salad. All the children, ours and theirs, participate and make the night perfect.

4166. Lucy gets a date with Gramma complete with Gobblet challenge and treats for her siblings.

4167. I join the SpoKenya Team meeting and run errands with Mom.

4168. Craig presses this year's first geranium seeds into potting soil, tucks them in for spring.

4169. We make an afternoon of American Sign Language.

4170. Blackberry pie.

4171. I tell Jack blue whales live in every ocean. "Well," he says, "I never seen any whale fins sticking out of the water," and shakes his head.

4172. Someone turns the faucet on full blast down the hall. "What's dat snoring?" Myra demands.

4173. "Jack," Lucy says, "when you feel water dripping out your lips, that is DROOL."

4174. "Guess how many carrots I ate?" she asks me later. "Nine," I say. "Say eight," she whispers in my ear. "Eight." She smiles, "Yup."

4175. I land in bed an hour early one day this week. Bliss.

Sunday, February 17, 2013


"You know how to drive." Myra nods to me. I pull a down jacket over my shoulders and kneel to fasten buttons on her neon yellow sweater. She pokes willowy fingers through a button hole, tugs the button through.

"Yeah," I nod. She nods back. We nod in unison. Blink. "Do you?"

"Yeah," she mimics head still bobbing. "I do." She blinks. "But I don't." She blinks again. "I can't drive, but I can turn the fan on."

"The fan in the car?"

"Yeah." She fiddles the last button through, pulls the sweater down 'round her waist. "I have to go poopy," she adds. "I want you to flop me on the toilet."

"Flop you on the toilet?"

"Yeah," she nods again as if adjudicating a piano recital. "Don't let my head go in," she warns. I make my eyes round like hers and watch the words tumble out. "Don't let my arms go in either."

We hit the bathrooms and head out.

"That car is HEAVY," she remarks as we board the suburban. "Suckers are STICKY," she says as we depart down the driveway. "Faster, faster, faster -- drive, drive," she lilts. "Cars can hurt my fingers when I get out, " she continues. "Then I go to sleep for a long time, long time, long time and then my owie gets off, and I can take the band-aid off."

Christmas music croons and Myra joins in, "and heaven and nature sing, and heaven and nature sing." She knows most of the words. I never noticed in December. "Glory to the King," she chirps. We bump-bump over a parking lot ramp. "That's a heavy part," she evaluates.

We follow the familiar route of grocery chocolate and warm steamer. She picks vanilla.

At a small bistro table she bustles handfuls of baby peanut butter cups to her mouth. She piles them on the little plastic lid and loopty-doopty pops them in her mouth one after another.

"I'm not gettin' it on my shirt," she reassures. "I'm not puttin' my lips on my shirt." She jabs the yellow sweater, "Right here."

I flip the receipt over and scratch out the crossbars of tic-tac-toe. We take turns. She's dots. I'm exes. She makes her eyes perfect round irises, full blue marbles, when I say, "No, I can go there," and jab the corner quadrant. "You don't have a dot there so I actually can go there." Still she practically cheers when I win.

Midday ebbs; afternoon eases in. We gather the remains of chocolate, tepid steamer, rumpled receipt and lollygag to the car.

And then we're home, ascended the driveway, parked. "Myra," I say, "I have an important question for you. And I want you to REALLY think about it." I twist around in my seat, look my eyes into hers. "Myra, what do you want me to pray about for you?"

In time with conversation, hardly a pause, "Jesus," she says.

"Jesus?" I say, "What about Jesus?"

"Jesus be in my heart." She measures out the words with the sure gait of an executive officer.

Jesus be in my heart. In the small frame of an almost three year old we rough in the walls of the future.

Jesus be in my heart.


4125. "Want to open your mouth and close your eyes?" Lucy asks and them plops an orange slice in my mouth.

4126. "Jesus, I'm naughty. Please die for me and live in my heart." Myra's prayer.

4127. "If I get hurt, I'll wake up Joe," Myra predicts her glass fluttering scream.

4128. To the woman I love with all my heart. As always I give all my love to you. Craig rubber-bands his love note to chocolate bars and garden seeds.

4129. He tolls in the final hours of Valentine's Day belly-down on the hardwoods, elbow deep in the bowels of the washing machine. All that wrestling and he pins a victory: new drain pump fully operational. An avalanche of laundry awaits.

4130. Lavender athletic jersey, hobo mitts and all soft, my running clothes become my regular clothes.

4131. Sweet Rockie's surgery goes well. She awakes and blusters, "Holy smokes!" all drowsy and surreal. I memorize her two year old sweetness gathered in pillows and tucked under a soft quilt, arms crossed.

4132. We round-up with family on the farm. Roast and potatoes, salad and green beans, it's a feast.

4133. I knit the first nine inches of Joey's monkey sweater.

4134. We circle up for sign language and laugh and whittle away an afternoon.

4135. "My favorite person," Lucy lilts, "is standing there: the girl in the green coat." I smile green coat zipped up under my chin.

4136."Those are SPICY." Myra motions to a pile of orange peels. "Don't eat that," she says.

4137. The three older kids go to a local GOLF show with Craig. They return with complimentary kids' clubs. Myra assesses the clubs and turns to me. "Are we gonna go to the DOG show?"

4138. Cousins send us valentines.

4139. The kids dig last years crop of carrots. Sweet, crisp candy.

4140. A flight to the ER for sis-in-law-Rose and we get the news: It's pneumonia. 3.5 liters of fluids by IV, a load of antibiotics and she's cleared to recover at home.

4141. Friends invite us to lunch after church.

4142. I stop in a local bookshop and the owner visits with me long past closing. I take note of her kindness.

4143. Pizza night.

4144. "Yeah, let's don't pick our nose," Myra wipes her nose. "That's ICKY."

4145. Another week lands in our laps somehow seamlessly woven despite my many flaws.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Lucy Date

"Do you think all the people out in cars are just going on a date with one of their kids?" Lucy asks.

We ease right and sigh down an off ramp. A red light at the bottom, another arterial merges full onto the road ahead. Cars flit by. Red, yellow, black, every one a car on a date. I wish it were true. 

We buy cat cookies and a chocolate bar at the local grocery. We open them up on a table set with raspberry steamer and crayons lined up in marching order. We color in cerulean, green, and violet.
She copies me. We smooth wax thick and shiny. Flecks stick to our fingers. Indigo and purple speckle the blonde table. I try to brush them off, and my hands collect more speckles.

"How many kids do you want to have when you grow up?" We cultivate conversation between smooth waxy strokes. We hardly look up, but the words form.

"A hundred." She coaxes green into each corner of a triangle undaunted by the bulbous crayon, blunt, thick, deliberate. I watch, but she doesn't notice.

"Do you think you'll have girls or boys?"

"Just boys." She rotates the crayon, presses more green into that triangle.

"Why do you think that?"

"Just do." She scratches a smudge with her fingernail then captures cerulean.

I sweep purple in stripes. "What's your favorite Bible story?"

She pauses, props an elbow on the table. "Jesus dying on the cross," she says. I rub more purple into my picture, occupy my hands while she weaves her words. "What's your favorite?" she adds.

I copy her elbow, gaze out floor-to-ceiling windows. "Probably Jesus dying on the cross," I agree. "Why is it your favorite?" I follow our liturgy and color while an answer germinates inside her head. 

"'Cause it shows how GOOD God is," she says. I glance up into her eyes. "And how sweet he is doing stuff for us," she says, "even if it hurts really bad." At the word sweet her voice waxes high, and she squints just ever so little. 

How sweet he is. Yes. Four and a half and a perfect silhouette emerges. Sacrifice is sweet. The fragrance of salvation. Sweet.


4099. "In our little family I think that Daddy is the best at not being prideful," Jane observes.

4100. Jack finds a Bible at the thrift store and chatters on all week. "With my money," he says, "I'm gonna buy gifts and Bibles."

4101. "Daddy works so hard, and he never gets a break," Jane notices.

4102. "How do people in public schools do history without including God at all?" Jane queries.

4103. We make sandals out of cardboard and rafia as we study ancient Egypt. "If Obamacare gets too bad," Jane comments, "we might be making shoes like this and actually wearing them."

4104. "I always say, YES, MOMMA," Myra tries to instill confidence.

4105. Jane knits me a scarf, all 100 rows.

4106. We work the afternoon away, side by side, knitting and sewing.

4107. She helps me make a rubbing of a favorite skirt so I can create a pattern to copy it.

4108. I brown sausage, and she chops celery and onions for lentil stew.

4109. Lucy tries to learn to knit. 

4110. Jack fashions masks out of paper and pastes together a giant scroll.

4111. Joey gobbles up the lentil stew.

4112. Constant Comment tea.

4113. Three summer skirts, whimsical, functional, and tucked away for summer.

4114. Blackberry pie. We make blackberry pie for Craig's birthday. Yup, I married into a farm family so I'm a pie-maker now.

4115. Coral sweatshirt, teal sweatshirt, don't ya love sweatshirts?

4116. Easter outfits continue to take shape: green button-down shirts for the boys.

4117. My mother surrounds me with conversation. The easy lull waxes and wanes like the ocean.

4118. Craig's mom stops by. We visit. I memorize the happy blue of her eyes.

4119. Myra sirens from the bathroom. I wipe her backside. "Don't get any on the RUG, Momma," she warns.

4120. She suits up in jammies. "Jesus made these for me," she says and tugs her sleeve.

4121. We have another party for Craig and for sis-in-law Rosie, a party of pies. A round-robin of exhortation, I feel full and happy just listening. At the end we pray for Rockie's up coming surgery. The Lord surrounds us with his presence.

4122. Myra rushes in from outside. "I don't need to go pee," she says. "I just wiggle-wiggle-wiggle if I need to go pee." 

4123. Another birthday party, this one for a sweet nephew, the season of celebration continues.

4124. "I have unders in my pants," Myra announces. "And ya don't eat poopy, Momma," she adds. "That is YUCKY." The other golden rule.

Sunday, February 3, 2013


"I'll take care of this later." Jack balances the remains of last night's reading. A tower of picture books and early readers, it slumps over the alarm clock as he eases it onto the dresser.

"You have to take care of those, you know," I say.

"I know. I'll do it later."


"'Cause I want to have this special time with you," he says.

The rest of the children all abustle getting ready for bed. Jack's first and so we curl up on the bottom bunk to chat.

"So what's your favorite Bible story?" I twist the slack ends of my hair all a-muss around me. I wrap them around my index finger. They spring loose straight and smooth.

He gazes off, all far away and relaxed. "Adam and Eve," he replies. "Wanna know why?"

"Yeah." I thought he was going to say David and Goliath. But he blinks, a grin just out of sight. I watch the unselfconscious blue of his eyes.

"'Cause it shows how POWERFUL God is," He says. "And that we should obey him." He shrugs as if replaying the obvious.

"Yeah, that's true," I nod. Simple. Power. We let this rest there between us for a minute, mark time with the leisure gate of his words.

"There are other stories of how powerful God is," he says. "But, it's like Let there be LIGHT. He's really POWERFUL, like what he can DO." Unmistakable. In broad strokes he fleshes out the POWER of God. A man-child, I realize he traces the silhouette of power in each story.

Power, a canopy of refuge.


4077. Myra flicks the dust-buster off. "Mommy, look at me," she says. "I'm a big help. I'm able to turn this off."

4078. Jack listens to David and Goliath unabridged over and over and over.

4079. "Am I a DOG that you come at me with sticks?!" Goliath shouts. Jane drops her math book and scampers off the the bedroom. "I've gotta hear this part," she calls back to me.

4080. I change Joey and toss the diaper in the pail. "Can I put those in the dishwasher?" Myra offers.

4081. Sweet Zeke makes another trip to the ER and returns once again good as new.

4082. Dear friends buy a house they have waited and waited and waited on.

4083. The kids leave m&ms on my pillow.

4084. Bean soup and apple crisp, we make an evening with my parents.

4085. "Ok," I say, "I'm gonna do cause and effect. I slept long enough. Something caused that. What CAUSED that?" The children all blink back at me. "You forgot to set your alarm," Jane replies.

4086. Mom carves out time to talk with me, talk, life giving conversation.

4087. The quest for fabric continues. Now a menagerie of fruit fabric begins the transformation into Easter skirts. Oh joy, sweaters, shirts, and leggings to match.

4088. Another gallery opening, this time it's Jane, Jack and me, and we make an evening of it.

4089. Craig turns 40. We have a party on the farm, a perfect party on the farm. The afternoon rolls out slow and leisure, long fallow acres of contentment.

4090. "Jesus, thank-you that we have Daddy turning forty today," Jane prays.

4091. "I'm just really thirsting and hungering for a good book," she comments later that night.

4092. Flexiflyer. Art, pure art.

4093. Jack and I go on a date. Craig tutors him before we leave on how to take a lady on a date: Protect her. Open doors for her. Make conversation. "It's all part of leading," Craig tells him.

4094. We eat lemon loaf and sip a steamer, them buy a whole stack of second hand books for our library.

4095. "If you see an animal's teeth," Lucy says, "they would be really dirty 'cause they never brush their teeth. They probably have LOTS of cavities."

4096. Oranges. We find oranges for 18 cents a pound.

4097. Hand-me-downs. A whole bag full of hand-me-downs, the kind you can wear right out of the bag.

4098. Four of us downtrodden with colds and fevers, Myra a river of snot, a barking-dog-of-a-cough, and still the comfort of being together resonates through the house. At each turn, whether extended or immediate, the comfort of family gives strength to these weary bones.