"It's big. Jack's making it really big," Jane says. A ruckus in from the backyard, someone gallops across the kitchen. The back door squeaks closed.
I prop the cutting board over the sink, brush it off, slide it back in place. I roll a two pound bread loaf across my palm, square it on the breadboard. Jane yo-yos around my elbow.
"It's up to his waist, and the other kids are ALL helping," she says.
I nod, measuring the loaf with my eyes. I grab my saw of a bread knife, heave it over the cover. A perfect slice. We hush, watch the slices lean over on each other, each hefty and warm.
"Can we have butter?"
"Sure. Just eat it outside so you don't get crumbs on the floor."
"Ok. I'll go tell Jack to take a break on the hole." Jane calls, her hair twirls like a shawl.
She's half out the door when I yell. "Hey, hey wait. What HOLE?"
"Jack's diggin' a hole."
"A hole? I hope you asked Daddy." She's out the back door, a few steps into the yard We blink into each other's eyes. "You need to call Daddy and ask him before you dig any holes."
"Oh. Ok, we will." She gambols over the spongy brown grass.
I shrug, match a rain boot to its mate pinched in the corner. I remind myself to rally a tidy-up. Joey fishes a bent harmonica from beneath an inside out pink parka. He puffs into the kitchen. I follow, match his grubby hand to the fresh bread, scoot him outside.
Lunch. More hands find the bread, gobble it up. I brush another set of crumbs into the sink.
"Is there anymore bread?" Jane wanders past the breadboard.
"No, you guys ate it all," I say. "There are some stale sandwiches from yesterday if you want."
"Ok." She crinkles the saran back. "I love it when the honey's crunchy."
"Good. Hey, did you guys ever call Daddy?"
"No, not yet." She rips the saran off and wads it up.
"Why not?" I lean an elbow on the counter, wrinkle my forehead.
"Jack's filling in the hole first."
"Oh. Well, don't forget, ok?"
She's just rounding the corner, a skiff of breadcrumbs behind her. "We won't," she calls. I let her go.
Filling it in. Isn't that the way it goes. I slide the breadboard back in the slot. Filling it in -- I try to decide if it's guilt or good faith.
By Saturday Craig has them digging worms in the garden.
5271. "I was sort of surprised you let her sleep on your bed," Jane comments. I now know to remove pee from a mattress.
5272. "Don't laugh, you're encouraging him," Lucy says when Joey palms the ice cubes in his oatmeal.
5273. Craig steals my coffee out of the microwave. I find a decoy in it's place. The note inside says, "Just kidding." I laugh about it all morning.
5274. Creamy winter soup, the Tuesday girls, we prepare for various members absence in April.
5275. I announce pizza for dinner. The whole family cheers. We part the worries of a busy week with Grandad and Grammie. It feels like an oasis.
5276. Kale salad. Lots.
5277. "It would be scary on an ostrich farm, I think,"Jack says. "'Cause with one blow of its foot ostriches can knock you unconscious."
5278. Daniel and Cerissa join us for dinner. We set a coffee table for the kids. Soup, salad and bread, Jude heralding compliments like stones from a sling shot, cupcakes and blueberry squares, a circus of camaraderie and devotion, bliss -- we eat like kings. Ten children between us, and it feels like two for all the good fun and high manners.
5279. "This is REALLY good soup, Aunt Bethany," Jude says. "And I LIKE soup. This is REALLY GOOD soup. I'm gonna have another bowl. Mmmmmmmmmmmmm," he shakes his earnest head.
5280. Logan eats his cupcake liner.
5281. We feel that bond of family braided through every moment.
5282. Craig discovers a way to refill the toner in our printer.
5283. Fleece lined leggings.
5284. Almond extract.
5285. A new black nail file finally replaces the one I put in a really safe place and can't find.
5286. Mom tells me the beginning of a story about synthesia.
5287. Jack wrestles gold at the weekend tournament. All the cousins congratulate each other.
5288. Craig's parents come for lunch. We linger over soup and sun. Peace surrounds us. Affection grows.
5289. I navigate two migraines. The children pick up the slack. We pull together. Security feels good.
5290. "Baby sleeping," Joe says, his baby bear balanced on a pillow. "Shhhh," he says.
5291. I awake from one migraine to the smoke detector's scream. Toast, it must be the toast, I think. I finally roust and check. There is Lucy placidly buttering toast at the kitchen counter, fire alarm screeching high C.
5292. Craig leaves a chocolate bar on the coffeemaker.
5293. We begin to plan our garden. Black garden soil, seeds filed away and pulled out, we swell with anticipation for the good hard work ahead.
5294. Hard work. We take in it's nourishment.