Sunday, July 24, 2016


"Joe," I say, "Joe, come here."

"Yeah?" He trollops around a peninsula of kitchen cupboards.

"We have to stick together today," I say. I pat the table bench next to me, a small safety zone separate from general mischief. "To HELP each other," I say.

"Weeeelllll," he says, "can I play with Betsy in the sunroom?"

"What are you doing in there?"

"Throwing an ant in a spiderweb." He mimics my raised eyebrows, furrows his brow. "But the web is INSIDE," he adds.

"Well," I sigh, "where is it?"

"By the door. Can I?" he says.

"Ahmmm. Ok."

Later he trollies past the kitchen, orange diaper bucket in hand.

"WHat are you DOing?" I say.

"Making a TENT," he says.

"With the DIAPER PAIL?" I say once again burrowing a furrowed brow into his blinking eyes.

"I don't want Betsy to BREAK the TENT," he says over-anunciating "break" and "tent". I blink. He blinks. "Maaaaaybe I will use a stool," he says and tromps off.

Later a clatter in the pantry. "What is that sound?" I call from the table.

"The oatmeal bucket," he says.

"Oh," I say.

"I keep needing BUCKETS," he says.

"For WHAT?" I say.

"For the TENT."

"Might have to switch to something ELSE," I say. He stares. I blink. The oatmeal bucket two feet tall and still slung over one arm, he blinks.

"Maaaaybe a stack of blankets instead," he says.

"Is this to keep Betsy out?" I say.

"I already have THAT," he says.

"Sounds like a lot to clean up," I say, my eyebrows creeping up my forehead again.

"I like," he sways. "I like," he frowns. "I don't CARE," he finally says. We grin an informal truce. The tent burgeons in the sunroom. Coverlets, quilts, blankies, two black stools, an empty bucket, and a rocking chair flesh out the tent.

I carry on with chores. He builds, then cleans. Something like work unfolds betweens us. We ride it like a trolly car, satisfaction like a lunchbox on the seat between us.


5984. A long week, Craig gone some of it, the kids and I band together. The house feels so empty when he's gone.

5985. In the void, the children and I talk and talk and talk. We map and frame their small worlds, memorize the important principles.

5986. We watch most of the Republican Convention and talk and talk and talk. Jane notes all the moves. I watch how she sees the move behind the move and generally assess the trajectory of ideas with accuracy.

5987. We find a feed of the convention without all the commentary and talking heads that tell you how to think. Just the speeches, please. Together, we make our own opinions. Everyone joins in. It's like a party.

5988. I find a recipe and make sourdough tortillas.

5989. The basement floods with a thunderstorm gully washer. I come face to face with how Craig shines in house emergencies and I, well, don't.

5990. We clean up the best we can, set up a fan, and heave a huge sigh.

5991. "Ya know," Joe says, "garbage-mans actually have HOMES." He watches the garbage truck with religious devotion and dreams of being a garbage-man one day.

5992. The baby kicks and kicks and kicks up a storm. Small reassurances.

5993. I sometimes help with dinner prep; otherwise the children make and clean up dinner.

5994. Many days I look outback to see Betsy marshaling a mass of blankets, babies, and stuffed animals, with Joe and Myra.

5995. The responsibilities of life swirl around us. Each day they feel both heavier and lighter. The yoke is easy, and the burden is light. I'm beginning to see how this is true.

5996. Each day we work to bow our hearts to our Savior, and each day our love for Him grows.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Sketch Exercises

"Look," Myra says, "it's actually kind of easy." Seated in penmanship form she circles her pencil in whorls that perfectly match the width of wide-ruled lines. "I can't wait to show Grammie," she says.

"It's nice," I say. Askew at her elbow lies a key of all the different sketch exercises Grammie assigned to the big kids. She pauses, finds her place in the key and starts the next shape.

"I bet Zeke is doing this now," she says.

"Oh," I say.

"Now," she says, "I'm gonna have to start doing ACTUAL school work, don't ya think?" She looks up, all eyes and eyebrows.

"Suuuure," I say.

"Yup," she says and continues down the exercise list, determination, more like an accessory than a burden.

"Where are the other kids?" Myra says. Sunday afternoon, slack and leisure, the house tidy, quiet, and full of sun, we settle into quiet corners. Craig and I hold down opposite ends of the leather couch.

"Napping," Craig says, "so they can go with me tonight."

"Oh," Myra says. She darts off, a dead run down the hallway. We hear a thump on her bed. All the kids want to volunteer in Daddy's class. Even Joe begs each Sunday.

I note how as we've limited their exposure to marketing and some of the trends their peer pine after they find different things to desire, different goals to strain for. Trimming out tv seems like a gift more than a burden.

Craig falls asleep on the couch, and I while the afternoon away in quiet.


5971. Libby gives birth to a perfect baby, sweet niece, Wylie Sparrow.

5972. I make two raspberry pies. Enough of the drips on the bottom of the oven begin to smoke that we have to fill the house with fans and open the windows. The result, though a little burned, is delicious.

5973. Jack and I figure out how to make sourdough pizza crust. Whole wheat too! Everyone agrees, it's a real find.

5974. Heavy whipping cream, bread-n-butter pickles, balsamic glaze, dried mangos, a few kitchen essentials restocked.

5975. Fresh almond ice cream.

5976. We harvest the first garden cucumber. I give it to Jack, but he gives me lots of samples.

5977. I get the curriculum library almost organized while the big kids help Craig at work.

5978. Joe skins his knee climbing trees out back. It forms the thickest scab I've ever seen. By some miracle most of it falls off on it's own. "Now, I'm gonna find my scab," he says. "It would be FUN if I found it."

5979. I finally figure the ins and outs of dying baby items safely. We collect the supplies and begin the process, a stack of muslin blankets ready to transform.

5980. "I cleaned my room," Joe says. "I'm gonna go see," I say. "You gonna look under the beds?" he says. "Yeah," I say, "ya wanna go finish?" He nods.

5981. Myra and Joe run something over to Cerissa. Betsy mopes around, cries, and finally settles on my lap. "Are you looking for Myra and Joe?" I say. YES, she nods emphatically.

5982. Tomorrow Jane turns 12, such a lovely age. We prepare for the unfolding of a young woman over scape of this next season.

5983. We fall each night into bed completely submissive to the refreshing lull of July. Summer tarries on.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

The Egg Dish

"Soooo, are you attached to this?" Craig says. He hold up a serving dish, little egg indentations around the plate's perimeter. It's painted in six-year-old script, Jane's.

"Uhmmm," I say.

"'Cause I'm NOT," he says. I'm sitting on a plastic food bin, the two of us in front of the pantry, miscellaneous, boxes, bags, and cartons stacked around us.

"Wellll," I say, "I'm not really either, but I'm not sure how to get rid of it." I smile with my teeth, blink-blink.

"I'll let YOU have that conversation with Jane," he says.

"Wellll," I say, "maybe we could just break it. Not really." I grimace.

"Here," he says. "Jaaaane, come here." From the kitchen a spoon clanks. Jane appears. "Hey Jane," he says, "are you attached to this?" He holds up the dish, rubs his finger in one of the little indentations.

"No," she says.

"Oh," I say. Craig looks at me. I look at him.

"I was just sort of waiting around for it to break," she says.

"Oh," I say.

"OH," Craig says. We split grins; giggles spill out our cheeks.

"I guess we were too."

In that moment, I realize again what my momma always says: It's not the things that matter; it's the time spent together. It's one of my favorite things about her. Things are just things.


5953. Fresh basil, the biggest, hugest hand-sized leaves of fresh basil.

5954. A few staples: garbanzos, fish sauce, ginger ale, and tiny peanut butter cups. Manna.

5955. Linen for a baby blanket.

5956. Quilt batting.

5957. Fabric dye, navy blue, apple green, apache black.

5958. By miracle we retire the old hole-y living room couch for a new-to-us perfect couch. The whole house feels brand new.

5959. Raspberries fresh picked by Craig and the kids.

5960. Betsy starts trying to dress herself.

5961. We earmark more things for a garage sale.

5962. Small efforts in organization: quilts folded in size order, toys corralled to a bin, budget paperwork marked and filed, the pantry reset.

5963. The children help Craig at work. Manual labor, they come home exhausted and happy.

5964. A clean kitchen sink fills the kitchen with pleasure.

5965. Each of the kids grow a little more opinionated and a little more kind. It's better than fine dining or expensive clothes. Confidence sprouts when we're not even looking.

5966. July lulls unexpectedly cold, the smell of cool rain, evening breeze.

5967. We await the arrival of a brand new niece.

5968. Jack gives me a daily tour of his garden, each leaf worthy of inspection.

5969. "I've missed you," he says after helping Craig all week. "I could just talk to you for hours," he says. Me too.

5970. Each night closes like a long sigh. Goodness encloses the moments.

Sunday, July 3, 2016


"Hey Momma, I made your toast," Jack says. Blinding headache, I walk slowly to the table, sit as if in slow motion.

"Thanks, Jack," I say. I squint at the plate, toast propped on the lip to keep it crisp. I sigh, press fingers to my forehead, swallow a wave of nausea. Next to the plate I spy two fresh picked pea pods.

I look toward the kitchen, Jack smiling back at me, waiting like a cat to see me notice the peas. I smile.

"Thanks," I mouth.

"Yep," he says. "It's your medicine."

And so it is, every meal and in between he brings me peas from his garden. Medicine. I like to bring you things you like, he says.

Forty-eight hours and I begin to feel well again, but even before that, it is well with my soul.


5934. "Mom?" Jack says. "Yeah?" I say. "When I have a day off," he says, "I almost don't want to go anywhere, like not even to frozen yogurt. I just want to be in nature and look at it." Me too.

5935. Craig and the kids take over meals, housekeeping, and diaper changes while I recover from the headache.

5936. I continue to track down food additives I'm allergic to. I feel better and better as I eliminate the culprits.

5937. Joe trounces in from the backyard. "Mom, MOM," he says. "I was watering my garden, and I got ALL wet. I'm not REALLY sure how." Drenched waist to toe, he leaves a trail to the bedroom.

5938. Life slows to a snail's pace, and I notice happy moments line almost every scene like props on a wide stage.

5939. "Mom, I somehow got up to the top of the tree, but then I got down again," Joe says. He's in again from outback.

5940. The kids stake my 120+ tomato plants. I realize we understand "staking the tomatoes" differently and rescue the plants.

5941. New tank tops.

5942. A paper punch to replace the lame 2-hole one we've been using.

5943. A couple new kid's books.

5944. Encouragement finds me like an oasis. Best friends know what will help.

5945. I finally mastermind the waistband and rolled collar on the chartreuse sweater.

5946. Cool evening breeze drifts in the house hot with summer heat.

5947. We still squeeze in homemade pizza night, a new pizza stone to add to the collection.

5948. Craig and the kids clean out the pantry. The stack of things to sell or donate grows larger.

5949. I find time for evening reading, The House With The Seven Gables. Hawthorne's language and imagery capture me.

5950. We sleep with a down comforter at our ankles, just enough to pull up under my chin when the house finally cools.

5951. "Betsy, where is I," Joe rings in sing-song voice. They giggle hide-n-seek.

5952. July, my favorite month of the year, we settle in to let it wash over us. Refreshment. Slow living. It arrives at the usual pace.