Sunday, March 24, 2013

How Many?

"How many kids are you gonna have when you grow up?" I make grown-up talk with Myra, she reclined in a sea of legos, me cross-legged against the brown ottoman. 

Recumbent, propped on the palm one hand, she pops the other palm up, a five fingered staccato.

"Five? "

She nods.

"Why five?"

Her face, a spring peony, "'Cause Jesus love me," she says.

We nod and snap a yellow lego in place.


4267. A cinnamon dulce cappuccino, the coupon and conversation that went with it, another friendship threads through my life.

4268. Lucy hands me a teardrop scallop of paper. "It's a picture of me and you on a boat," she says.

4269. Eight ice cream dishes.

4270. I introduce Joe to manners. At lunch, we have him sign "please" before every bite for practice. "Do you think he's starting to think this is ridiculous?" Jane giggles. Joe protests with a shout and feigned cry. "Alligator tears," Jack says.

4271. Jack narrates wrestling moves, context, and strategy while we make breakfast together. 

4272. We talk about why he doesn't wrestle girls. "I know, because we don't want our bodies to get pushed together in that special way even though we aren't asleep," he says.

4273. "The Mongols were in Mongolia," I realize halfway through the book on China. "I didn't know that. It makes sense. They sound the same." Jane grins, "You see," she says, "history isn't just memorizing a bunch of dates. It's finding out what happened."

4274. Jack wins three wrestling matches.

4275. The gang of cousins and siblings, parents and grandparents, hold up in the stands. We cheer and visit, share the burdens and joys of life.

4276. I fold a blanket at the end of my bed, putter and tidy up. Lucy tags along. "I know you're gonna put your make-up stuff on," she says, "'cause we are going on a date."

4278. "I know what a froggie says, : she continues, "cricket-cricket, cricket-cricket. Logan told me that 'cause his dad knows lots about animals."

4279. Joe pukes sweet taders all over his bed. I hope it's just that he ate a whale of a portion of sweet potatoes at dinner, but either way, I soak in the snuggles and coos, smoosh my cheek against his.

4280. We prepare for Lucy's periodic eye appointment. We pray all is well.

Monday, March 18, 2013


"Who is the smartest person you know?"

"Well, Jesus."

"Ok, well, besides Jesus."

Halfway around a little bistro table, Jack cocks his head. His elbows propped on the thumbnail-sized table, he leans a tiny bit and cobbles drinks and colored pencils. "Well Daddy IS really smart," he recovers, eyebrows arced over blue irises.

I ignore the clanked pencils still all corralled on the table. "Is he the smartest person you know?"

He pokes at the colors. Their enamel surfaces chink against each other. "I know who Logan and Thad think is the smartest person," he says. "Their dad."

He jaunts around the table, lucent green in hand, and sits down back at my elbow. "Maybe everyone thinks their dad is the smartest," I say.

He swishes green onto the bristol paper. "Yeah," he says. "'Cause their like, 'My dad is the smartest. He's an engineer, and he fixed the dishwasher.' And I'm like, 'No, My dad is.'"

"I thought your Daddy fixed the dishwasher."

He polishes the viridian on in bumpy strokes. "Their dad did too."

"Oh. Well, I guess fixing the dishwasher is a Dad job." He doesn't look up, just scritch-scratches more teal green out on the paper.

Still I weave the strands. We practices the moves. He orders his own caramel steamer, thanks the baristas, clears the table, throws away trash. He tells me who the smartest person in the world is. I watch a small masculine seed burgeon and grow, germinate, sprout.

Confidence and affection, I note his unfettered stride.


4238. Jane tries to teach Myra how to throw a football. "Myra's sort of wearing off the smiles," she says.

4239. Jane confesses: she was up until 11:20pm reading.

4240. "One of the reasons that I like to read," she says, "is I think about the book and let it roll over my mind and think, Is it good or bad, and then I go to bed."

4241. The Tuesday Girls eat sweet potato soup, Irish tea, and chocolate at mom's.

4242. I discover the fast way to hard boil eggs: in muffin tins.

4243. "Dat is Jesus," Myra points to a red dot she drew. "I doo-ed a lot of those," she says.

4244. "Why you want Jane and Jack to work hard?" she asks. "Everyone's supposed to work hard," I tell her. "Do you?" She shakes her head, "No. Daddy doo-ed that for me."

4245. A friend and her one-year-old boy come over. The afternoon blustery and gray, we make a splendid walk to the park. We linger in conversation.

4246. Dad and Mom come for dinner. Cherry-pecan-feta salad carries the night.

4247. "I like cinnamon sugar," Myra says. "It gets on your mouf -- all the way on your cheeks." She holds up the remains of cinnamon sugar toast.

4248. Jane makes eggs for lunch. Everyone helps.

4249. We acquire more bookshelves for our library.

4250. We wade through more ancient myths. "This one's not really REAL," Lucy says, "'cause it started with ONCE UPON A TIME."

4251. I show Jack how to make up his own sheet of math computation. "Where you gonna be most of the time?" he asks, notebook under arm, "'cause I'm gonna be wherever you are doing math problems."

4252. Myra sees one of the hens relieve herself. "The chicken pooped on her fedder," she frowns. "I know, isn't that sad?" I say. "That's not SAD," Lucy pipes up, "It's not DEAD. That'd be WAY sadder."

4253. "When I was five I went to Jesus' house," Myra brags. She turns three in May.

4254. I start a sock monster.

4255. We make the semi-annual visit to a dentist we love.

4256. New shorts. I have a new pair of shorts for summer.

4257. I ask Jack who in the Bible really honored God. "Noah," he says, "because he gave God whatever he wanted. And Moses because he obeyed God in basically everything he said."

4258. "What do you think is the best age?" I ask him. "Forty," he says, "'cause Miss Lynne says it is."

4259. "What do you think is going to happen in the world?" I continue. "I hope something good," Jack remarks.

4260. And finally, "What do you think is the most important thing to teach in school?" I say. "Probably," he responds, "love your enemies."

4261. The whole clan gathers for another wrestling match weekend.

4262. Craig's mom takes Jane on a date. "Gramma teaches me to be generous," she says. "That was a fun time. It was spectacular. It's just so fun being with her."

4263. I putter around the kitchen. Jane traipses in. "I guess you didn't see this," she says and points to a scrap of brown paper bag hung on the fridge with a magnet. Please come have a party outside with us.

4264. We pray before bed and Jack closes, "And Jesus, thank-you that we don't live in a country where they burn up all the Bibles. Amen."

4265. We celebrate Andrew turning 10. Orange party streamers and balloons, family gathered, it's perfect.

4266. Jack bobbles into Myra. "OWIE," she protests. "Oh, are you ok?" he stops and gives her full attention. "Yeah," she quells and points to the owie, "KISS it."

Sunday, March 10, 2013


"This morning when you went on your run, it was the first time I ever really did this thing," Jane in the backseat, pulls the first strand of conversation, "like really, truly, did this, and it was SMELL SPRING." We sigh up to a red stop sign at the edge of our neighborhood.

"So," I say, "what does spring smell like, Jane?" A black Mazda whizzes by.  I wait for an opening in traffic.

"It's hard to explain." I hear her shuffle our secret bottle chocolates to Joey's infant seat, cork still secure. "Sort of like flowers. Sort of like dirt." Her words spaced and elongated, an opening in traffic sails by but I lull and miss it. "It's hard to explain," she says again. I nose down to the corner and zip out behind an ochre bronco. The engine murmurs. We lighten down the busy road.

"Hmm." The light, warm and amber, the air, sharp and hawkish, we swish along.

"It smells like pine needles too," the question still a snaggle, she searches for the right image. "It's sort of a gentle sweet-ish smell," she attempts.

Gentle and sweet-ish, we like this, a killick hitch between us. And thus begins a cataract of conversation, an overrunning, overflowing drencher. We visit and weave gossamer thread after gossamer thread. We wrap and wrap and revisit all the loose ends and snags, freckles and blotches, of the last two weeks. And I make a discovery.

"I want you there 'cause I feel alone," she says. "Not lonely. I can't feel lonely, just alone."

"What do you mean you can't feel lonely?"

"I can be alone like by myself, but I can't feel sad and down and lonely."

I take this in, replay her confident shrug as she strolls into Sunday class. I recall that her best classmate is the Deaf boy she sits next to in the back row and how she chased away the rude kids that were sitting next to him. "Wow. That's great." For all my devotion to transparency, I wonder if I should say more.

"Do you?" she says.

Like fresh fruit thrust in my mouth, I decide to tell her. "Sometimes I feel discouraged, but that's just my personality." But as I say it, a thought occurs to me. Maybe I could change it. She reminds me of her father.

The afternoon weaves itself into evening darkness. We skitter on home.

"Momma I just really, really needed this time," she says. "I've realized that if I don't get this time, I, I get in bad-temper."

"That's a good observation," I watch the road curve toward home.

"It's like the only time I get to just talk and talk and talk and tell you anything I want," she says. And so the words flow, whole river gushers of words. "I would even just like it if we could go to some old parking lot and just sit and talk." I nod. "I like this day more than any other," she says. Me too. Every word spoken between us makes the day special.

Every child. Every word. Every day.


4207. "Momma, Myra has a beard of toothpaste," Jane calls.

4208. "Mommy, what are those crumbs coming down?" Myra gestures to the first signs of snow. "There are crumbs coming in the car!"

4209. "Why do you think I am so tired of patching?" Lucy asks, tears in her eyes.

4210. Cerissa and the kids show up for a walk to the park. We eat brownies and stroll in the sun. We visit like the day could last forever.

4211. Grandad takes Jane to donuts. She comments that, "It's pretty easy to understand stuff after Mom explains it about a thousand times."

4212. Stripy jacket.

4213. Face cream.

4214. Hambone soup at Mom's. The girls pray. The children linger. We stretch out the time as long as possible.

4215. Joey turns 11 months and cuts tooth #1.

4216. Lucy plays TRAP with Craig. "YAY, I did NOT give up," she says. "I'm sort of sweating though."

4217. I have dinner with the family before heading to small group. "God thank-you for a good day," Jack prays. "And please help Mom learn more about God. Amen."

4218. "Tootin' makes you poop your pants," Myra advises.

4219. The kids and I plan a Seder Meal.

4220. We write down our family vision statement (see sidebar).

4221. One of the kids tosses a dolly out of the kitchen. "Don't throw my babies," Myra shouts. "Dat hurts them."

4222. Myra keeps asking if we are going to have angel pie at the Seder Meal.

4223. She spies the challah bread rising and riles, "Mom, MOM, it's bigger. Angel pie's BIGGER."

4224. We have the Seder Meal. All the fellowship and laughter, we chatter on and on. The children host a group game. Celebration, all celebration. We land at the end of the night exhausted and happy, every guest treasured.

4225. Three weeks in, Rockie passes the halfway point with the spica cast. Libby orders Top Dog to celebrate.

4226. I try to open my bedroom door, and Lucy stops me. "I promise you I'll put all the stuff away that I get out," she says before I encounter the doll party on the other side.

4227. Miss Lynne retells the Seder Meal in sign language with the kids.

4228. I find knitting looms for the kids with my mom. The cataracts of conversation continue, now me the daughter.

4229. Jack comes to life in the wrestling season's first Take-Down Tournament. All said and done he follows our instructions: Never give up, never, never, EVER give up.

4230. "When I get up, I get up. Because I do." Myra philosophizes.

4231. My cousin Sophie joins us for chicken sandwiches and cranberry salad. Jane bakes a continent of apple-bluberry crisp to top off dinner.

4232. "Wanna smell those?" Myra thrusts a pair of gray damp-ish sports socks to my nose. "Those are CLEAN," she blurts.

4233. "I got huge hands, Mom," she says later. "An' I got huge eyes. Bigger an' bigger."

4234. Jude turns four. All gusto and endearment he hugs each guest for their gifts. Love.

4235. Today's my dad's birthday. He brings out the best in everyone -- even more every year.

4236. "Guys," Myra says, "I can't wait for summer. Summer means we go to Grammie's house."

4237. Tomorrow the kids and I start a new unit study on the establishment of early human government. I feel excited to learn new things.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

The Guy

"What's your favorite Bible story?" Colored pencils slung between us, I toss out a question.

Lucy lolls her fingers over the lined up pencils. They rattle and scuff. "Probably one that has red words," she says, "'cause that's when Jesus is talking." She settles on a limey green.

"Oh. But what's your favorite story, like what happened?"

"The red word part." She prods a jade green and rubs the jade and lime between her fingers.

"Ok, how 'bout this: you think of a story and I'll think of a story, and we'll see if they are the same, 'cause the one I'm thinking of isn't a red letter one." I smooth out our coloring notebook and then  encapsulate the willowy fin of an angel fish in cornflower blue. The question ripples, buoys. I pluck up fern green and start on the fishy tail. Color rubs on effortless and thick.

"Probably the part where the tree is lighted on fire." Lucy strokes chartreuse into the gangle and tangle of seaweed.

I eddy between colors. Tree on fire. "When did the tree light on fire?"

"You know," she pauses, pencil sagged horizontal, "when the angel came in the tree."

Angel in the tree. I wait for the pool of shared knowledge to swell, include me. Angel in the tree. "Oh, yeah." Moses, burning bush.

"And then he said, 'Take off your shoes. You're on holy ground,'" she says. She tic-tocks her head side to side, plucks up burnt orange.

She doles out details, fluent, offhand, a spinning rolodex behind her eyes. "How do you know this?"

"I just listened." She doesn't even look up. Just listened.

On the way home, I ask her more. "Who do you think in the Bible loves God the most?" Again the question lobs between us, rolls, a marble in a labyrinth. We loopty-doo down a rolling-trolling hill south of town. I wonder if she's forgotten and ask again, "Who do you think in the Bible loves God the most?"

"Probably the guy who had all the bad things happen to him, and he still loved God." I can't see her there in the back, but I feel the firm earth of her answer.



I trace her answer in my mind. It's all braille and invisible earth. I trace it out, "If you love God when everything is good that doesn't take very much strength at all. But if you love God when things are bad, then you really love him."


The guy who had all the bad things happen to him. Love. I wonder what this means.


4176. "I think Joseph was braver than all of his brothers because he was able to go THROUGH all that stuff," Jack comments.

4177. "That's such a cute little one legged monkey," Jane comments on my knitting.

4178. I quiz the children on integrity. "Integrity is like reading someone's mind and then doing it," Jane guesses.

4179. We have Tuesday at Auntie Libby's, and the kids get to play with Rockie. We all swell with love for her.

4180. Name bracelets.

4181. I read a children's version of The Tempest to the kids. "Momma, thanks for reading that," Jane gushes. "I just feel really satisfied now."

4182. "I know what would be good," Jack suggests, "chips covered in butter."

4183. We get another flat tire, the spare already replacing the last one, still I don't worry a bit. Even as I pray, I know Craig will find a way to fix it. And he does.

4184. I navigate another day with a migraine. When I rise, well again, Jane greets me. "I didn't clean the downstairs yet because I was reading to the kids to keep them quiet."

4185. I watch Craig express his authority through gratitude and encouragement. I watch him bless Jane for her help and her receive it. "I want to help you, Momma," she says. "Helping you all the sudden got way more fun."

4186. The migraine abates.

4187. We plan our end of unit celebration. I rearrange the living room and Myra comments, "This is ready for PARTY school."

4188. Craig watches the Gonzaga game with his dad complete with steak and potatoes.

4189. We learn the new world of woodless colored pencils, 100% lead. It's like going from drip to espresso.

4190. Spring sweaters. Isn't it time for spring sweaters? Lime. Coral. Mint blue. The weather almost agrees.

4191. Flannel sheets.

4192. Myra starts applying sign language without cues.

4193. I sling Joe over my shoulder, and he pats my back.

4194. Miss Lynne tells us about Tongue Twister Day. "Tomorrow you have to say something to make your tongue get all twirled up," Lucy translates.

4195. "Do some people not marry the person that God tells them to?" she wants to know.

4196. I set the kids loose in the backyard. Naturally, they fill the wheelbarrow with water, and Lucy takes off a rain boot to stir it. Later they tell me it was the boot washing station.

4197. Jane discovers The Secret Garden. "I'm really glad that The Secret Garden is a really long book," she tells me.

4198. I go out with Myra. "'D  ya want to hold hand, Mom?" she says.

4199. We get ready for church (no one faint) early. We arrive on time, non-frazzled, and gallop inside.

4200. On the way to church Lucy comments, "It's gonna be so wonderful when I get to ride on the clouds of Heaven."

4201. I run into a dear friend from college. I marvel at her genuine joy and sincere interest in me. I feel so loved.

4202. We give the three older kids headlamps for reading lights.

4203. I make coconut curry chicken soup with bell pepper and whole chunks of ginger.

4204. The kids and I spend the evening coloring. We eat dinner at the kitchen counter so the whole table is just paper, pencils, and elbows.

4205. I start reading the autobiography of George Muller. I take note of how he values his private times of prayer and Bible study. All the good things in his life seems to flow from how he nurtures this private love of the Lord.

4206. I square my shoulders to this next week intent to do what is right however I am able.