Sunday, May 29, 2016

The Toilet

"I think cleaning the toilet is one of my favorite things," Myra says.

Crouched over the bathroom sink, mascara wand in hand, I pause and look at her. She stretches out a ponytail holder, watching it a couple of inches from her face. There waiting on the closed toilet for me to refresh her hair, freckles, red hair splayed sideways out of yesterday's ponytail, she stops and blinks at me.

"Wow. Why?" I say.

"I don't know," she chirps.

"Oh," I say. I stare, consider finishing my mascara, but just watch her instead. All set for church except for her hair, I marvel at the electric display, curls grown by sleep and smeared into frizz and knots.

"'Cause, it's sort of like running, ya know," she says.

"Oh," I say. "Running. What do you mean?" She pinches the rubber band with the tips of her fingers, willowly frog like fingers, and stretches the band wide then returns it to size.

"Like how you go for run and you get your energy out," she says. "Like that, cleaning the toilet's like that."

"I see," I say. "Running. Like that."

Common sense. She says these things as if they were self-evident, obvious, pedestrian. And all the while I trace the unexpected arc. Cleaning the toilet is like running, the best; it gets your energy out -- the perfect solution for all those days I have too much energy.


5874. "When you're the pregnant lady, you get more chocolate than other people," I tell Joe. "I know," he says.

5875. Green beans and okra. "These are my favorite," Myra says of the hot dish our friends bring to dinner. "You have to learn to make these," Jack says.

5876. We meet new friends, and they come to dinner. We talk theology, children, and life. It's a feast of words and food.

5877. We discover Betsy is terrible at sharing. We never noticed that all her favorite toys are the ones no one likes, no one except for the guests' kids who liked them too.

5878. A neighbor, expert landscaper, pulls a stump for us. It looks like a miracle, the shaken out stump sitting there next to the sandy hole, not even a leaf of Jack's garden nudged sideways.

5879. We go through the childbirth-like-pains of cleaning the house as a family. It ends with new requirements for the children: don't even ask to play outside if your room isn't clean and your chores aren't immaculate.

5880. The weather gradually becomes warmer and sunnier. Rumors of summer begin to circulate. We finish our last school unit. A last little bit of testing, and we're don'e for the summer.

5881. A dear friend's mother and family friend passes on to heaven. We heave heavy hearts for the loss. Even with the hope of heaven, the pain of loss is so present. In the middle of it all, my parents join us for dinner. It's as if we are all bearing witness to her passing.

5882. Craig and I visit with the neighbors. Jane trails along with us mostly listening but jumping in with humor and comments. I begin to picture her as a grown woman.

5883. With the house tidied and clean everything feels simpler. I make plans to spring clean and give away more stuff.

5884. When our grain mill begins to have problems, we find another one on ebay for a smashing price. It works better than I could have imagined. Jane takes over grinding and bread.

5885. When Craig and I wish we could order in pizza or cheezy sticks, we have fresh bread with garlic butter instead and it's ten times more delicious.

5886. Craig's mom takes me and three of the kids out for the kids' birthdays. Coldstone Creamery, new running shoes, it's a lovely time.

5887. Craig's Grammie celebrates her 101st birthday. She's so happy when we sing Happy Birthday to her.

5888. Another week settles at our feet. We thank the Lord that we are alive and content. We await expectantly on this next season.

Sunday, May 22, 2016


"Hey, why are you being so grumpy?" brow furrowed I raise an eyebrow at Lucy. Slouched at the end of the couch, she huffs and sighs, knees gathered up at her chin.

"I'm not," she says.

"Yeah, you are," I say.

"I don't know," she says.

The other kids milling into the sunroom, they find seats while Lucy stews.

"Well, think about it," I say.

"It just seems like the other kids are telling me what to do and bossing me around," she says. She makes her face placid but narrows her eyes and enfolds irritation at the edges of her mouth.

"No," I say. "That's not it. You've been grumpy about too many different things lately. It's something else. What is it?

"I don't know," she says casting proof across the couch at me.

"Well, think about it. Usually when someone is bothered by a whole bunch of different things, it's actually something else that's causing it all. I'm going to ask you again in a little bit so I want you to be thinking about it, okay?"

"Okay," she shrugs.

We circle in prayer, the usual landing of the day. Kids gather to hug me. They drape and snuggle and wrap their arms around me in an applause of affections.

"Can you wait for just a minute?" I whisper to Lu.

"Okay," she nods.

The children mill out as they came in more like the wind whisping across the yard than a troop of boots.

"Sooo," I say to Lu. "Did you think about it?"

"There's nothing, Mom." she says.

"I know we love each other ALL the time," I say, she looking at me out the the tops of her eyes, "but I was wondering if maybe you haven't been FEELING how much I love you lately." She stares. Blinks. "I was wondering if you just want to sit and snuggle for a while."

In answer she sits next to me, next-next to me, as close and she can sit. My arm slung around her shoulder I pat her knee. The cuddly child, I haven't snuggled her in a very long time. Before long, chatter is running like a drippy faucet.

Though I'm never one to go easy when discipline calls, tonight the answer was this.


5865. My cousin and her five kids come to visit. Pizza and a break from school, it's a party. They can't stay long, and I feel like we could talk forever. Such a treat.

5866. A grain mill! Lori passes an flour mill onto us.

5867. We buy a few buckets of wheat berries from a friend and start a bread making adventure.

5868. I begin brewing sourdough starter on our countertop.

5869. Cerissa and I compare food prep notes.

5870. We almost finish planting the garden. I notice the kids out planning and cultivating their plots with more dedication than I can show my own.

5871. I finally get everything planted in the main garden except a few rows of herbs left for tomorrow.

5872. I finally settle on which independent evaluation to use to close out our school year. We re-assign chores and begin planning for summer.

5873. The next season gradually moves closer. A sense of peace gathers and settles around us.

Sunday, May 15, 2016


"Jaaaaack, Jack!" I call.

"Yeah?" his voice a smudge around the edge of the house.

"Jack, COME here," I call. "There's a really weird SPIDER over here."

"Where?" Myra says. Loping around the yard, she circles past my elbow, and peers, her face six inches closer to the ground than I want mine.

"It has a big white thing on it's back," I say. I point, finger conservatively recoiled. We all stare, Jack, now crouched over the general vicinity of my point, his eyes locked on a small robotic body with white mystery sac.

"Oh," he says. "I think that's a wolf spider."

"Oh," I say,

"They carry their egg sacs on their back." It wriggles around a fresh tilled dirt clod.

"Ew," Myra squeaks.

"And then they carry their babies on their backs. They're really good mothers," Jack says. He cups a hand around the spider's path.

"Huh, that's neat," I say.

"Maybe we should move her so no one steps on her," his eyes never leave the spider.

"Oh, she's pretty fast and smart," I say. "I don't think you need to worry."

"Ok," He watches her a moment more then trots back to his garden, a plot carved out of the old wood pile spot. His garden: homemade stakes and trellises, gnarled, but tilted straight, wound together with twine or yarn, plants nestled in the ground like small children and babies, it's the beginning and end of every day for him. He tends them with the love and tenderness I imagine one day he will show a wife.

They're really good mothers. The thought flutters in my mind; that's what he took away from the science book. We pluck the details that compliment our worldview. And they trickle out, tiny exhales of ideas that frame everything. Invisible as emotions and as powerful as gravity: worldview. This is the unfolding of the human mind.

The unfolding of the human mind is far too grand of a thing to entrust to just anyone. 
~Charlotte Mason on Home Education


5862. I meet a new and already dear friend for coffee.

5863. We take the full girth of Saturday and plant 120 tomatoes in my part of the garden. Everyone pitches in.

5864. As the day wraps up Craig explains to Jack, "Mommy feels love when you spend TIME with her and talk to her. So when you said you wanted to go help Thad with his garden, she felt sad." Crouched over a tomato row, he looks up, "Oooooh." Revelation and sorrow ripple across his face. And mine: acts-of-service-boy is the exact replica of Craig. Mirth.

5865. Lucy turns eight. Lovely and more self-aware, the blissful-years begin the transformation to complexity, exquisite.

5866. As we celebrate, Joey's enthusiasm for ketchup envelopes hands, face, elbow of the person next to him. When he tumbles off the table bench, I warn his tearful self, "I'm going to hug you, but don't put your face on me." Sweet boy.

5867. Craig and I invest in some wheat berries to try our hand at making actual fresh bread. My cousin surprises us with a grain mill she'll pass on to us.

5868. We spend some time with Climbers For Christ. The three older kids rock climb a short but impressive section, and we visit with the founder. He and his wife have 12 kids. Best of all they emanate the love of Christ.

5869. I place five additional plates in our cupboard. They're the ones that never break but always seem to be MIA, the favorites. Five more feels like a lot more.

5870. I make the leap to try stevia in my cooking and get a tiny measuring spoon set to go with it.

5871. Cerissa gives me the recipe for apple-cider-vinegar-lemonade. Rapture! It's so delicious.

5872. I come across a recipe for the world's best coconut brown rice and eat two bowlfuls right out of the pan.

5863. Spring begins to unfurl before us. The old familiar smells and chores fill us with joy. Hours roll by as we work and visit shoulder to shoulder. Phones, TVs, and computers can't seem to find their niche in this world.

5864. Sunday finds us this week with a soft landing. Our house could be tidier, but our hearts are content.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Growing Pains

"There are FOUR," Myra yells. The duck pond glistening just beyond the bridge rail, she points, an exclamation mark emphatic. "Last time there were only three ducks. They had a BABY," she effuses.

"Oh, WOW," I say. We watch them, her excitement a foaming ocean lapping against me as she points and hops and bungles against my shoulder.

"They put their heads in the water like that because they don't want to look at us," she says. All three ducks momentarily troll the shallow water for niblets on the bottom.

"I think they might be eating," I say.

"Oh yeah," she says, "they're eating." One at a time they poke heads up then trollop back down, tails in the air. "OR," she says, "maybe they are scratching their beaks."

"Oh," I say. "I think they're eating."

"But they MIGHT be scratching their beaks," she says.

"Well," I say, "I guess so."

We watch them bob and dive and eventually flap their impossibly orange feet up on shore. Myra sidles as close as possible before they edge back into the water.


"Do you remember me rubbing your leg last night?" I say. Now back in the car, the afternoon heat swollen around us, we scroll the windows down, and pull out. Something of a breeze flaps across our sweaty foreheads.

"No," she says.

"Remember you came into my room and asked me to ruby your leg?"

"Oh, yeah," she says, "I forgot because I did my same thing."

"Your same thing?" I say say. In the rearview mirror, I see her hand's out the open window. She's cupping it to the wind.

"Yeah," she says, "remember? I pray and ask if Jesus will make my leg stop hurting, and then I rub it while I fall asleep."

"Oh yeah," I says. "That's good."

"Yeah," she says.

It hadn't seemed my careful massage helped much, but then this newly turned six year old has a way of fixing things herself. These middle born children, these unflappable ones, they're a mystery to me. They quietly formulate answers, blaze trails, and invent solutions without audience or fanfare. They observe more than they bluster. They're almost invisible unless you look directly at them, and they are becoming more rare every day. Strange to have a nation of so few middle borns.


5853. We go on vacation with extended family. Moments and memories ensue. They glide in on the wings of sea birds. They slurp in with the tide. They glitter and gleam in piles of agates. They howl and crash and encircle us with unending fellowship, mirth, and strength. The children begin to weave the matrix of family. We pull together and find the fabric of family surrounding us.

5854. After numerous beach adventures, treasure hunting unending, trails and waterfalls eternal, we slide/crash/collapse in to our own beds 2:00 am Thursday morning. Since I married Craig, we enjoy everything to the very last possible drop.

5855. Myra turns six. She becomes six as if it were the next very best version of herself. Best of all, she wears it without looking over her own shoulder hinting for compliments.

5856. We celebrate the Mother/Daughter Tea with Craig's mom in his hometown. The featured speaker shares the story of her life. We can hardly blink for how miracle after miracle unfolds in her life.

5857. The children share things they love about their mothers at the tea. "I love that my mom is kind, but she doesn't let me get away with things," Jane writes.

5858. The children gradually settle into their regular routines. We put things away and tidy the house.

5859. "If you stay out playing basketball," Joe advises, "you might get goosebumps." Myra nods. "They don't hurt," he adds.

5860. "The white eggs don't have a yolk," he confides.

5861. As we settle back into routine, we find the break has changed us. All the conversations of loving each other, sacrifice, giving when your tired and hungry and upset, they've made marks on the inside of us. We love each other more. We've made a little deeper groove of sacrifice.

5862. So it is, we give and that makes us love. I pray these bonds grow stronger each day.