Sunday, April 28, 2013


"Joe-Joe I'm bigger 'an you," Myra jabs Joey's shoulder.

He teeters, grips my pant leg. Those chubby arms wobble. He blinks, blinks again, flashes a grin.

"Can I carry him?" Myra wants, her back arched in bigness, eyes fixated on the tottering Joe.


Joe grunts, shillyshallys his head. Knock-kneed, feet gradually spreading, he bobbles his head to Myra.

"Just so you know, I'm bigger 'an him," Myra adds again. "Want me to get him him's toys?" she says.

She thump-thumps off and returns, Lucy's metal mixing bowl full of Lego men, Peter Pan's pirates, a duckie rattle, bumper cars, Jack's gold metal. They thumble-bumble, clank, a riot of noise, bliss. Joey shouts hurrah, a clatter embrace.

And then I offer the prize. "Myra, Myra," I say, "want to do a really, really big-kid thing to help me?" I widen my eyes as big as I can. She leans in, opens her eyes so wide the white shows around those azure irises.

"What?" she staccatos.

I blink-blink, let the bigness rise like helium in a birthday balloon. "Myra, do you want to put the diapers in the dryer for me?"

I pause, but before I can even blink, "Yeah-sure." It's one word, the one-word command that means: it's mine, I'll do it, I want it, nothing will stop me. And like that, she's off, a rubber band released from a gun.

Flop-mop, flop-mop, she lugs the limp diapers from washer to dryer, swats them in. "I'm washing your diapers, Joe," she shouts to the wild boy at my feet.

Legs crossed, I swing my toe to the happy cadence of the afternoon. Sun a deluge through the window, I let the afternoon wash in.

And then it's dinner, bbq and leftovers. Myra falls fast asleep at the table. Curled up on the bench, we find her when we clear the dishes. The day settles, soft as a sigh, all the right things in place.


4385. Myra feeds Joe a banana while we do school.

4386. We break for lunch and take a bike ride with cousins.

4387. I roust Joe for the day. Myra fiddles with the bedroom doorknob, then whispers through the crack. "Forgive me for playing wiff your make-up bag," she says.

4388. I tuck her in for the night. "Boogers are ewie," she says. "I'm not eatin' them. I'm wiping them on my bluie-blankie."

4389. Rosie gives the Tuesday Girls manicures with gel nail polish. My nails look perfect all week.

4390. Taco salad and chocolate.

4391. We sup with dear friends. We rototill the garden patch, map the sprinkler system, and finish with chili and cornbread, chocolate cheesecake, the evening long, our friendship a wide, deep river.

4392. Paint! We get paint for the living room and kitchen, the bathrooms, maybe a bedroom, spring green and a whole garden spectrum.

4393. A lovely friend brings us coconut and oat encrusted walnuts, sweet, sweet walnuts. We visit the afternoon away.

4394. Pot roast, adobo seasoning, carrots and sweet onions, fresh baked bread, the children exhausted, we encircle the table with tender conversation, the food a gift, the conversation communion.

4395. I exchange my new black tennies for the perfect size.

4396. Jack takes me on a date. He buys watermelon seeds.

4397. Pete and Rosie join us for burgers and Canasta. They both make us laugh.

4398. Craig guts the garage. Organization ensues. It's like walking on water.

4399. A white and sea green sweater.

4400. Miss Lynne brings the kids kaleidoscopes from Alabama. "Oh Mommy," Jane gushes, "I couldn't stop from gasping, this is so pretty."

4401. I splatter a jar of plum sauce on the kitchen floor and then take Miss Lynne's advice: snap a picture. It pierces the chagrin.

4402. "Jesus, please bless us so we can go to church and be on time," she prays.

4403. Lucy pieces a puzzle while we listen to Perelandra. The whole time she hums.

4404. I knit the last row on Joey's sweater! Now just ears, buttons, and pom-pom.

4405. Jane feeds Joey oatmeal while I get Myra ready for church.

4406. We eat lunch with volunteers, then glide in for Sunday naps. Everyone slows including me.

4407. Gramma calls for Jack. She has more watermelons planted in the greenhouse.

4408. Jack offers new ideas on how to plan our week, good ideas.

4409. "Who wants to have a sword fight with me?" he asks as he pulls a carrot from the bag. "I will," Craig offers. Mirth follows and a broken carrot.

4410. The loose embrace of a new week greets us. We link arms and set out.

Monday, April 22, 2013


"Mom, is there a rule in the city that you can't have pirates?" Jack queries, his voice in the backseat somewhere to the left.

"Yeah," I say. We sail along the freeway, rain a torrent of gravel on the windshield.

"Oh," he says. I flip the wipers on, squeegee an intermittent window of visibility. "'Cause I told Jane that was a rule," he gabbles. "I bet that Grampa could defend from pirates on his boat 'cause he's got a gun that even shoots REAL bullets."

"Yeah, he does," Lucy adds.

"It actually shoots smoke," Jane corrects, "and sometimes a little fire."

"Oh." I say. Now shoulder to shoulder with a semi, all spindrift and lather, I crank the wipers to the high setting, hold the wheel with both hands, balance coffee cup at the prow. "Like a flare?" I say.

"Yeah." The children watch the splutter of surf on the front window. "You could turn the wipers up," Jane offers. I flick the blinker and switch lanes, glide to the exit ramp.

"Grampa would be really good at defending from pirates," Jack continues. "I think there's even a lake in the city where his boat could go."

We slacken on the off-ramp. The rain eases.

Pirates. 75 B.C. Julius Caesar sets sail on the Mediterranean sea. Pirates seize the ship and kidnap Caesar. They demand $100,000 ransom, but Caesar busts out laughing at their demand. He states his name will fetch at least $250,000. All the while he bosses the pirates, demands they keep quiet when he naps, serve him good food,  and warns that as soon as he's free, he'll return and execute them all. They think it's a joke.

Rome pays. Caesar convinces the Roman navy to lend him three warships. This time when the pirates ambush, they fight in hand-to-hand combat climbing from one ship to another. Caesar captures the pirates, drags them home to Rome and executes them.

Pirates. The children envision the story with the props they know: Grampa, magnificent Grampa.


4360. Pickled green peppercorns.

4361. White windbreaker.

4362. Tuesday at mom, the kids leave the car door ajar. The battery dies. My dad swoops in and jumps the car, saves the day. Rescued and taken care of, it's a wonderful feeling.

4363. Everyone makes it to Tuesday at Mom's.

4364. Quinoa bacon cranberry salad with pecans.

4365. The quilt that Gramma said had all the happy colors.

4366. "A little bit of dirt got here," Myra explains a smudge on her elbow, "because it really did."

4367. Hambone soup with beans, a whole giant pot of it. And bread, buttery bread.

4368. I scuffle in my old worn Dansko and tumble a bowl of ice cream, strawberries, and chocolate sauce on the carpet. Craig rakes up the pile while I make up another bowl.

4369. The Hobbit, a date night with Craig.

4370. Mascara. Brown, waterproof, mascara.

4371. Shoes, black sporty tennies. A new pair of tennies. My rickety old Danskos head into retirement, the ones that pitched me down the cement stairs at Jack's wrestling match, the ones that splatted the ice cream. New black shoes steal the show!

4372. I ask Jane if God has been teaching her anything that she can tell me about. "To be gracious in difficult situations," she says.

4373. We sit down to a warm drink and dessert and Jane initiates conversation. "So have you read anything good lately?" she says.

4374. "Mom," Jack says, "I want to do this where we write a bunch of paragraphs all week and then pick a day of the week to share them."

4375. Craig and I watch Andy Stanley on parenting.

4375. A whole pack of bell peppers.

4376. A bouquet of daffodils and hyacinth in a Raggedy Andy  vase.

4377. Craig's mom tells me about lilac cologne her dad gave her when she was 15. Lilac and hyacinth, the best scents, she says.

4378. Craig and his mom re-pot 90 tomato seedlings.

4379. Four nephews join us Sunday afternoon. Perfection.

4380. Jude strides in, looks me full in the face. "You're pretty," he says and etches his four-year-old face in my mind.

4381. Myra cracks the dishwasher and slips a bowl in. "It smells like ants, Mom," she says, "holy moly.

4382. I sew the armpits closed on Joey's monkey sweater and start the button band.

4383. We listen to the first part of Perelandra with the kids.

4384. I reflect again how much I enjoy being with our children and Craig.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Planning Day

"Did you put water in this?" Myra, tea barely swallowed, slurps a drip off her lips. She clanks her mug to the table. I watch the riot-blue of her eyes.

"Yeah," I say.

She nods. "Funny." She swoops the baton of conversation back to me, but I just hold it and watch. We sip another sweet creamy gulp.

It's planning day. We make a big pot of tea, plan our week.

The plan de-rails. The kids fall ill, fevers of 103, coughs and aches and blankets and blankets. We sea-saw in and out of schoolwork and blankets.

We wade through more Greek mythology, read the myth of Narcissus.

Shimmed between stories, Jane sits up, green blankie slung over her knees. "They're judging who they love by how pretty they are," she frowns. We nod, the surface of the story pierced like a balloon.

And the fevers swell. The children wash up on the couch, legos and tinker-toys litter the floor. I fish a sliver out of Jane's hand and she cries and cries, and then wilts to the rug. I brush my fingers through her hair, long dangling curls, and we breathe exactly in time, a metronome measuring out calm. The afternoon swoops in. Rest.

Then she rises, slow and gentle like the moon. "Momma," she says her voice soft and low, "if you see me do something you don't like, just tell me." Her hand a feather-weight on my shoulder, I look up from reading. She captures me, her eyes beacons of blue, "Even if it doesn't seem very polite, just tell me. I want to know."

Just tell me. I want to know, like a coin twirling through the air, a pirouette of faith. Her smile a long ribbon, the word sink in. Something loyal and sinew-y flexes.


4337. Myra smuggles a baby orange from breakfast and tries to make fresh squeezed orange juice in her dolly's tea cup.

4338. "Do you think this is actually made of REAL marble?" Jack assesses his wrestling trophy.

4339. Mom and I lay out her quilt and pin it. We frame the day in chocolate and coffee made with cream and raw sugar. The afternoon opens, still water, peace, refreshing, a perfect circle of rest, joy.

4340. Small group Bible study and prayer, chocolate bread pudding and ice cream.

4341. Bathroom towels and rugs that match.

4342. News from Craig's mom: the tomatoes are up!

4343. "I was so young last year," Lucy remarks as we clear dishes and put away food.

4344. A friend, a coupon queen, stops by with a pack of razors just because.

4345. Our dentist fixes my chipped tooth.

4346. I catch Myra with more oranges gently offering bites of each slice to her baby.

4347. "My blankie-boy is over here," Myra says as I tuck her into bed. She pats a wad of blue knit up by her head. "I lay on it so robbers don't get it," she says.

4348. We find reading glasses for Lucy.

4349. We shop around and find the final pieces for my quilt.

4350. White balsamic vinegar, raw sugar, cream, coconut cream, whole grain mustard. Treats.

4351. I find Myra curled up on the floor by our bed when she has a bad dream. We pray and I tuck her back under her own covers.

4352. Jane goes to a birthday party of a friend she hasn't seen in a long time. They both smile so sweetly all afternoon. The day ends with cupcakes for the whole family.

4353. "Nothing could get in his way. Nothing," Pastor Joe teaches us about the Apostle Paul. "Like Mommy and her coffee," Jack leans over and whispers to Craig.

4354. Joey masters the sippy cup.

4355. With Herculean effort, we bring the glacier of laundry almost up to flush.

4356. A week of being sick together, I take note: a special bond forms as we heal.

4357. All those clean clothes in my drawers, I can hardly wait to get up and get dressed for the new week.

4358. At each turn I marvel: Craig can make me laugh in almost any circumstance.

4359. I feel hungry for God's word. I love my Bible.

Sunday, April 7, 2013


"Mmmm," my face pressed into Joe's cheek, I smell the top of his head. "Mmmmm," I hum, pause. "He actually smells like sweat," I say.

Jack, paper airplane mid-stroke, halts, and gallops over to the black couch, us.

Snuffle-snuff. He sniffs Joe's scraggly mop. "I like that smell," he says, gives Joe's arm a good man-ish shake, and lopes off to launch his plane.

Then it's Friday, and Joe's one -- one whole year old. We call the morning in with Happy Birthday, a big float of gifts and song, we parade in to wake him. And for all the excitement, he cries, big marble tears.

"Here, here," Jack offers, "here, have him open this one first." He flaps a gift bag, speckled green and orange confetti. I capture it, reach in, fish out a lump in the bottom, a bastillion of tape and paper. It's a heavy rock of a fortress. I wrest it open, break open the tape fissures with fingernails.

And inside: a gold medal, Jack's gold wrestling medal.

Joe grasps at my hand, the medal cool between my fingers.

"Give it to him, Momma. Give it to him," Lucy says.

He white knuckles the gold trophy, threshes it against his leg a few times, grins.

"I think he likes it because it's shiny," Jack says.

We all just stand there and stare at the gold medal and Joe, a whole year bunched up around our shoulders.


4314. Jane teaches us how to make paper people.

4315. She makes a Resurrection Day schedule then edits it to accommodate my migraine.

4316. Pancakes, plum sauce.

4317. Resurrection Day dinner.

4318. "Call from UNKNOWN. Call from UNKNOWN," croons the robotic phone voice. "That's a pretty good last name," Jack says.

4319. Ham salad with pecans and cranberries.

4320. Jane tops her oatmeal with raspberry jam. "The raspberry seeds in the jelly feel like pieces of gravel," decides.

4321. "I'm not scared of Daddy's vacuum," Myra announces as Craig rototills the garden.

4322. Craig wrestles that beast of a tiller up and down our mammoth garden, soil all black and soft.

4323. We eat pizza with Dad and Mom, compare notes on work and marriage, laugh, eat brownies.

4324. We potluck down on the farm. Everyone joins in, but the potpie steals the show.

4325. Honeydew melon, sweet, drippy.

4326. Twistable colored pencils.

4327. Rockwood bakery.

4328. The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats.

4329. Friends join us for dinner and a leisure evening. The children pitch in, set the table, clear dishes, serve dessert, and we all turn in for an early night.

4330. Craig plants 96 tomato sees and nestles them in his mom's greenhouse for germination.

4331. The whole troop of family joins us for Joey's birthday party. And in all the carnival of conversation, paper plates, ice cream, chocolate sauce, and strawberries, family happens. The great big event of FAMILY.

4332. I ask Myra what her favorite story is. She pauses. "The Bible of Jesus," she states.

4333. Jane and I linger late into the night while Craig works and children sleep. We giggle over Joey's antics.

4334. Craig awakens the bikes out of hibernation and inflates all the flat tires. The children saddle up and glide up and down the street.

4335. I listen to Tim Keller speak to the employees at Google.

4336. Craig continues to lead us with both strength and humility. At each turn we want to please him more.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Resurrection Day

"Why when you sleep or wear boots it makes black stuff between your toes?" Lucy wonders. Scrunched up, fingers separating each toe, she squints, picks the black stuff out, wipes it on the carpet.

We gussie up in fresh clothes, me in soft black running jersey, her in apple skirt and green rain boots.

And all of us, the five kids, me, we gallop down the block, sun on our heels and in our hair, Joey on my back. We run down around the horse track, around again, back up the block, and then pile in the car, zip off for errands together.

"So what's so great about Jesus rising from the dead?" I ask. We skitter down the main drag, kids' heads bobbing in the back.

"'Cause he raised again," Lucy bellows.

"But Lazarus raised again. Why is it so great that Jesus did?"

"'Cause he died for us," Jack says, and the others clamor and bluster. The chatter blends together, then lulls.

"But, why is that so great?"

The wide five-lane road aflutter with cars, a suburban to my right, a corolla slows, and I switch lanes, pull the visor down, piercing orange sun hidden for the moment.

Jane's voice rises from the backseat, "He died the death of a criminal so he can pay for criminals like us."

There, in that blazing orange sun, I feel her comment warm on my skin. He paid for me. I'm all paid for and clean and perfect in his sight. Oh happy day. The Lord has made us new. Jesus has made us new.


4281. "If you don't obey Jesus's instructions," Jane says, "you usually still get to the same place, just not in the same way." We trace again the life of Abraham and notice his detours.

4282. The seven of us make the four-and-a-half hour drive to Lucy's four hour eye appointment. We turn around and come home the same day. Jack makes wrestling practice. Craig and I have date night. It's the best long day ever.

4283. "Pardon me, I tooted," Jack whispers in the waiting room. "Jack tooted just now," Myra announces in full voice.

4284. Egg salad -- with bacon. Warm rosemary bread. Oven crisp chocolate chip cookies. Warm brownies.

4285. Cerissa hosts a Tuesday retreat.

4286. "I'm always gonna be a nice girl," Myra reassures.

4287. I comfort Myra after a nightmare. We pray together.

4288. Craig calls on his way home. "What kind of pizza do you want for dinner?" he says.

4289. "You're pretty," Myra says. "You're pretty with your head," she points to my long hair.

4290. Cerissa makes a big happy deal about Lucy's new reading glasses.

4291. Myra squishes Joe's cheeks like putty.

4292. Rockie gets the spica cast off!!!

4293. We all feel relief and joy, but it's palpable from her parents.

4294. The Sugar Creek Gang.

4295. Top Dog.

4296. A cup of soup, a cup of glorious steaming coconut-curry-sweet-tater soup comes from across the street straight to my bowl.

4297. "That's my stinky toot," Myra announces. "I said PARDON ME, I TOOTED," she rambles on. "I didn't poop my pants."

4298. Scented pencils. A friend gives us scented pencils.

4299. Lavender seasoning. The perfect blend.

4300. Question games, stories, laughter and play, we practice our signs with Miss Lynne.

4301. Craig's parents celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary. We throw a party. We laugh and linger and marvel. What a blessing to be in their family.

4302. Joey fusses. "Mom, Joe says him's tooth is hurt," Myra reports.

4303. Pink polka-dot shirt, all happy and fresh, cardigan to match.

4304. I decide to boycott Starbucks. As per the suggestion of Starbucks' CEO I'll take my stake somewhere else.

4305. Cerissa faces an awkward situation. She hits it head on. We all silently cheer and take note.

4306. I buy honey yogurt. The kids split wide smiles, quietly lick their spoons.

4307. Pecans on salad.

4308. Down at the horse track two Boston terriers join us. Myra spots them. "The horses are coming," she says and motions to the two dogs. They trot up, sniff us, and continue on. "Her is nice. See Lucy, her is nice," Myra says.

4309. "Tell me when you wake me up," Myra suggests.

4310. For Resurrection Day, I make pancakes. Jack grabs Lucy's hands and dances around the living room for all the joy of it.

4311. Lemon cheesecake, coconut cupcakes.

4312. Resurrection. Jesus's resurrection.

4313. My salvation.