Sunday, February 23, 2014


"Oh, no I forgot my homework," Jack announces. He rounds his eyes hopeful. He blinks at me there in the rearview mirror.

"Well, we're not going back," I say as we sluice down the icy side road.

"Is there a pencil and some paper I can use?" He turns and rifles through a cubby in the third row.

I scan the console and cup holders: a gas receipt, the gold foil of a chocolate square, a tiny camera tripod, two Bic pens, a Pilot retractable pen.

"I think if you tell Daddy you forgot your homework 'cause you were shoveling the driveway, he will let you do it when you get there," I say. I keep my eyes on the parallel clefts of tire tracks that squirrel our wheels. I glance at Jack, then back at the road.

"I forgot my homework too," Lu says. Her hair caught back in a pony, a flower headband wrapped over the top, she treads lightly, copies Jack.

"At home," Myra joins in, "I found two pencils in a junk drawer." She blinks, folds her lips into a diamond. "And I put them on Jane's bed," she says, "so she doesn't have to look for them." She nods in camaraderie, then stares out the window.

"Can I use this?" Jack holds up a postage stamp of a paper. I frown in the rearview portal.

"What's that?" I say.

"The back of a name tag."

I slow at the intersection. The brakes flutter while we slide. I check for cars, arc into the intersection, and find my lane mostly dry, drenched in de-icer. Name tag. "Ah, ok," I say.

"Can I have part?" Lu turns to Jack. He tears it in two.

I wheedle the Bic pens out of the cup holder, and reach over the seat toward the third row. "Here," I say, eyes divided between road and rearview.

"Can you toss them?" Jack says. I twist backward, scan the back row, hold the pens out like spears. Farther. Farther.

"No, I'm not really even comfortable even with this," I say. "Just unbuckle and grab it really quick. Here." I stretch, eyes devoted to the road.

Like a secret agent, he snaps the buckle, grabs the pens, and secures the strap again in place. He hands Lu a pen. Somewhere between an arterial near home and the church parking lot, Lucy writes in five-year-old script on the back of a name tag, the answer to a question: What are you doing to remain in Jesus?

Read your Bible everyday, she writes. It's the homework. She made the answer herself. One small tangible Lego of a step, I feel another brick of devotion slide into place.

Read your Bible everyday. I picture again the triumphant grin on her face that morning as she held up the crooked rectangle of a scrap: Read your Bible everyday.

I guess it's the things we do everyday that say the most about us.


5199. Craig takes Jane, Jack, and Lu ice skating.

5200. I meet with two dear friends over coconut macaroons and Bible -- friendship and scripture, a lifeline.

5201. Mom makes refrigerator soup, gourmet, and then masterminds the next section of her star pinwheel quilt while all of us girls gather and share.

5202. Lentil soup, cranberry coleslaw, fresh bread, Dad and Mom join us for dinner. Dad invites us to join The Truth Project. We accept.

5203. Jack starts wrestling again.

5204. I let my kids sample the lentil soup before guests arrive. "Do you like it?" I ask. "It tastes like taco soup," Lucy says. "Taco soup," Jack says. "Mmmm," Myra joins, "Tastes like apple soup. I like apple soup."

5205. Pete and Rose come for dinner. Round robin soup and chips, we land on berry cobbler, almond whip cream, and five hands of Canasta.

5206. Rosie lets me borrow Cherry, Cherry Bang, Bang!, the new nail color.

5207. Mom and I hunt down the wings of a new quilt.

5208. I slice more yards of fabric into the long strips of another couple checkered quilts.

5209. A dear friend whisks me away for coffee. We compare notes on suffering, love, and the will to prevail.

5210. "Here you go, my dear," Craig's mom hands me a plate of cornbread. I am encircled by the love in her voice.

5211. Craig's dad and I visit over dishes. He tells me his dog will be dead of cancer before we visit again. We share a moment of grief.

5212. "Even though it seems impossible, we know that the impossible is where you work," Libby prays and her words ring through me all week.

5213. I tell the girls of my marvelous fifty cent graph notebooks. "Sometimes Jesse writes me love notes on graph paper," Libby says, her mathematician slip showing.

5214. "Here, let's put your hair in a big pony," I tell Myra. "I think Rockie's hair is like that," she blanches with joy. "I look like Rockie! I actually seen her wear her hair like that," she says.

5215. Miss Emma Jane writes me notes each night for the better half of a week. It's a secret mail system, the receptacle in the toothpaste drawer. I reply every morning.

5217. I reflect again how repetition reflects allegiance. I set my mind to read my Bible everyday. It points me in a direction. Like Andy Stanley says, "Direction determines destination."

5218. I pray my destination is Christ himself.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Driving Us

"If you look in your tummy," Myra says, "you see Jesus." She lifts her shirt, pats her stomach.

"Five minutes 'til you have to have your jammmies on," I call. She scampers off in sideways gallop, lime leg warmers pulled over her knees over her sky blue pants.

Then, it's Thursday, and we're off to a birthday party, the seven of us leafed into the suburban. Hand drawn cards, rumpled tissue wrap swooning from the gift bag, we bungle from the driveway.

"Last time," Myra says, "I actually saw the moon STOP." She cranes her neck to the moon, a white round apple of a moon out the passenger window. "So, him's stopping," she says as we slow. "Dad, the moon's DRIVING us." She blinkity-blinks her round eyes.

"Look, look, there it is," Jack says. "I see it."

A traffic light blinks green and we accelerate, the moon hot on our heels.

Valentine's Day rolls in, a bowling ball of a day. I even plan a date for Craig and me. The last time I planned a date, we had three less children. The whole evening feels so still, like perfect momentum, as if the force of living together for all these years were in perfect step for a moment, a globe of love hurling down the lane.

We buy a hundred dollars worth of clothes at Walmart, for the kids.

"Guess how much it cost, you guys," we say.

"It's 39 pieces of clothing," I add.

"Oh, ah thirty dollars," Jane says.

"Ten," Jack says.

We lay them out in pyramidal stacks, one for each kid.

"It's sort of like a Valentine's Day gift," I say. "Except, we weren't going to get anything and then something we needed came on Valentine's Day, so it's sort of like a gift."

Jane nods. I smile into her eyes, that smooth marble of love between us, a planet of affection.

"I know," she says, "thanks," her eyes turned up in endearment.

Another frame of bedtime routine -- Joey nursing toothpaste, Jack wrenching it away, Joey howling with gloom. And we all cycle to the next position. Prayer. Joe draped over my knees, Jack snuggled over a shoulder, the girls sprawled and swaddled around Craig, we pray. Eyes closed, the day loose around our shoulders, we pray.

"Jesus," Jane says, "thank-you for helping us to learn that not all things turn out right and not all things turn out wrong." She lilts in gratitude, maps and smooths reality.

"Jesus, thank-you that we have great food," Lucy prays. "And thank-you that we don't have to spend all of our money on our food budget. Amen."

Sometimes things turn out. Sometimes we have money left over. Prayer circles. We chorus in adoration. I hold the gentle weight of their prayers - substance rubbed into my soul.


5190. My nephew turns seven. A jubilant party, buoyant gladness, we celebrate.

5191. Rosie makes turtle cookies and brings them to my mom's. Mom makes white chili.

5192. Jane finishes her very first quilt and puts it on her bed. All the girls start making their beds each morning.

5193. We play Canasta with my parents.

5194. Mom hosts the annual winter birthday party. We encircle Craig and Rose with another year of affirmation. I watch each face speak encouragement and well up with love for them.

5195. Craig and I go on a date. We hold hands and walk in step. It's smooth and even, just like the old days except stronger and more present.

5196. Craig's brother and sister-in-law have us over for lunch. We catch up. We laugh at how all the cousins look like siblings. And we feel again the pleasure of being together.

5197. I find a gift certificate to a local bookstore lost some five years ago, and they still honor it for me, rumpled and all.

5198. I finally finish The Brothers Karamazov. Dostoevsky surprises me with his conclusion: You must know that there is nothing higher, or stronger, or sounder, or more useful afterwards in life, than some good memory, especially a memory from childhood, from the parental home. You hear a lot said about your education, yet some such beautiful, sacred memory, preserved from childhood, is perhaps the best education. And if a man stores up many such memories to take into life, then he is saved for his whole life. And even if only one good memory remains with us in our hearts, that alone may serve some day for our salvation.

5199. One. Good. Memory. Perhaps this teaches us the nature of good and evil more than any formal education. Interesting. A thought worth pondering. I am managing an economy of memories.

5198. I feel this year making a gentle pace of determination. Fortitude and endurance undergird us.

Sunday, February 9, 2014


"Hey Momma, do you think I'll be enough responsible by Saturday?" Jack says.

Snuggled cheek to cheek, I turn, look into his azure eyes. Me there at the bunk ladder, him reclined on top bunk, our eyes mingle. "'Cause I'm gonna do the same thing as today," he says, "cleaning and stuff."

I picture the sierra of dishes he excavated from the sink, the ridge of laundry off the couch, the spindrift of Legos and Lincoln Logs, the bluff of snow pants and hats washed in the back door, all unearthed and quarried into drawers and baskets, put away.

"Probably," I say. "I have to see it happen first." Cookies. He wants permission to make cookies. Half-smile, his arm a warm bandanna curved around my neck, the moment eases in legatto cadence, that slow birth of responsibility there before us.

"Ok," he says, his eyes content.

"Sleep good." I kiss his forehead, wiry reddish hair brushes my cheek. "Love you."

He squeezes me tight around the shoulders. I feel a reserve of strength, sinewy muscle, something man-ish and immovable.

"Love you, Momma." His voice soft and responsive like reigns on a stallion, he smiles tenderness into my eyes.

I replay the glasslike blue of his eyes, that mazarine resolve. I stare at that steadfastness, that defiance turned inside out. I marvel that this is strength. Obedience. Self-restraint.

He rises to the occasion and wields something better than permission to make cookies: the strength to be worthy.


5177. I go to wake Joe Monday morning. He beams, buck naked, jammies and a poopy diaper discarded on the floor.

5178. Ceris and the boys come to sled. Arctic bliss, the children cataract down the sled run, snot icicles forgotten in the boyish romp.

5179. Cerissa and I chatter over coffee and the next steps of my patchwork quilt. We plan and scheme, and I settle on the perfect idea.

5180. Craig lets me shop the winter sales and update my wardrobe. Some dresses and skirts, I feel like a little girl playing dress-up again.

5181. We go to the latest gallery opening. The children amble by the artwork, enjoy the hors d'oeuvres, and linger. We actually linger as a family.

5182. I take Myra on a date. "My tummy probably hurts because I need more chocolate chips," she says.

5183. "The Holy Spirit is LIGHT," she tells me."Him looks like Jesus. And he loves us," she says.

5184. I go out with Lucy too. I ask what I can be praying about for her. "My eye," she says, "that's really the only thing."

5182. Myra tries her had at spelling and tags Joe with a new nickname: J-E-O. "J-E-O," she shouts. "Hi, J-E-O. That's J-E-O."

5183. She shows him how to eat popcorn with a spoon.

5184. "Why do you sound sort of upset?" Jack says as I all but stop down the hallway. "Ugh," I sigh, "'cause I'm being a pill. I'm actually really being a pill." Honesty wins the day.

5185. Jane, Jack, and Lu make apple crisp for the family. Swept up in my quilt and dinner prep, I offer no oversight. It turns out delicious.

5186. Jane and Jack pass my responsibility tests and then finally make peanut butter cookies. They polish the kitchen clean and hope upon hope they get permission again.

5187. "There was a boy at church that said two plus two was FIVE," Lucy says. "I guess he's probably not a plus expert."

5188. "Jesus," Jane prays, "please help us when we do something wrong to be able to feel that it's wrong so that we don't keep on doing it. Amen."

5189. Yes, to feel that it's wrong, to feel that it's right, oh to be fine tuned in this. I pray my spirit heeds the slightest pull.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Rough Draft

"No, no you have to do a rough draft," I say. "It's Daddy's birthday; make it nice."

"But I don't know how," Lucy bows her voice almost to a whine.

"You're a smart girl, figure it out," I say. She slouches. I straighten a pile of receipts. "It's my card. If you want to use it, you have to do a rough draft."

She sighs, pinches a paper from the printer, snaggles it on the corner.

"Here," I guide the sheet past a stack of bills and papers to file.

I lace up my shoes. The day folds into my morning run, several piles of laundry, and a serac of boots and mittens piled by the back door.

The children glissade, luge style, down Craig's ice slide outback. We watch from the big black table, Craig and I. We sip coffee, eat lentil soup by the taco chip scoopful, that bag of parmesan we forgot in the pantry for three days turning out to be just fine, better even.

And the day ellipses back. I circle the bases once again. One of the signing boards pulled out at the desk, I stop -- a slip of paper, Lucy's pencil nub cast to one side.

"Dadda," I read. "I like how you provide for our family. I like how you provide money for our family." I look up, Lucy scampered to procure jammies and brush teeth. I dwindle into the creaky desk chair. "I like how you help us have fun. You help us have fun by shoveling snow so we can sled," I read. "I like how you let Mommy have her way. I like how you help us when we get hurt. Love, Lucy."

My arm sighs back to the desk. Dadda. Lucy. She notices when I get my way? A rough draft. I didn't expect her to get so much, to sum up our marriage, our family in a single slice.

Underneath the signature, a picture of her and Daddy shoveling show. An arc of love washes over me.


5150. "Mom," Myra says, "the toilet's plugged, and there aren't even a hundred pieces of toilet paper in there."

5151. I make Bavarian Lentils: ten cents per serving.

5152. I call Title Nine with an order gone wrong and they treat me like royalty.

5153. Bacon cauliflower soup.

5154. Dear friends come for dinner with their beautiful children. "They have really good manners," Jack says. "Yeah, and they talk to grown-up really well, like they've been doing it their whole lives," Jane says.

5155. "You don't have to sit that close to the heater," Craig says to Jack, one cheek flushed red. "Well, I'm trying to melt the wax out of my ears," he says.

5156. Dad and Mom come for dinner. Lentils and bread, kale salad, gourmet nuts by the fire, laughter and encouragement, sustenance.

5157. Butter. Mom brings butter to the dinner party, a brilliant surprise.

5158. Craig takes me on a date to The Hobbit.

5159. A neighbor gives us hand-me-downs.

5160. I finish Lucy's coral red sweater. We garnish it with teal dragonfly buttons.

5161. Jane wants a yellow sweater to match little Rockie Amelia. I start it as soon as Lucy's binds off.

5162. I find deep plum winter leggings on winter clearance.

5163. Mom and I find perfect birthday gifts for the next round of birthdays.

5164. We start Treasure Island with the kids, A Tale of Two Cities waiting in the wings.

5165. Jack and I go on a date. He pushes the cart while we grocery shop.

5166. Craig's mom and grandmother stop by, hand deliver his birthday card.

5167. Spice jars.

5168. A magnetic pin collector.

5169. A wreath for the front door.

5170. I turn my back. Joey raids the butter dish, then the honey pot.

5171. My brother and sister-in-law invite us for a good old fashioned Super Bowl party. Brats and pretzels, root beer, carrot sticks, chips, and a flurry of children and cheering, I re-bond with the good old game.

5172. Cerissa shares the Sunday school paper Logan filled out on his own: The Lord loves a cheerful _______. FART he writes in perfect cursive.

5173. Craig turns 41, and we remember together: fourteen years ago, he asked me to marry him.

5174. We make a weekend of playing together, the children lovely props in the adventure.

5175. And I come full circle, struck again by Lucy's rough draft, her obedience to me. Obedience. It's the great intensifier. Love was never made so pure and sweet without it.

5176. And so it is, we submit to one another. Love ensues.