Sunday, June 30, 2013


"Momma, can we just SPEAK up like that," Jane says, "and say we're NOT buying anymore swimsuits until they make some that are modest? And it's a real shame when we see people that aren't?"

I pause, note her direct route from news article to decisive action.

Eyes earnest blue, she idles at my shoulder then flits to the toaster. She shucks the toast down, then butters warm brown bread. "You want some?"

"No, I actually really want salad. I just haven't gotten around to making it."

She sidles by, toast in hand, trit-trots out the back.

I smooth her swimsuit words through my mind, turn them over like a coin in hand. "Hey, hey come back," I call.

The open window above the sink carries my voice to her. A shuffle and she slugs the door open again.

"Yeah?" she says.

"Hey come here, I want to tell you something."

"Ok." She skips up the one step difference between sunroom and office den.

"Yes," I start, "actually in this country we can say stuff like that."

"Well, why don't you do that?" Immediately tracking, her face pleasant, eyebrows effortless, sensible, she grins. Eye to eye, I smile, the blue iris of her eyes fractured with tiny aqua veins.

"Because," I say, "I have a limited amount of time and energy, and I am devoting that to my children right now." The circles of our eyes matched face to face, I trace the guileless rim of that azure iris. Long limbs, beanpole, and whimsical, she vacillates ever so slightly right to left. "Maybe you will be the one to do that someday before you have kids," I say.

"I will." She nods as if speaking of the past. "I'd even do it right now if you let me." Hushed at the intwining of innocence and fervor, I watch. "When I say do it, I mean go to the place and just say it, right now, before I turn nine, before I start my tenth year."

The words unfold stair-step, the gentle gait of her bare feet invisible. Her cerulean eyes happy, resolved, she gambols out the back door.

I nod, boldness fresh in the air.


4589. "Lucy's buttering 'em so YUMMY," Myra blisses, "and then she's letting them MELT." She leans eyelash to eyelash with the toast. "Cool. COOL. Cool," she chants, "One of 'em just melted. I saw this one MELT."

4590. "It smells like cucumbers," Myra comments on the ozone haze after the thunderstorm.

4591. The Tuesday Girls meet.

4592. Our small group makes candid conversation over pumpkin pie. The real sinew of friendship shows itself.

4593. "That's so awesome that you make bread," Craig compliments Jane. "Not very many adults make bread," he says. "Why?" she asks, "Because they make their kids do it?"

4594. "I seriously feel like I'm living with another woman here when you help like that," I tell her. "I so appreciate your help." She laughs. "Yeah. I try to make myself useful," she says.

4595. We ready the table for dinner guests, the food already done. Jack realizes we will eat as soon as the guests arrive. "You prepared most of it ahead of time, you good girl," he says.

4596. "Mom, it feels like I need to water my whistle," Jack comments before he slugs down a pint of water.

4597. "I think we should try to talk together everyday," Jane says, "not just when we have dates. And we should try to do it at times where we could do more and just see if we get carried away."

4598. We eat ham on fresh made bread, salad with cherries, Lays potato crisps, the perfect summer meal unfolds with family.

4599. A mother bird rejects her babies and keeps dropping them in the garden. "I just don't want to SEE it DIE," Jack sobs again and again as we try to put it back into the nest.

4600. "I disobeyed. I'm sorry," another child sobs and runs to me ripe with repentance.

4601. "Jane, you are just like your mother," Jack teases as she slogs the mayo container against the table to make it squirt better.

4602. Cerissa and the boys come over to play. We knit and embroider while the kids cavort around the backyard.

4603. We have an ASL class all on farmer's markets.

4604. Mom and I make a memory picking out earrings. And I get the first new earrings probably since having Jane.

4605. I complete the soft blue sweater I started for Jane with pearly white buttons and start one for Lucy. She pick a navy one.

4606. Craig starts the henhouse renovation and invents a sandwich all in one day. Ham, egg, sharp cheddar, roasted garlic and chili aioli, mmMMMmmM. We eat it two days in a row.

4607. "Mom, math is like food to my mind," Lucy says.

4608. "It doesn't' look like something you would eat except it actually does taste good," Lucy narrates as I chop a fennel bulb for salad.

4609. We tie up a few loose ends of obedience and the whole house seems to sigh with contentment.

4610. Obedience, the path to contentment.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Rules of Engagement

"No. NO, Myra," Lucy shakes her head, "the worms canNOT bite you." She nods staccato.

Eyes fixated on Myra's cupped hands, they blink-blink at a soil mound in her palms. Myra hip-hops one tiptoe to the other, hands impossibly still. She grimaces, holds her breath, releases an involuntary scream.

"See Myra? SEE? They can't BITE you."

"They don't have teeth!" I call, from the strawberry bed.

Joey flaps at my elbow. He licks a rock. I capture it. He waves a long sheaf of grass, squawks.

Myra shudders, and the whole worm enterprise shakes free of her fingers. Lucy scrambles the worm pile from Myra's knees, and one broad stroke after another, buries it in a rickety garden flat.

Then they frown. Knee to knee there at the garden flat, they unbury the worm. They check on it. They bury it, unbury it, bury it again.

"The worms are TIRED," Myra chirps, she a partial promenade now half across the grass. "I KNOW the worms are tired." Her eyebrows a circus tent above perfect blue circles, her sashay fades into an exaggerated gate, knees practically to her chest.

"This is my FOURTH one," Lu interrupts, her standing, me recumbent in the balmy grass. She dangles a thick noodle of a worm, brown and supple, there at my forehead. "I know what I can call it," she announces, "FOURTH OF JULY because he's my FOURTH one."

"No, Myra. No," Craig jangles behind me. "Worms CAN'T swim," He arrests her at the upturned plastic slide, she, gently stroking a puddle on it's underbelly, worms blissfully submerged.

Lucy leaps across the yard. She scoops the worms, flops them on the gray retaining wall, pat-pat-pat them dry with sturdy strokes.

"I just really hope the big one is still ALIVE," she gushes. She ambles as she doles out words, the grass flattened in a radius at her toes. "I can't find the baby one," she whispers. "I think maybe Myra dropped it in the grass."

She nods. I nod. We nod and frown, share a moment of agreement. Then, by silent cue, she and Myra scamper off, skitter down the back stairwell.

Joey grabs at the plum-rock just barely in reach. I shimmy it around my foot, tuck it under my instep.

"We put them to SLEEP," Myra announces, and they trounce back.

"We put them in a car and then we put in as much dirt as we could fit, and then I put it in a can," Lucy explains.

Jack smacks a wiffle ball in my peripheral, a too-small piece of firewood fully extended. He retrieves the ball then wails on it like a golf ball. Joey spots the plum-rock again, tries again to encapsulate it in his mouth. Sleight of hand, and it's mine.

"We're gettin' the worms up." Myra trumpets. "We're just gettin' the worms UP." Risen to the summit of the stairs, She holds up a trophy, wiggling, squishy, awake.

"NO, Myra! GIVE him to me," Lucy bursts. She lopes over a flowerbed, her stride a wide pendulum, johny-jump-ups unscathed. "You are pinching him TOO hard." She makes a swing at the worm. Myra holds him high, higher, at the apex of her arms. "NO, Myra."

I watch the round-robin two-step, schoolyard rules. They negotiate, appeal, advance and retreat. One finally snaggles the lead, the other follows, and the worm, passive object of affection, settles back into the car-can setup. They nod in solidarity, problem resolved, hierarchy preserved - friendship and loyalty in tact.


4568. A friend enrolls me in a Danish baking class.

4569. We flub through construction traffic on the way to my mom's. "Jane, we're not doing anything illegal," Jack blusters, "Mom knows what she is doing. TRUST."

4570. Quinoa salad, strawberry shortcake, candid conversation, Tuesday at Mom's.

4571. Our small group Bible study gathers for the first of summer barbecues, children and adults, the ebb and flow of chatter all around.

4572. Wednesday it rains. "I'm gonna make a giant fort," Jack decides, "and I think that will keep me warm 'cause forts trap warm air."

4573. Dad and Mom bring burgers to barbecue. We wander the garden, look into each other's faces, watch the age of another week, trace the immeasurable value.

4574. "Momma, you're doing a great job," Jane says as I fill a mason jar with honey. "I know you need to hear that a lot to succeed," she says, "just like I do."

4575. I go shopping for flip-flops and Jane communicates in ASL.

4576. "This is grown-up potatoes," Myra comments on the red potatoes I serve for dinner. "I like Miss Lynne's potatoes. I like purple potatoes."

4577. Mom and I chat away a whole morning past lunch.

4578. Silver earrings.

4579. Jane gets a new rash guard for the swimming season, robin's egg blue.

4580. Craig chops wood down on the farm. His dad rigs a wood splitter to use next time.

4581. "Mom," Jack says, "I whistle one note kind of quiet because if I do it loud you won't approve. And then I can do it longer 'cause I'm sucking in so much air." Jack learns how to whistle.

4582. "MOMMA, say MOMMA," Jack coaches Joe. "DADDA," Joey says.

4583. We visit Craig's mom at the Rose Show.

4584. 'If I don't know where I'm going it just means you will see lots of stuff. I don't necessarily know where I am going," Lucy explains as we wander the magnificent gardens at the Rose Show.

4585. We play at the pool with cousins.

4586. I discover Lucy's baby worm happened when the first one got pinched in half.

4587. Craig takes me on a date. We hold hands and talk the whole time.

4588. We find ourselves in a new season of solidarity. The future looks bright.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

The Wallet

"Mom?" Jack taps my elbow. "Mom?" he punctures the factory line of tasks running through my mind. I stifle, Who left their breakfast bowl out? and instead swivel past freckled boy and shuffle an oatmeal canister into the cupboard, a bowl into another white bowl into the sink.

"Yeah?" I say and deliberately look away from the butter dish, the butter knife a tilting twig defying gravity, and the honey jar still on the counter.

His eyes roving spotlights of affections, he captures me. Tethered there between a fork and two knives propped on the sink and spindrift oatmeal on the floor, I fetter in the wind of rapport, that niggling thing of love there between us. The seesawing ocean of a day, and his eyes anchor us.

"I'm gonna need to bring THIS on my date with you," he says. He swaths the air with a khaki wallet, a kelly green stripe past the snap, the awkward arc as he jabs the air due to an enormous amount of change dumped in the credit card slots.

"Oh, good!"

We scurry the afternoon into a decent knot and head out.

We heave into the Dairy Queen parking lot, the whole suburban a sigh around us, the pavement radiant black under our tires.

I slip out of the front seat, pull his door open. "Ya ready?"

The seatbelt limp at his elbow, he palms that wallet, gunny-sack-brown. He leaps down over a teddy bear and Jane's green sweatshirt invisible there wedged next to a Noah's Ark color book on the floor mat.

"Mom, I need to get my wallet in my pocket," he reports, "so it will be a minute or two."

"Oh. Okay."

So I wait, there in the resplendent heat, his mannish features chiseled sharper than even a day ago, the sensibility of the wallet all obvious and ethereal. He grabs my hand;  we walk in.

With the tug of his hand I see it: his desire to provide, that seed of manhood, masculine, confident. I let him lead, that image of his father unmistakable like the cache of coins in his wallet.


4543. "Mom?" Jack pounds on the bathroom door, piano practice temporarily stopped. "Mom, I wasn't doing music writing. I was doing worship."

4544. "I kind of regret putting on all the salsa," Jack comments on his burrito. "I'm putting on other stuff to try and change its personality."

4545. The Tuesday Girls pool questions and philosophy, theology and the everyday, and eat salad, cherry pecan green salad.

4546. I collapse under a migraine explosion. The children dismantle the plastic play-slide structure. They build a boat from the pieces and sail the back lawn while I sleep.

4547. Finally, I resurface, sit on the lead boat. "Mom, it's sort of hard to drive the boat when you're sitting there," Myra says.

4558. Jane and I alter clothes together.

4559. I mend one of Craig's dress shirts and a pair of his jeans.

4560. We break the news: raccoons broke in and ate all the adult chickens. The children nod like veteran farmers, sigh, move on. Craig does triage on the chicken yard.

4561. New dye! We prepare for another round of dying and refreshing.

4562. We celebrate my dad's and little brother's birthdays, steaks and the fresh retelling of their admirable qualities. We linger in the whirl of celebration, children gathered at our elbows.

4563. Iris roots, a whole bag of them waits for their new home in my garden.

4564. An old farm table. Pete and Rose let us keep their old table for them. We set it up in the schoolroom and the whole room orbits around it.

4565. Craig takes us to the park for a morning walk. I jangle through the ashtray for parking-meter-change. "I wish I would've brought my money," Jack leans over to Lucy, "so then I could help Mom."

4566. Craig and I celebrate our 13th wedding anniversary, every year terra firma under our feet.

4567. Father's Day. I reflect on the great happiness I have from the love and wisdom of my father and the great strength Craig has from his.

4568. I find afresh the familiar realization: happiness flows from belonging, that deep bedrock belonging, membership in the kingdom of God, and the unexpected pleasure that every moment is in place.

Monday, June 10, 2013


"Mom, if I were you, I'd let them in." Jane watches from the backseat.

A Honda Civic shimmies past our front bumper. White, a melon shape of rust imprinted on the driver's door, window down, elbow protruding,  I frown. They crowd the front sphere of the suburban.

"Why?" I sigh, the day all wide and sky-blue, that white Honda almost fully ahead now.

"'Cause," she says, "it seems like the thing Jesus would do."

I ease back. They scuttle by, seven over the speed limit. I remind myself we're not in a hurry.

We hasten onto the freeway, then weave through town, conversation the rocking sway of a swing.

"That Sunday school teacher that likes Jude," Jane continues, "I bet they are really old."

North along the snaking river, north past the small-town feed store, north up Old Sandy, a right turn, a right turn, somewhere a right turn. I trace the directions again in my mind. "Yeah?" I say.

"'Cause old people are smarter than other people" she says, "and they probably know there aren't that many people with strong personalities left."

"Oh. That's true." A dirt road, a red barn, yes, there it is. I see it just before the mailbox with giant brown numbers: her house, the proctor's house. Testing day, we make a date of it.

Then, it's Thursday.

"Mom, Mom," Jack heralds, "I want to buy you flowers. I have $13 and I am GOING to buy you flowers."

I click send on a note for my friend the one with the new baby all downy soft and fresh and learning to sleep. Jack taps my shoulder. "Mom, when we go to Costco, I just HAVE to buy you flowers. When we go to Costco, we HAVE to look at the flowers?"

I scoop and stack white cereal bowls migrated from table to counter, slop-mop and crooked. A tic-tac leaning tower of diagonals, spoons poking out, I spray them down, leave them to soak.

"When we go to the store, we are going to HAVE to look at flowers," Jack instructs Myra. She nods, her Keen hand-me-downs, like duck feet on backwards.

We wrestle laundry and legos, pencils and paper leaflets, the raisins somebody left out, the dishtowels Joey scattered across the kitchen, and between us all, we pin each in place.

All the while Jack sings in six-year-old falsetto, "I'm going to buy Momma flowers. I'm going to buy Mother flowers." It's like Broadway. And he's never called me Mother.

Windows down, children buckled, the hot wind a scuffle through our hair, I try to sing to the radio. It doesn't really work all lumpy and layered in chit-chat and the tempest gusting through the windows. I stop.

"We are going to HAVE to look for trays of flowers." I slow my rushing day, spot blue eyes and freckles in the far back seat. "I really HOPE we can find flowers," he says. I watch him serious and broad shouldered, all the trays of flowers in the world a slinky of momentum.

I catch his eye, rearview mirror between us. "If I see the perfect tray of flowers," I tell him, eyebrows arched to encircle our moment, "that I am DYING to have, I think I might just let you buy them for me."

And like a bird alighted on my finger, the moment flutters still. He, all man-ish and boyish and freckled, me, captivated, windows down, the blowing air a cyclone around us, he smiles. Adoration. For a moment the criss-cross underpinnings of love show, a whole universe of gossamer threads stronger than steal.

"Yep," he says.

"I feels so special." All I see are those water-blue eyes, his smile a crescent in the sky.

"Well," he says, "I feel special giving them to you."

Giving them to you. Oh, I see it: the open-handed giver. That's how I'm supposed to give. His love encircles me.


4519. Myra helps chop apples with a butter knife. "Wow, my muscles are getting bigger," she says.

4520. Lucy sips my coffee, black and perfect. "How does it taste?" Jack wants to know. "Sort of like coffee grinds," she says.

4521. The kids and cousins play away a whole afternoon on sun and sprinklers, watermelon and wading pool.

4522. Mom makes us corn slaw with peanuts.

4523. Myra pukes. Lucy howls that her tummy hurts, and everyone wakes up in perfect health.

4524. Pizza, apple crisp, dinner with Dad and Mom.

4525. Six peppers and hand-me-down clothes.

4526. Craig shows up with butternut squash sprouts, my favorite.

4527. Cousins come to play. Eight kids and it feels like two. They mesh with our life except with more fun.

4528. Cerissa and I search out knitting patterns.

4529. Trader Joes: all the fixin's for corn slaw plus mustard.

4530. Navy yarn.

4531. Purple potatoes.

4532. Our family trounces out to the latest gallery opening. Friends and family, art, food, sign language, live music, a zephyr of a night.

4533. Craig finds a bike trailer for Joe and Myra on Craigslist.

4534. Libby comes over, and we alter clothes to custom fit.

4534. Godiva chocolate.

4535. Pete and Rosie move into a house from the early 1900s: fresh paint, newly finished hardwoods, a closet converted into a bathroom, nooks and crannies, and lots and lots of natural light.

4536. Firewood. Friends give us a whole pine tree of free firewood. The children have a lovely romp in the woods.

4537. Friends and family from Craig's side gather on the farm, an impromptu party, fields of green in every direction.

4538. Craig has a leader's meeting after church. The kids and I come.

4539. Sunday evening, pop-it firecrackers, cousins, the backyard, perfect.

4540. Two brand new Bibles, leather bound.

4541. The cooling fan in the refrigerator dies. Craig fixes it.

4542. He brings the week in for another soft landing. All things seem easier with him.