Sunday, December 28, 2014


Photo courtesy of Urban Rose.    

"We DON'T say poopy," Joey blurts. I guide his round hand into a pj sleeve.

"What?" I say.

"We DON'T say poopy," he says again. He rounds his eyes and elongates DON'T. He shakes his head in exaggerated mime.

"Oh," I say, "yeah. Good boy." I zip his jammies.

"I not go poopy in my unda-wear," he says.

"That's right," I say. I mimic in an elongated nod. "Go poopy in the POTTY."

Like most things he narrates the rules as he goes, garnishes with overstated gesture, watches for reaction, every obedience an act of love.

Photo courtesy of Urban Rose.    


5567. Christmas. The gift of Christ, once again we celebrate his great sacrifice for us.

5568. The many gifts made and bought and exchanged with great love -- we celebrate with our small family and great big extended family.

5569. We draw the days out long and leisure. Christmas ebbs like a tide gently turning, reeling in the new year.

5570. Gramma's old Bernina, Grampa passes on a gift of many memories and many quilts to come. It even comes to me freshly serviced.

5571. We pass the 35 week mark and await the arrival of our newest little girl.

5572. "When I smell that," Myra commentates on Jack's visit to the bathroom, "it makes my eyes reeking." She blinks to illustrate watery eyes. We laugh and laugh, humor surrounding us on every side.

Photo courtesy of Urban Rose.    

Sunday, December 14, 2014


Photos courtesy of Urban Rose

"Mommy, are you gonna see me on stage?" Lucy asks. Frays of hair frame her face. Baby orange in hand, she pops a wedge in her mouth.

"Yeah," I say.

"Mommy's gonna be there for the nine o'clock," Craig says. He grins, clatters a crate of apples on to the counter.

Photos courtesy of Urban Rose

I stare at Lu. She stares at me.

"He's probably just joking," she says. The last time I made it to the nine it was a different decade.

The week spindles by. It finds Myra and me at the kitchen table, elbows slung out, the remains of dipping cookies next to empty tea cups.

"There are actually three people here," Myra says.

"Yeah?" I say.

"Yeah, there's me, and you, and my blankie-boy." She pats a well-loved bunch of blue fluff, draped over my shoulders. She snuggles blankie up around my neck.

"Yep," I say.

Photos courtesy of Urban Rose

"I don't care that he's not a person," she says. "It says BOY in blankie-boy. And he kinda looks like a boy." She pats my shoulder. I nod, my eyes carrying her like an ocean for a ship. She sashays off, blankie encircling me.

Sunday finally dawns. By some miracle, I make it to the nine o'clock service.

The children sing, the spinning wheel of a week pivots forward. Momentum finds us like blue fluff tucked in around the collar, a blanket of comfort as present as a person.

Photos courtesy of Urban Rose.  


5564. Navy sheets to back the latest quilt.

5565. Coconut milk, lemon soap, peppermint all purpose cleaner, white balsamic vinegar, a trip to the store and all cleanliness ensues.

5564. Pizza night. We take half the pepperonis of a store bought pizza and make a second night of homemade pizza.

5565. Nutmeg logs, our favorite Christmas cookie.

5566. The Children's Choir.

5567. "Can we make a calendar of when I should shower?" Myra asks.

5568. We race into the last week of school with anticipation for the Christmas celebration.

Photos courtesy of Urban Rose

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Spare Parts

Photo courtesy of Urban Rose.

"Did you put that in there?" I give the dulcimer an upside-down shake. Something blue slides past the opening.

"Yeah," Joe says. I shake it again. Something blue and pink this time blips over the hole.

"Was it kind of hard to push it in?"


Photo courtesy of Urban Rose.

"Oh." I give it another rattle-shake, poke at the smooth edge of something pink that glides away from my finger. The pick. "I don't think I can get it out," I say.

I hand the instrument back into Joe's arms. He plucks a string, pinches and stretches it a quarter inch past what a normal person would. It twangs, glittery out of tune.

Photo courtesy of Urban Rose.

"I can play it with my hands now," he triumphs. He demonstrates another twang. I gulp down the plate of eggs Lucy had left on the toaster for me.

Then we scatter through the house. Sunday morning, choir practice today.

We redress Myra, twice, a complete makeover from her favorite hand-me-downs. We shorten the sleeves on Lucy's shirt with a couple of well-placed cuffs. Joey tries repeatedly to suit up in rain boots before pants or underwear. I shuffle through stacks of laundry yank socks off Myra and onto Joe.

Photo courtesy of Urban Rose.

"That's weird," Lu says. I look up to her beached on a pile of Myra's clothes, a blue snappie barrette in her fingers. "Look what I found," she says, dulcimer at the crook of her arm.

"Huh," I say and snuffle Joe's foot down into the rain boot, "let's go!"

We gallop out the door.

Photo courtesy of Urban Rose.

I slide into a pew out of breath. Joe wets his pants. I count my blessings that he was standing, not sitting in a pew. We sog out to the restroom.

The morning gently lands, me in the parking lot with Joe, Craig and the big kids at choir practice. and I suddenly remember the barrette. It would have been perfect for Lucy's hair. A fleeting memory of me shrugging it into a pocket, perfect. I reach in and feel it next to two tylenol, a crochet hook, and some miscellaneous yarn.

Perfect, all the spare parts.

Photo courtesy of Urban Rose.


5555. Mom finishes crocheting the new baby's blankie.

5556. Craig and I plan an impromptu quilt with poppies and gray.

5557. Basil sausage tomato soup.

5558. Joe fixes a plastic gun with a safety pin. It disappears into the rattly shell never to be seen again.

Photo courtesy of Urban Rose.

5559. We have dinner with Craig's family.

5560. Mom and her sister decorate Grampa's house for Christmas.

5561. I drop in to visit Dad while Mom is away. We talk like old times.

5562. We win a jar of a friend's famous homemade marinara sauce.

5563. We spend the evenings warm and snug by the fire listening to audio books. Christmas feels most present when we are together.

Photo courtesy of Urban Rose.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

The Trip

"Joey, want a gummy bear?" Jane soothes.

Nine hours into an eleven hour drive, Joe wails from the back seat. He wails and blubbers. "Turn the light on," he howls. "I have to go poop," he moans. "I don't know where blankie is," he bawls and bays.

"Joe-Joe, want a gummy bear?" Jane strokes him with her words. "Here." She passes a gummy bear over the back seat. He grubs it into his mouth, settles. We hunker down.

We listen to wide swathes of adventure on audio book and glide into the home stretch. We're home before we realize he really did poop his pants.


5554. We celebrate Thanksgiving at the ocean. Family. Memories unfold before our eyes. We laugh until we cry. We ponder and discuss. We compete and work puzzles. At the end we load up to leave and find ourselves more whole and full than when we came.

Sunday, November 23, 2014


Photo courtesy of Urban Rose.

"Joey, are you just scared?" Lu peeks into his bedroom. Joe quiets, lulls between wailing snuffles. I proctor the nightly wail from the far end of the hallway.

"Yeah," Joe says, a reflexive 1-2-3-snuff stifled into his blankie-boy. Lu leans in. I pad down the hallway in wool socks, lean past her.

"Joe," I say, "do you want Lucy to sleep on the top bunk with you?"

Photo courtesy of Urban Rose.

"Yeah." Draped sideways over the body pillow, he nods still snuffling in time to the 1-2-3-snuff. He pulls blankie-boy over his nose.

"I will," Lu says. She slip-slides footie jammies to her room and returns with a quilt and red-carpet-blankie.

She lays down, no gush or chatter, just a quiet presence. Sleep enfolds them.

Photo courtesy of Urban Rose.


5545. Kari makes gingersnaps for our small group. We all make it.

5546. The Tuesday girls make knitting plans, trade patterns, and start the seasonal blitz of knitting. Even Cerissa makes the leap to knitting.

5547. Pizza night with apple crisp.

Photo courtesy of Urban Rose.

5548. Ham bone soup. We make another whole week of meals out of the spiral ham.

5549. I fight off three migraines.

5550. Jane decides to take up knitting again. She buys two balls of yarn with her own money and knits 20 row right off the bat.

Photo courtesy of Urban Rose.

5551. The kids lose most of the socks from last year. After six weeks of wearing ankle socks in rain boots they decide to buy wool socks with their own money.

5552. Craig takes me on a date running errands.

5553. We plan for Thanksgiving. We work as a team more than we ever have before.

Photo courtesy of Urban Rose.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

C Major

"Just now I did C Major," Myra chimes. She lopes through the kitchen, a cloud of red hair tied into a pony.

"Good," I say. I pull meat from a spiral ham and stack it on a plate for Craig.

"It's easy for me to do C Major," she sing-songs, her bobbing head an unwitting metronome. She trollies back to the living room, the tinkling piano keys lost in a Canasta tournament spread across the living room floor.

"Did you do all of it?" I say when she surfaces again. I try to replay the tinkle-tinkle of keys in my mind. "It didn't sound like all of it. Can you do all of it?"

"Yeah," she nods, "did it."

"Almost," I say. "Here, show me what you did."

I follow her to the piano. Her toothpick fingers pick out the notes one at a time. She starts on F. She strokes the keys in order, even slips her thumb under to play the last five notes.

"You did it," I say. The words slip out more like a question than a statement. "Wow." I grin. She hops on one foot. "Now just start here by the two black keys." I point to C.

"Okay," she says.

So it is, C Major lilts across the living room, second cousin to math facts and penmanship. The old fashioned disciplines become symbols of achievement.


5534. Family birthday party. Potluck gourmet, gifts and encouragement, we linger and laugh.

5535. Pizza night.

5536. Game night and popcorn.

5537. Jesse, Libby, and the gang come for dinner. The children bound through the kitchen and flop on the old plaid couch. They giggle and laugh, flash the lights, bury themselves in pillows. Dinner is almost an after thought in all the excitement.

5538. Craig and his brother cut up an old tree up on the mountain. They split it down to firewood size in the bitter morning cold and stack the old red pickup full.

5539. Craig and I make our third batch of clam dip. We start planning peppermint popcorn. He buys me the bulk supply of white chocolate chips.

5540. Onions. The gift of onions.

5541. Lucy challenges me in Canasta. A narrow victory, I win by 20 points.

5542. I finally finish knitting Lucy's Christmas dress.

5543. A week of bitter cold, the sun warms Sunday afternoon up to 40 degrees. The children dig a couple of beets yet in the garden. They still look good.

5544. We make plans to eat the beets and smooth the week into a nest egg of hard work -- prelude to Thanksgiving.

Sunday, November 9, 2014


"And without faith it is IMPOSSIBLE to please God," Lu recites.

Saturday night and she's pounding the memory verse for Sunday. I look up from a snarl of knitting. She's squinting her eyes, teasing the words across her memory.

"And with out faith it is IMPOSSIBLE to please God," she says. "That actually is true," she's stopped, eyes fixed on me. "Even if you try your HARDEST, it is IMPOSSIBLE." She rolls her mouth around the word impossible.

"Yup," I say.

"Yeah, you can never even do it," Jack says. Elbow deep in the kitchen sink, he leans past the door jam, nods.

"Yup," I say, "impossible."

So it is: faith, the evidence of things unseen. Evidence of the invisible, the suit of trump.


5521. Sophie comes for dinner.

5522. Tuesday girls meet.

5523. Thursday pinochle, a circus of cards, cousins, popcorn, and candy, the memories flow like water.

5524. Jane finishes her checkerboard quilt top.

5525. Mom and I trade quilting chores.

5526. We thrift through a local second hand store.

5527. We have a work day at Great-Grammie's. A camaraderie of work encircles us.

5528. The cousins eat apples in the orchard and swing from the rope swing in the barn.

5529. We get a trunk and freezer and other pass-alongs.

5530. We trade pleasure reading books with the cousins. They give us some of their all time favorites. Bliss!

5531. "Do you need this?" Joe holds his blankie up to me then puts it on my back.

5532. Evidence of things unseen -- one of our children begins a habit of confession. A contrite heart, truth encircles us.

5533. Truth, the greatest gift of all.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Pillow Talk

"What?" Craig says. He doesn't look up, there propped on his elbows across the bed.

"I didn't say anything," I say.

"Your breathing changed. I could tell you were thinking something," he says.

"Oh," I slide my hand under one of his elbows. "I was wondering where Joey put all those cupcake liners," I say.

Cupcakes. Game night. Cerissa had called all the cousins up for chocolate cupcakes. Half of the kids still wanted to finish a game. When the first wave left, Joey ate every last cupcake, not even a crumb lagged behind, not even a cupcake liner.

"Yeah, I don't know," Craig says. We shake our heads.

"I mean, he couldn't have eaten FOUR cupcake liners, could he?"

"Well, maybe."

So it is, the miniature version of Craig eats four cupcakes, liners and all. "Did you eat the REST of the cupcakes?" we'd asked. "Yeah," he'd said.  All that guileless grin, we just shook our heads.

Guileless just like his father.


5508. The kids explode in Canasta play. "Mom," Jack says, "I'll be on your team, even though you usually lose."

5509. And then I WIN. Again and again.

5510. Pete and Rosie come for late night Canasta. The children explode with excitement jumping off the furniture until we quash them into manners. Their faces register true shock when break the news: the children will not be staying up late to play.

5511. My mom makes an extra quilt top and passes it on to Jane. Jane pieces the batting. Mom brings a backing. It's almost ready to quilt.

5512. Jane and I spend Saturday afternoon sewing together.

5513. A dear friend who lives too far away to visit, calls, and we chat. Somehow the distance feels smaller.

5514. We have a game night with Dan and Cerissa. Pinochle. Popcorn. Cupcakes. Cheers and guffaws. The girls win, but we all can't wait to play again.

5515. We watch a Craig Groschel sermon as a family. We marvel at a sense of purpose and truth that solidifies between us.

5516.  School continues to clip along. "The government was just basically treating them like plebians," Jane explains taxation without representation.

5517. "I just need 200 more," Lucy says, "and then I will have enough. I'm trying to do one thousand two hundred math problems every day as part of my school."

5518. Craig and I preview Monumental by Kirk Cameron. Cogent, unexpected, and solid, we recommend it.

5519. We begin the fun of picking Christmas photos. Our favorite photographer fashions a Christmas card for our family.

5520. Christmas is in the air, Thanksgiving the perfect prologue. Traditions of gratitude envelope our family.

Sunday, October 26, 2014


"That's for you," Joe says. Barefooted, he thunks across the kitchen, palms a green cherry tomato out of his mouth, lifts it up to me, hands shiny with spit.

"That's ok. You go ahead," I say.

"I washed it," he says.

"Oh," I say.

"Can I eat it?"

"Yeah. You better."

He pops it back in his cheek, purses his lips to contain the overspill.


"Should I open these?" Myra crinkles a fun sized pack of M&M's between her fingers. The two of us on a date, the budget down to the end of the month, I'd grabbed them on our way out the door. M&M's: a date.

"It's up to you," I say. "They're yours."

"Hm." She pets them with her hand. "I might wait 'til we get home 'cause the kids might want some," she says.


She nestles them next to the booster, a sliver of shade. We run errands, take a walk, circle back home. And she splits the little back open for everyone.


"Now that I'm going fast, this is actually fun," Jane says.

I glance up, iron paused and puffing over my quilt. Anchored to the school table like ball and chain, she grins. I laugh. "Yup," I say.

Her math book sprawled open to lesson 52, she leans an elbow across its face. "Careful when you pick my discipline," she chirps, a squirreling smile ribboned across her face.

"Better keep going," I say.

"I know," she says and scrawls repentance across the face of the next hour.

Practice. Practice makes easy. And like water turned to wine, discipline becomes play.


5494. Jack and Lucy take up Canasta. Myra watches. "I like Canasta," she concludes. "There's nothing bad for me in Canasta."

5495. Craig and I take up Canasta again. I only have to apologize once for being a bad sport.

5496. German potato soup. Mom makes the best potato soup.

5497. Fleece lined leggings. Fall finally hits and the girls winter up with fleece lined leggings.

5498. Good food and family. We end on blondies and transparency, a la mode.

5499. Joe tries his hand at dumping nail polish (again) down the bathroom sink. Brilliant red. Craig polishes it clean with straight acetone. Joe PROMISES never to do it again.

5500. We celebrate a birthday party with friends that feel like family.

5501. Craig helps me distill down more strategies on how to instill good work habits in the kids.

5502. Mom and I trade quilting chores. We mastermind more quilts.

5503. Friends give us hand-me-downs.

5504. The girls get headbands.

5505. We begin plans for Thanksgiving.

5506. Waist high in a discouraging week, deep waters of encouragement spring forth. Each on cue, women I love speak truth into my life.

5507. I feel well for four days in a row. I pray the next week brings wellness untold.