Sunday, October 27, 2013



"Mommy, when I grow up I want to be a mommy," Myra says.

Knees folded up, fingers interlaced around shins, she rocks on her behind, sing-songs conversation. I shower. She talks. She wraps blue-blankie around her shoulders and squeezes him in a hug.

"Sometimes I puke on the rugs," she says.

"Yup," I say.

And we stair-step through the day, retell the details. She puked. We made a bed in the bathroom. She puked again. We all stayed out. She puked again. And then the day sort of dwindled away while she slept. Then she was cured. I showered.

We pretend it's grown-up conversation all the inflection and pauses in the right spots. I nod. She grins. We volley, trace the moves.

"Ew. I don't want to step where you puked," I frown. Encircled in a big red towel, I tip-toe around a thick cotton mat.

"I puked on the rug."

I nod, dry my toe on its corner and push it into a rumple. "On both rugs?"

"No, only that one where you said." She tips her head to the cinnamon bathmat scuffed up next to the tub.

I consider tiptoe still best and stealth my way around a lumpy chestnut rug and blue-blankie.

"I puked right there." She points to the un-rugged stretch in front of the sink.

"Oh. What did you wipe it up with?"

"I didn't," she says. I squint at the patch. "It dried," she says.

"I see." I pause. We measure this new information.

"Sometimes I puke, and it dries," she says. I feel it again, the arc of conversation, the awkward pause, the new detail right on time.

"Ah," I say. We nod in tandem, deference, grin. And then, as if on cue, a sluice of health and relief buoys up between us. Her eyes bright, me finally showered, we take it for what it is: enough.

"Come on, let's go get our jammies on."

We tritt-trot down the hall a sense of camaraderie firm under our feet.


4917. Jack goes on a Gramma-date.

4918. Myra gets over the flu.

4919. "Mom, I kinda want to turn off my lava lamp, but I feel kinda bad," Jane comes to me. "I need someone to give me approval," she says. "Turn off the lava lamp," I say, her transparency an ocean of love between us, a smile all the way back to her room.

4920. "Before you go with the flow," she says later, "look and see if it's right, 'cause it's usually not."

4921. And then, I scold her for fiddling with socks during evening prayer. "I'm sorry, Momma," she says, "Will you forgive me?" She blinks. "I was probably setting a very bad example for those who had their eyes open." Her eyes earnest blue and round as the moon, I bust into laughter. A pause and we both do. Sincerity carries the day, a bond.

4922. Grated carrots, chopped cabbage, celery, and squash, Mom and I scare up the makings for soup. Grocery shopping and conversation, I savor the time before she leaves again for Kenya.

4923. Craig and the kids clean the yard and prep the garden for winter.

4924. "I think there's a little family of roly-polies in here," Jack pokes around the rhubarb bed.

4925. They dig carrots. Lucy scrubs them.

4926. Lucy and I trounce off shopping for second-hand books. Classics, we find almost more than we can carry. When the checker undercharges us. I tell the truth. "I knew if I lied it would make me a different kind of person," I tell Lu and enjoy the solid feeling of truth inside.

4927. Craig encircles me in his arms, cuddles me close, nuzzles my cheek, kisses me, there in the living room in the wide circle of afternoon. "Everyone join in!" Lucy whoops and the children tackle us in a hug.

4928. My parents host the family fall birthday party. We make the usual fanfare. All that round-robin encouragement, and I leave feeling full even though it wasn't my birthday.

4929. Hibiscus lid covers, pink, perfect.

4930. The crockpot overflows while we are at church. Craig mops it up for me.

4931. He surprises me with four fancy chocolates. We them split for a date.

4932. We buy the season's first eggnog and celebrate the beginning of the Christmas liturgy: harvest, Thanksgiving, Christmas.

4933. Christmas music fills the house like warm cream in winter oatmeal. We swallow the moments, warm and rich. They nourish our bones.

Sunday, October 20, 2013


"Did you really not want to hold the baby," I glance at the rearview mirror, Jane just beyond its perimeter, "or were you afraid it would make it hard or something?" We skim beneath an overpass, our headlights lemon-yellow on cement pillars.

"No. I really didn't want to," she says. The rest of our crew sliding toward bedtime, Jane and I had jaunted out to see baby Lydia, barely 24 hours old now.

"Ok." The roads all but empty, I make a wide turn, glide into the far lane. "I just ask," I say, "because when I was young I didn't really always say what I meant. I had to learn to stand up for myself." I crane my neck around backward, cast my face her direction, then coil back to attend the road.

"Mom," she says, "when I say something, don't doubt me." Her words land solid, like a shot-put in grass. "That's why I'm bad at joking: I mean what I say."

"Yeah. I like that." I simile at the roundness of her words, each one plenum, each one a small globe, warm and beating in the ether between us. We sweep past a vacant exit. Spheres of fog encircle neon lights.

"I think," she says, "most people, when they come from a big family, learn to speak up, otherwise they just become the runt." She traces the folds of our family, our angular edges softened against each other.

"Yup. I think you're right."

And so it is, we cultivate our voice. We conceive it there in the soil of chores and toil, competition and the laying down of ourselves for each other. We carve out that space where each word stands full stature.

We teach each other to speak. And we listen, the two-edged stroke of each word nothing to trifle with.


4899. "I just love that there's a perfect answer to all the traps," Jane says about Jesus's replies to the Pharisees.

4900. "Momma, why do your lips look so pretty/" Lucy asks. "It looks like you have your party-lips on," Myra says. I wear lipstick for family pictures.

4901. We meet for an afternoon of family pictures with sweet sis-in-law Rose. Bliss.

4902. "I think it said something about how the buildings were made of marbles," Jack comments on the temple under King Herod.

4903. "Mom, it sounds like Joey's playing in the bathroom," Jack warns. And then we find him filling a water glass in the toilet.

4904. Myra has an accident, then saddles up with four pairs of underwear to prevent any others.

4905. Maple garlic sausage soup.

4906. "Jesus, thank-you that we can always do Bible study," Lucy prays, "even when we are scared."

4907. Craig brings me a chocolate bar: milk chocolate with coconut flakes and black lava salt.

4908. Raw sugar, coconut milk, baby mandarins, balsamic reduction, chocolate, lemon soap, dunkers -- a Trader Joe's run is always such a treat.

4909. A new sketch book, the pages feel extra smooth.

4910. The New King James Version of the Bible, we find it a good family fit.

4911. The kids and Craig and I take a scenic train through the mountains up north with Craig's parents. The fall air shatters crisp against our faces.

4912. We picnic in a park, warmed by the sun. We linger over zucchini bread.

4913. Jane and I skitter to the bookstore, buy up the last supplies for this quarter.

4914. Joey wakes up early from nap and eats the travel toothpaste.

4915. We reiterate with the children that the way they treat each other is the way they treat us. Their love for each other is their love for us.

4916. I trace again the principle: my love for others is perhaps the most perfect rendering of my love for God. I pray he grows my love.

Sunday, October 13, 2013


"Mom, I like doing grown-up things," Jane says, dinner splayed around the table. She tilts a white soup bowl, shifts the dregs of rice and chicken, celery and rosemary, into a brothy pool. She rounds out her spoon, slurps it off.

"Yeah?" I spin a black lid off the Bavarian seasoning, shake a dusting over my bowl. I wrestle crackers from a cellophane bag and mound soupy rice onto them. The sea salt crunches between my teeth.

"Even if it's something I don't like doing," she says, "I like it because it means I get to have more privileges."

I lean to see her face around a fucia daliah stemmed in an old milk bottle. "You're starting to think like a grown-up," I say.

"I'd do almost anything to think like a grown-up," she says. I smile, the old halogen lamp casting a yellow glow around the black table.

"You're growing up fast." I murmur. "It's so true. It's just like everyone says."

Someone clatters in looking for jammies, another calls for toothpaste. There at eye level with cracker crumbs and puddles of broth, I pause the scatter, mentally trace this horizon line, this gossamer thread that separates girl and woman.

A silent moment, an imperceptible nod, and we both know it's there: the line.

Then it's Thursday. I bustle past my bedroom, securing the last details of the evening, Jane moored there on my bed reading until she's tired.

"G'd night, Jane," I say.

"Night, Momma."

I slip on an old pair of Craig's socks, grab my knitting.

"I just love this part," she peeks around the corner of Prince Caspian. "It's food to my spirit."  I turn to face her, slow the moment. "Let me put it this way," she says, "You can tell it was written by a Christian, and it's really getting to the good part." She nods, grins, sloughs a shoulder up by her ear. "Every part is a good part," she says.

I smile into her azure eyes, the story piquant and permeating the room.

"Yup. Love you."

"Love you too."

With that, she's charioting the story again, memorizing the moves of courage and honor, failure, redemption. Threads of gold, gossamer, filmy, and fine, sheer threads -- I feel them here, again.

It's food for my spirit, she says -- gentle dividing lines, nuances of thought, diaphanous, perfect lines.

My move. I step into the hall, slip past the golden mean, something precise and iridescent behind me.


4882. I catch up on accounting phone calls.

4883. We get at least one day of sign language this week.

4884. We eat tri-tip stew with prime rib broth, the sisters-in-law and I feel like queens on Tuesday at Mom's.

4885. Do Hard Things, we listen to another section: the importance of doing small hard things. I watch Jane soak it in.

4886. Jane bakes apple crisp for Craig and me.

4887. Myra gives me a back rub. "Want to snuggle with one of my babies while I do this?" she asks grin split across her face.

4888. "Wow," Jane comments when Joey takes off wearing only a diaper. "Joey's growing outward," she says.

4889. "My baby's havin' a piggy-back," Myra says, and tosses Olive Sunny up on Lucy's back as we cavort inside after waving at Craig.

4890. Myra hugs me and hiccups in my ear.

4891. Fabric. Polkadots of all kinds. Mom and I go material shopping.

4892. My nephews come over twice in one week. The children run wild with bliss, all nine of them, until their cheeks are peached with fall air and bellies growling for food. We circle up and thank the Lord for all the good in this day. And then we get the good news, their baby sister has been born. Hooray, another life! Glory to God. Congratulations Dan and Cerissa.

4893. Craig and I cuddle up for a date night, knitting, bunchy socks, and apple crisp included.

4894. Joey makes hay with the 25 lb. bag of flour while the cousins are here. Everyone agrees: It's spectacular.

4895. I make matching skirts for Jane and me. Black, white polkadots, the grown-up kind.

4896. Jack wraps his hands around my neck. "Want me to go get the heater from downstairs," he says, "and point it at you so you don't get cold?" He grins into my eyes, his smile a deep dimple on each end.

4897. Craig pulls the evening into a square knot and sets Jane and me free to go visit baby Lydia and Cerissa. I relish all the firsts filling the precious evening. Freshly newborn, what a miracle to witness, suddenly the whole world is a miracle.

4898. And so we finger the edges of a new day, a newborn, a miracle.

Sunday, October 6, 2013


"Adverbs tell," I say in sing-song voice, "how, when, where, how often, to what extent." I move my finger down a list, bullets next to each point.

The children encircle the farm table. Myra nods. Lucy leans in close. Her hair wisps the edge of the book.

"How, when, where, how often, to what extent." I repeat it three times. We lilt the rhythm.

I tracy my finger down the script. Myra burps Trella, her deaf dolly, over one shoulder. Jack rocks his chair. Jane traces her bottom lip.

"How, when, where, how often, to what extent," I say again, sculpting their memories once more before we move on.

"That sounds about like what I want to know about discipline," Jane blurts.

I look up, her face ivory, cheeks round apples, realization draped across the temples.

How, when, where, how often, to what extent.

"That is true," I stammer, a grin threaded over my lips. We sail into laughter. How, when, where, how often, to what extent. Discipline. Titter, hee-hee-haw.

"Can you write that on a paper for me?" she asks sea-sawed up on an elbow.


She fishes a pink sticky notes off the bookshelf. Adverbs tell, I print across the top.

"If someone's having trouble discipling," she chats, "this is what your kids want to know."

I form the list, hand her the note.

"Hm. I'm gonna go put this in my box," she says, "because it's totally true." Black turtle neck, blue jeans, she hops from her chair, each step a roll off the ball of her foot, her curls trill around her elbows.

Jack guffaws, then drums out, "How-of-ten, to-what-ex-tent," leaned belly-up on the table, ankles hooked over the chair-back.

"I'm gonna go upstairs," Myra announces, "'cause I have to pee."

"Ok," I say.

Jane passes her in the hall, trots to the high-back chair. "There's no way a kid can have a good mind without thinking that," she patters under her breath.

I continue on. We diagram a sentence, and another, a whole arching oak of sentences. We sling adverb on like leaves on a tree. And all the while I hold that circlet of discipline in my palm, wonder what to do with it.

How, when, where, how often, to what extent.

I trace it, turn it over, smooth it between my fingertips, invisible, warm.

How, when, where, how often, to what extent.

Discipline. Yes, discipline is action. They're mapping the action, a regular topographical map of action, every stroke measured, memorized, profiled, tucked away for later.

I feel their eyes on me.

I stand a little taller, step a little closer, and gaze into their eyes, deep wells of curiosity. I plan to make the terrain memorable.


4860. Chicken soup from scratch.

4861. Black rice.

4862. Tuesday at Mom's, tomato bisque.

4863. Pizza, kale salad, five conversations interlaced at once, gusts of laughter, chocolate coconut bonbons, family around the table.

4864. "Mom, I like moldy grapes," Myra says. "How do you know?" I say. "'Cause I like moldy bread," she says. "Oh," I say.

4865. "Life is glimpse of a dream, isn't it, Momma?" Jack says. "Why do you say that?" I say. "'Cause Heaven is our house, right?" he says.

4866. Joe sprays himself with the water dispenser. "Oh, WOW," he says.

4867. He finally realizes that when in trouble, just say, "Ok," for best results.

4868. "Um, no, you are not supposed to be on the chicken coop, girls," I call out the window on the first sunny day all week. "Do not fall getting down."

4869. Emma goes on a gramma-date.

4870. "Sometime I'm even gonna do sketches for FUN," Lucy comments on her art class homework.

4871. "Before he got his temper I gave him a hug," Jane rescues Joe from a tantrum.

4872. "Um, he's not very faithful to his bed," Jane evaluates Joey's transition to the big-boy bed.

4873. "Mom, Dad says I look like an angel," Lucy blusters into the bathroom. "You do," I say. "Dad says we look both like angels," Myra trots in behind her. "You do," I say. "We aren't actually angels, but we look like angels," Lucy clarifies.

4874. I finally have a honey bulb for the honeypot and a soap grate for the soap holder.

4875. "You're such an outlandish creature," Jane taunts Jack in a game of handball.

4876. We all go to the latest gallery opening and stay until it closes. Worth Fighting For -- the title of the new show. It's so true, you never feel more alive than when you are doing something brave. Courage and camaraderie swell.

4877. "Jesus, thank-you that I was able to do Bobbley study," Myra prays. "Thank-you that I knowed what to say."

4878. "Lucy, what are you eating?" Craig queries while I'm on my morning run. "Sugar. We all are," she says. "Ah. You are going to have to tell Momma about that when she gets home," he says. "Oh," she says.

4879. Jane resumes her volunteer schedule and joins Craig at work.

4880. Buttered popcorn, real butter.

4881. Sunday. We slide into Sunday like home plate and prepare for another week.