Sunday, August 31, 2014


"I'm glad you had a fun time on your date," I say. I fold a scrap of hedgehog fabric into a triangle and stack it in the bookshelf next to other triangles.

"I really did," Jane says. Fresh home, in black and white stripe skirt, she skips down the last basement step. I brush fuzzies off the sewing desk into my palm.

"It's always a treat to spend time with Daddy," I say.

"It is." She staccatos each word, nods, the wide curve of a grin the defining feature of her face. "And he actually asked me some really challenging questions," she says

"Like what?"

"Like, What has God been teaching you lately?"

"Yeah?" I say. She leans on the desk corner, all conversation around my clean-up.

"And I was like, To love the other kids more and not be irritated by them. I prayed for that, and then God gave me A LOT of chances to practice it. I was like, WOW." She pauses and lowers her voice, "I kinda wondered if I shoulda even asked for it."

"Huh, yep," I say. "'Course that's the only way to get good at something." I stop, meet her eyes in a comma of a grin, water blue eyes.

"Yeah," she says. We blink and the moment courses on.

The basement sembled back to order we follow the evening upstairs. Craig barbecues. The children chop carrots. We find seats around the table, the liturgy of dinner. One communion leads to the next.


5577. "Mom, ya might just want to take a few deep breaths before you come out here," Jane calls from the open car door. "Don't freak out. It's kinda a mess."

5578. We count down the bittersweet days before Olivia leaves for England.

5579. We close another summer with a small group barbecue. Another stride of friendship leaves us all standing a little taller.

5580. Pete and Rosie throw a garage sale. By sheer charm alone, they sell an old dresser for us.

5581. The girls and I have a sewing bonanza, the basement split open. I cross the finish line baby quilt in hand for sweet baby girl.

5582. Sweet and sour beets.

5583. Two batches of biscuits. Jane saves dinner. Twice.

5584. A new biscuit cutter and other treasures from Great-Grammie.

5585. Old sheet music.

5586. Gramma's cradle, the one from when she was a girl.

5587. Fried chicken, homemade -- on the farm of course. Joe helps Grampa clear the dishes.

5588. A friend passes on pink cloth diapers for our new baby. Hooray!

5589. Craig brings running water to our basement. A new era begins.

5590. We weave another week back to Sunday morning and begin again.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Good News

"I'm thinking of getting a sword," Myra chimes as I fold laundry at the old black couch.

Jack waves a giant turkey feather plucked from the blackberry patch. He orates on how to tie a rope around a feather and then tie it around your forehead - like an Indian. I stack towels, fold summer pjs.

"I'm making a sword with wood and putting a feather on top," Myra adds.

Joe screams from somewhere in the sun room.

"Stop trying to micromanage Joe," Jane hollers from the basement.

It's the first week of school. They begged for a month, and now it's finally here. School. I pass out new freedoms and greater burdens of responsibility.

They nod, and next I know, there is Jane sprawled on the floor mapping a week of literature all in sticky notes. Jack and Lu join forces to map colonial America. Myra and Joe try their best to mimic reading and end in a game of tag out back.

School. My favorite.

Then, end of week, the kids assemble a castle all in pillows and footstools, quilts and a blanket. They share a box of Nerds and listen to Narnia. They make rules and an economy. For all the pillowed mess, they speak affection to each other.

"Don't chew the Nerds," Jane says, "suck on them. They last longer." Myra crunches through hers. Jack saves his.

"Yeah," Lucy says, "if you chew up the Nerds, you are being a glutton." Everyone nods some assent, but Myra still crunches hers. Jack saves his.

Craig and I let the mess orbit around us, a castle. Soon, the tiny box of Nerds is gone, we set the ten minute timer, clean up. Another scene begins.

We get the good news this week that we're having a baby girl. A girl. We can picture her there with us, another nucleus of complexity. Each brings out a different side of us and each other. Another dimension. Irreplaceable.


5562. Joey wails his complaint 5am Monday morning when Jane confiscates my birthday chocolate from his smudgy hands.

5563. We have an old-fashioned chat on the patio with Kyle and Carolyn. Their garden surrounds us with beauty.

5564. The seven of us gather around my doctor's ultrasound monitor. He announces the jubilant news: it's a GIRL. Craig was the only one of us to guess right.

5565. Egg salad with pecans and bacon, Mom makes us a labor of love.

5566. A palette of nail color, the girls and I pour over pretty fall colors.

5567. I start planning fall outfits, skirts and long leggings, boots to the knees. Leggings. Leggings are just the best.

5568. We head to the farm for a blackberry blitz and a birthday party. Craig's dad turns 77.

5569. His mom sends us home with garden produce and the most fragrant rose.

5570. Craig starts renovation on the basement bathroom, the school bathroom. His brother and sis-in-law pour forth help and advice.

5571. A bag of groceries from Trader Joe's.

5571. Hand-me-downs. Bags of them. And a dolly.

5572. I eat a cupcake, thick with almond frosting. Joe, leans belly-up on the counter, nose to nose with my fork. "Share, Momma, share," he cheers.

5573. Mozzarella, parmesan, feta, the cheeses of summer.

5574. The garden begins to pour forth tomatoes and cucumbers.

5575. I read again CS Lewis' essay, Membership.

       How true membership in a body differs from inclusion in a collective may be seen in the structure of a family.

       If you subtract any one member, you have not simply reduced the family in number; you have inflicted an injury on its structure. Its unity is a unity of unlikes, almost incommensurables.

5576. Incommensurables. Nucleuses of complexity. Our family grows by another dimension.

Sunday, August 17, 2014


"I sang Jesus Love Me and he quieted down," Jack whispers from top bunk.

I grope in the dark, a body pillow lumbered to the floor. I feel the bumpy curve of Joe's spine curled around blankie-boy. Sacked out, sleep fresh on his skin, he groans as I heave him into bed.

"He fell out," I say.


"Sleep good, Jack," I whisper.

"Wuv you, Mom," Joe breaks in.

"Love you," I say. "Love you, both." I lilt to bed on sleep-wobbly legs, the dreg ends of Jesus Loves Me skirting behind.


5552. "I like Jesus a lot," Myra says. "And I really like the Meter Reader. I watched where he goes. He lives REALLY close."

5553. We all get a solid hour of fun at Mom's house before Jack pukes, and we all scatter home.

5554. The pukes gradually move through three of the seven of us, me included. Nothing's so sweet as being well again.

5555. I note again the great wealth of help Jane contributes to our home when it winds up missing the morning she's sick. She recovers in time to run the house while I'm down. And somehow she makes it look easy.

5556. Craig and I attend a conference together. We feel again that good feeling of tracking together on ideas we enjoy.

5557. Then we crash for a movie before bed. We agree; While You Were Sleeping is a classic. I'm voting for Pure Luck next.

5558. My mom turns 60. Each year just keeps getting better, a friendship deep and complex, as wide and open as the horizon.

5559. Fresh tomatoes in the garden, bowls full.

5560 Craig spoils me with pizza for Sunday lunch.

5561. I keep finding graces of love, like Jesus Loves Me in the night. Goodwill. Goodwill encircles our steps.

Thanks again, Mom, for the pics.

Sunday, August 10, 2014


Vacation begins with a migraine. The car finally packed, a migraine. I hunker down. Then, Myra wails all night. Blankie. Lost. We move the howling to the foot of our bed and hunker down.

"Mom, you're doing a great job," Jane says.

I laugh.

"No, really," she says. "I'm not the only one who thinks so."

I laugh and laugh. Peals of love roll between us. A great job. Something like triumph rises after all.


5543. Mom throws the annual summer birthday barbecue. Cerissa, Jesse, me, it's a moment to see ourselves through the eyes of those who respect us.

5544. Tuesday girls and Olivia comes.

5545. Three books on braids.

5546. A bagful match cars and planes.

5547. Jane and Lu stack and organize fabric for projects.

5548. A neighbor sells us a sewing desk for Janie.

5549. We have a weekend at the lake with Pete, Rose, her parents, and a passel of family. A carnival of family and water play, we grow brown-faced from the sun, cheeks pink. Cheesecake before bed, and sleep finds us bone-weary with play.

5550. I feel the baby move.

5551. Triumph rises.

**Credit to my momma for the pics. Thanks.

Sunday, August 3, 2014


"In some ways otters obey the ten commandments better than people do," Jane says.

I glance up from the black couch. Mid-morning, running shorts, a striped shirt, she tilts her head perpendicular to a smile. I quaff a swash of water, sweat from my morning run still dripping down my temples.

"How so?" I say.

"They only marry once."

"Oh, yeah." Our eyes meet in gentle creases of smile. She ambles to the piano, picks up her morning practice. I drink down the rest of my water.

Chores and tasks of practice ensue. A whole week weaves itself by.

"Mom," Lucy says, "I want a Saxxon Math book."

"Yeah?" I say, once again there on the black couch fresh from my run. "Why is that?"

"'Cause," she says, "I like math, and I want a SAXXON Math book for the school year."

"I'll think about it," I say.

She considers the offer, then sidles on to catch bugs and check on burgeoning tomatoes.

I sip my quart jar of brisk water, read over fall curriculum spilled over my lap.

Finally Sunday rises and there we are almost ready for church. I slip out back to trim my fingernails. Joe, Myra, and eventually Lu trail behind me, back door open, forgotten.

"That's SOUP," Myra says. I trim the ring finger of my left hand. "DON'T step in the soup."

I trim my pinkie, glance up. Myra crouched in Sunday dress, gently stirs a bucket of runoff with a old green flyswatter. Flecks of grass swill around it. Joe, suited up in skivvies, crouches next to her. They carry the seriousness of a board meeting.

"Ok," I say, "come on, let's finish getting ready." Instead of puncturing the moment, it tugs, more like a ribbon arcing through air. They trail behind me, something pulling us all forward. The next moment, there it is, in perfect time. It encircles us like the tail end of that ribbon.


5527. Joe falls out of bed. I tuck him in. "Hug me he demands," in slurred sleep speech. I clasp him around the shoulders. "Hug Jack too," he shouts as I stand to leave.

5528. I pat Jack's head. "Love you," I say. He's diagonal on the bed ,a handwritten story slid in multiple sheets across the bed. I spy the title: How To Grow Watermelon.

5529. Jane and I wash and hard boil five dozen fresh eggs.

5530. Rosie brings me flowers for my birthday. They smell like honey.

5531. Cerissa invites us over to play.

5532. Logan turns nine.

5533. Zeke turns four.

5534. Jack turns eight.

5535. We celebrate in parties. Joy.

5536. Oh, and I have a birthday too, best yet. Craig and I go on a date. Jane bakes us breadsticks. Pizza and a movie, breadsticks for dinner, bliss.

5537. Mom and Aunt Janey return safely from the heritage trip of a lifetime. They take Grampa to the town of his birth. Miracles of remembrance ensue.

5538. Craig and Jack buy me a bottle of my favorite sparkling water.

5539. Jane, Lu, and I revamp the sewing area. Stack upon neat stack, we bloom with anticipation.

5540. Craig and Jack anchor the dishwasher.

5541. Craig makes a second batch of those breadsticks. We dip them in Alfredo.

5542. We round the last corner of July and find the school year fresh in our face, felicity, the next bend in the road.