Sunday, January 26, 2014

Dates





"Now can I try to make eggs with you?" fleece top and watermelon jammies, Myra sidles up around my waist.

"Yeah." I swirl water through the espresso basket and shake it clean. I clatter a 6 ½ inch iron skillet on to the stove, turn the small burner to medium.

"I'm gonna need a stool," Myra says. "I'm gonna make eggs for Joe-Joe, and Myra, and Momma." She claps, marches her feet, grabs Joey's hands. "Say: I LIKE EGGS," she says and claps his hands together.

"Hrumph," he grunts.







"Momma's gonna teach me to make," she leans to his ear, whispers, "eggs."

"Hot-hot," Joey points to the stove, the iron skillet. "Owwww," he says palm prone, eyebrows arched.

"The burner's not hot yet," Myra capers on tiptoe, clatters a black spool stool and a white two-step next to the stove. They escalade into place. "Mom, is this little shovel for the pan?" She strokes the spatula through the air. I purl a pad of butter around the skillet.







"Here, do you want to do it?" I say. She chirrups the butter knife with grating skill.

"There," she clangors the knife back into the new butter dish. "That's for YOU, Joe-Joe," she points to the rapidly browning and now fragrant butter. "Does that look yummy? Say: YEAH."

"YUM," he says.

I crack the eggs. She pops the yolks. I flip them. She scoops them out of the pan and caprioles from the stool.







"I made your eggs, Joe-Joe." She saltates to the table. She slides a small red stool next to Joey's spot so he can climb up, then nudges a white Correlle plate to him. He reaches for the fork, a bite already harpooned.

"Wait. Say: JEEE-SUS," she says.

"Jees," he says.

"Say: I LOVE YOU."

"You."

"Amen."

"AMEN," he says.







"I'll feed you," she wields the fork. He complies, mouth waiting like a baby bird. He gobbles the egg in a dozen small bites. "Yay, now you can get down to play. Mom," she shouts to the kitchen, "Joe-Joe can get down. I FEEDED him."

They bluster down. Myra rattles plates and forks into the sink, then patters away as if walking on air. A simple date, the passing on of useful skills, she wears it like a sash.







Then it's Saturday night, the children snugged and pleated into bed.

"Momma, I want to go on a date sometime," Jack says, me leaned over the edge of his top bunk.

"Yeah." I nod, his blue eyes clear, guileless.







"I would even like it," he says, "if there were some sort of bay where we could go and find frogs and striped rocks."

Frogs. Striped rocks. We stare at each other. "Yeah," I say and a long moment the shape of an enormous lake ripples between us, smooth, glasslike, unexpectedly delicate. A date. A boyish date. Indeed.









Gratitude:

5129. "Mom, I'm dezausted," Myra says. "It means I'm hungry."

5130. Craig services his rifle. Myra watches him get it out. "Oh, she says, "are you going fishing today?"







5131. "That poor plant," she reflects on my houseplant. "It's almost to die. Yeah, it's almost to be dead."

5132. Joe figures out how to peel a baby orange, his hands shaking with anticipation as he yanks slices from the half peeled shell.

5133."You probably need elbow room," Myra tells me, "'cause I see your elbows sticking out."







5134. My mom brings us a new butter dish when Jack shatters the original while trying to carry it with potholders, just to see if he can.

5135. It's even better than the last, the perfect size for a butter loving family of seven.







5136. Craig takes Jane, Jack, and Lu fishing. They return with four rainbow trout and a lead weight of joy.

5137. Jane goes on a date with Grammie to pick out the boarder of her quilt. She glows with satisfaction and immediately sews the boarder in place.







5138. Craig's Mom stops by with treat popcorn and we pause to chat.

5139. "I love you," Craig whispers in my ear as I head out for a run. It's a smooth marble in my palm for the rest of the week.







5140. "Mom, can you put on holy music?" Myra asks.

5141. "Please pass the chicken," she says as we sit down to eat the fish. "I love that you call that chicken," Jane smiles at her.







5142. "Myra, could you get me a white rubber scraper?" Lucy asks, elbow deep in bread dough. "I'm a doggie, so I can't," she says, "Ruff, ruff."







5143. We finally resume ASL with our beloved teacher and an exchange of gifts. Everyone smiles.

5144. We add a few more quilting tools to our collection: a triangle template, a fabric marker, a fabric pencil.







5145. Craig and his brother take a morning fishing with the sons.

5146. "I really like those clothes you got me," Jack says. "They seem like the kind of thing a farmer would wear."







5147. "And, I pray that Joey will have potty trains soon," Myra prays, "Amen."

5148. I finally order the books for next semester, and we all settle in for the next round of study.

5149. We roll into Sunday tired but clean, peaceful, and content.








Sunday, January 19, 2014

Plume





"Don't." Myra frowns at Joe, eyebrows foiled. Joe hauls Olive Sunny over his head, grunts and grins, does a two-step-stomp.

With the skill of an incision, Myra yanks Olive from Joey's paws.

"I'm not playing baby any more," she chirps, and with perfect posture, she clasps Olive to her chest.

"Why?" I glance up from Lucy's sewing kit, it bloomed over my lap, embroidery floss limp and impossible to thread.







"'Cause," she says, "he's grabbing my baby when I don't want him to." She pats Olive and trounces off, shoulders square, eyebrows up. She gives Olive a nap.

The day unfolds, a paper crane of a day. And then, it's dinner.

"Myra, do chickens poop?" Craig asks. All eyes on Myra, she strokes a downy buff feather, soup bowl long forgotten. "Myra? Do chickens poop?"







"No," She pops her head perpendicular to the table, corkscrew red curls twanging around her face. "They just lay feathers," she says. Her eyes round polkadots, she puffs the feather around her hambone soup.

"They sometimes get poop on their feathers," Craig says.







Myra blinks. "Oh."

"Go wash your hands."

"Ok." She trifles from the table, buoyant on the ball of her foot. I pass her in the hall. "I'm gonna soak my hands in hot water," she says, "HOT water." She holds palms out like dirty socks. Ebullient navy wellies to her knees, she rolls on past.







The day settles, a plumule of a night. Then, Sunday morning, and I'm gathering the flock of children. I frown at my closet, try to goad a sunday best from my drawers.

"Mom," Myra sits on the edge of my bed, knees gathered, oatmeal smudged on the hem of her dress. "I can pick my nose and frow it on the ground," she says. She gives a grown-up nod, flicks something like chaff off her index finger. "But I can't ever put it in my mouf."







I pause, nod. She nods. I wonder if I should address the booger-flick or just race to be on time. Her face beaming, we sprint into clothes, chase bowls and spoons and flecks of oatmeal around the breakfast arena.







We circle up and land in the car, something silent and peaceful between us. The accumulation of hurrying with out yelling feels foreign but good. The children have their papers, reasonably warm clothing, and I hear the seat belts snap as we back down the driveway.

"Hurry up," I say as we tumble out of the suburban, "we have about one minute to be on time. Here, you carry my bag, and you carry my water bottle. I've got Joey." We hasten like prairie dogs over the gravel, scamper around the south sidewalk.







Somewhere between that sidewalk and the front door, it dawns on me. My feet feel so light. And warm. I'm wearing my slippers. Dear Lord, I'm wearing my slippers.

We scuttle in, my feet light and warm, ebullient like Myra's wellies. The plume of peace between us outweighs it all.





Gratitude:

5107. The cousins come to play. Monday bliss.

5108. Joey struts into the room and hollers his usual greeting. I finally realize what it is. "Guys, GUYS," he shouts.







5109. I sew a whole bobbin of bad stitching on my latest quilt. "Take it out," Cerissa says, "or you'll regret it." We commiserate.

5110. Rockwood Bakery treats: cream cheese danish, almond croissant.

5111. "And Jesus," Myra prays, "please help Joey to hold the babies right. Amen."







5112. Myra heaves a three foot lion up our stairs. "Doggie, DOGGIE," Joey shouts, flaps his arms, "DOGGIE." Myra, lugs it over the top step, dups it, plants a hand on her hip. "Joey," she says, "that's not a dog." She grins tilts her head in affection, "It's an ELEPHANT."

5113. Bean soup and baked potatoes, peppermint popcorn for dessert, we linger with family. Camaraderie infuses us.

5114. Coconut macaroons. Chocolate glaze.







5115. I tear out the bad stitching on my quilt. Twelve hours, the children watch.

5116. The children continue to perfect the ASL alphabet.

5117. A king sheet set in faint spring green, it will make the backing of my new quilt. I snug it away with my quilting essentials.







5118. Out come the light spring sweaters, morning sky blue, admiral blue.

5119. I knit to the armpits on Lucy's sweater.

5120. We take a trip to the local zoo: Cabella's.

5121. We round up Saturday and have a puzzle and tea with my brother and his family. We feel it, supreme blessedness, beatitude.







5122. "Do you think Grammie's gonna be happy when she doesnt' have to by steak 'cause I'm gonna shoot her some?" Jack asks.

5123. "Mom," Myra tattles, "Lucy was trampoling to me."

5124. "Joe, I love you," I say. "Good," he says.

5125. Leftovers. We eat leftovers for three nights this week -- felicity and gladness.







5126. Jane finishes sewing miles of fat quarters together and sails off to the next step of her quilt.

5127. I mull over a quote from The Princess and Curdie: He who is diligent will soon be cheerful.

5128. Cheerful. I shall work to be diligent.








Sunday, January 12, 2014

Settling In





"I want to marry somebody that is a farmer," Lucy says. She and Myra poke twisty pasta around their bowls.

"Yeah? Why is that?" I say.  I stir a scoop of browned butter sauce into my noodles then smear another half scoop on top.

Lucy mumbles around pasta balled up in her cheeks.

"What?" I say.







She swallows. "'Cause I want to have food that is really yummy." She nods, "Food that I actually like." She squirrels two more tails of pasta onto her fork, pops them in her mouth. I slide three noodles on my fork parallel to the tines and savor the browned butter like frosting.

"What kind of food do you like that your farmer's gonna make you?" I say.

"Hmm." She nods her head side to side, chewing with each nod, then swallows. "What can you make out of milk?" she says. "I think you can make ice cream with milk." She leans over and pokes Myra's ribs. Myra giggles. "And you can make cheese," Lucy says. The girls dissolve into tag and tickles.







The remains of a headache still tingling at my shoulders, I let the bluster play out. I squeegie up browned butter pooled at the bottom of my bowl.

"So you want to marry farmer so you can have ice cream and cheese?" I say.

"Um hm." They quell the riot of chortles. "And milk," Lucy says. "And other stuff." She nods, follows Myra out of the corner of her eye.

"What other stuff?" I say.







"I want to have butter," she says, "but I can't remember what you make butter from." She taps her chin, grows her eyes big, seesaws her head. Myra copies, mimes the huge eyes. Lucy catches Myra's eye, and then it's a contest to make their eyes open bigger and bigger. They giggle and growl. Joey manhandles a fistful of pasta into his mouth and then copies Myra copying Lu. They guffaw and snicker, hee-haw and titter.

I grin. Farmer Girl finishes and slings dishes into the sink. She hauls the pot of leftover noodles in to the stove, replaces the trivets.







"Mom, I'm going downstairs so we can listen to the Princess and the Goblin," she calls ten minutes later, teeth brushed and jammies on.

Ice cream and cheese. Butter. Some farmer who grows ice cream and cheese and butter is going to be a very happy man someday.









Gratitude:

5090. We set the sail of a new year with fresh schedules.

5091. I start playing a piano sonata by Scarlatti.







5092. Peter stops by to say hi. Uncle Peter, the hero.

5093. Libby hosts the weekly Tuesday gathering, the broil of children not withstanding.

5094. She lets me browse her literature library.

5095. Joey wakes early from his nap and interrupts our grammar lesson. "Me, me, ME," he shouts in the middle of class, hand raised on cue.







5096. "Mom, I'm actually drinking out of the olive," Myra says, "the JUICE out of the olive." She pinches the black bulb and sucks up the juice.

5097. I pin the layers of my pinwheel quilt and roll it up for sewing.

5098. Craig has a game night with his buddies.

5099. We finally take down the Christmas tree.







5100. Mom and I talk about how to please God.

5101. I come across pickled beets in the fridge and serve them at dinner. "Those are seriously GOOD," Lucy says.

5102. We receive a globe, the kind on a stand, waist high.







5103. We eat dinner on the farm, the afternoon: a nap, a football game, and round of Settlers of Catan.

5104. "I'm gonna clean stuff up," Myra says. "But I'm not gonna clean up the pot 'cause it's too heavy for me." Myra tries to do dishes.

5105. We go out for lunch with volunteers. The chef at the restaurant makes me a special meal with no msg.







5106. We settle in for week two of school in the new year.





Sunday, January 5, 2014

The Schedule





"Well," I say, "I have lunch from twelve to one on mine." I point to the square labeled lunch. " Do you want to eat with us?"

Jane purses her lips. "Hmm." She stares at the gridded schedule, squints her eyes. "Umm. Yeah. That sounds good." She nods, chin jutted. I pencil in LUNCH across the twelve o'clock hour.


"Alright. And I have an hour of silent reading after lunch. Do you want that on yours?"

She cocks her head. "No, I'll do that before bed."

"It's not pleasure reading," I say. "It's reading to become an expert at something. I'm gonna do mine right after lunch. You sure you don't want to? You can always still pleasure read before bed."








I nudge. She eddies. A center of gravity shifts between us, a small weight of freedom. Side by side, there on the table bench, we write the new year schedule. Piano, spelling, literature, history and math, we write them into time slots. We map our wishes. And we both sense it, something inside of her wants to decide.

"You know, reading so we can become a world expert at something," I say.

"Oh, um," she pauses. "Okay, one to two?" I write SILENT READING opposite one o'clock.

"What day would you like your piano lesson? I'm available Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday." I trace the slots.

"Thursday."

"Okay."

"And spelling, do you want your lesson first?"

"Um. Yeah."







"How long does it usually take you for Spanish?"

"Fifteen, twenty minutes," she seesaws her head with inexactness. She seems to like the feel, the stretching of that muscle of discernment. We form a necessary pause, move on.

"Cursive, reading lesson, and math facts, which do want first."

"How 'bout cursive."

"And how long does that take you?"

She bites her bottom lip, tilts her head, seesaws again. "Oh, 'bout fifteen minutes."







Math facts and sentence diagraming, grammar and sketch, we them take out one at a time, each a small symbol of authority, authority over herself. I hand them off. She hands them back. We smooth them together into the schedule.

"I had you go first," I say, "because your schedule is the most complex." I smile the tiniest bit but hold that measure of adultness between us.

Her face softens, eyes wells of gratitude. "Thanks."

"Yeah."

She hands it back, that smooth stone of authority, the ace of trust.









Gratitude:

5076. "Mom, can Jack have a pen for his roosty bar?" Myra fields supplies for Jack's roosting bar.

5077. Jack cleans his room to perfection with absolutely no micro-managing.







5078. I serve peppermint popcorn. Jack offers the best serving to Jane, the gesture so silent I almost miss it.

5079. "Jesus," Myra prays on Dec. 30th, "thank-you tomorrow will be Christmas Eve, and it will go good."

5080. Jane comes down with croup. Winter air, hot shower, we quell the tight throat.

5081. Lucy spikes a fever 106.8 ยบ F. Lukewarm shower and ibuprofen, we quench the fever.







5082. Iron skillet, 6 ½ inches.

5083. Wind in the Willows picture book.

5084. The Princess and the Goblin audiobook.

5085. A new thrifted skirt. A new hand-me-down sweater.

5086. Mom and I meet for coffee and conversation, advice and writing, perspective, friendship.







5087. "I've done something worse than that before," I tell Jack. "What?" he says. "I went somewhere with my zipper down," I say. "That's not bad," he says, "I've done that before."

5088. "Mommy," Jack says, "for at least a week I have had my jammies on day and night." And so we close the sick season -- I hope.

5089. We circle the first bend in the new year and rally for the glorious hard work ahead.

                                              To the King.
                                              To the Kingdom.
                                              To the Restoration.