Sunday, December 17, 2017


"Is it good Betsy?" Jack cackles. "Is it GOOD?"

A mouthful of horseradish, she crunches a condiment drenched chip, the confidence of an executive all hers.

"No," she says. "It BAD." She hops off a five gallon bucket, her perch/stool at the new kitchen island. The skitter of babyish feet, the chuckles and chitters of siblings, she makes for the bathroom and a blasting faucet drink.

Pot roast and potatoes, a smattering of dips and side dishes, Betsy tries everything on the table glops of salsa, titanics of cream cheese, globs of beet horseradish.

All rainbows and unicorns, she returns and slings herself back on that five gallon bucket. Eyes blinking, bites of dinner squirrled in their cheeks, elbows slung on the island, siblings grin and grin, mirth and affection their tambourine in the band.

"Git, me more olives," Betsy points, a tiny bowl of kalamatas.

"Um, no, May I please have more olives?" I say. Siblings draw up their faces until every dimple is shouting, hilarity scattering limelight. Betsy slings it across the room like glitter at a party.

"Yeah," she chirps, dimpled cheeks rounded with giggles. "May I please have more olives, Mom?"

"Hmm," my pursed lips pulling a dimple in my cheek.

"Say, YES," she giggles.

"Hmmm," I snicker.

And so it is, something better than food alights on the table. Audacity, unguarded affection, the jesting of siblings, everyone laughs. The applause of affection refreshes our spirits.


6456. Dinner together. The prep, the eating, the clean-up, the togetherness, we gather a harvest of goodness.

6457. Meat for the freezer.

6458. The simple goodness of kitchen towels.

6459. We celebrate Christmas with my extended family. Seventeen children, ten adults, we all bring food and gifts yet we all just come as we are. It's a symphony of contribution and belonging, unguarded affection with all the complexity of twenty seven people. We rest in this unspeakable gift while we celebrate the most miraculous gift of all, a Savior. It's an ark to carry us through the year.

Monday, December 11, 2017


"And sometimes I probably haven't been the best example," I say.

Nose to nose with Lucy, I gaze into her wide and watery eyes. An almost invisible nod.

"It's probably really easy to see when I do it," I say. "But it's wrong when I do it, and it's wrong when you do it. Will you forgive me?"

She shatters into tears. "Yeah," she says. We both nod arms wrapped in an oaken hug. With that we carry on. With the face of fresh morning she smiles into my eyes.

"Ok," I say. "Let's go out and help finish the dishes."

"Ok," she says and we return as if feathers alit our shoes.


6448. Mom returns from Montana. All the assurance and love that trails an invisible wake behind her sets my world straight.

6449. Jane has her first babysitting job. She steps into the new responsibility outside of our home with grace and confidence.

6450. I find the perfect tote bag to carry our adventure needs as these children get older.

6451. A dear friend brings me a plate of oxtail.

6452. Another dear friend connects us with Blue Apron and sends us some meals.

6453. Nourishment finds us. I sit in the stillness of this kindness and drink it in.

6454. My dad, like most Saturdays, comes over to help us more on the kitchen. I'm growing fond of seeing him each Saturday.

6455. Bit by bit we work away. Now we do most of our dishes up at the new sink by hand. As we stand, the many of us filling the kitchen, washing dishes, clearing the table, finishing food, I look and marvel that it doesn't feel crowded, just clean and simple. The nine of us being together fills me with nourishment.

Monday, December 4, 2017


"Yeah," Jack says, "they have bat dung in this one."

"Huh," I say. Me knitting on the couch, leg elevated, Jack attends to my every need, vein surgery finally complete. He pages through a garden magazine.

"It's apparently extremely fertile," he says.

"Like for fertilizer?" I say.

"Yeah," he says. He looks up from the wholesale supply catalogue, "It's extremely fertile." His face leaned out, the remnants of summer freckles still dabbled over the bridge of his nose, all long limbs and angled elbows, he's suddenly a flash of manhood.

"Huh," I say. He smooths a crinkled page, eyes combing the details. I nod, precision and facts a mantle he wears easily.

I soak it in. The straight back and clear eyes, the leisured reading. It's the tic-tic of moments waiting for my leg to heal, and it's the rare and rarer each day, slow moments, the ones you remember 50 years from now. I memorize his countenance and how things are easy between us. And then suddenly I've mentioned hot chocolate and he's loped downstairs to froth up my sixth or eighth cup in two days.

This. These are the days.

Grampa passed away this week. Grief. Such grief. Whole horizons of moments with him gathered up, the memories like these, now, that's what we have left. These best moments, I don't want to miss any of them.


6446. Grampa. A man who live a good life and left a long legacy. A real class act.

6447. I have a fifth vein surgery. Craig pushes forward on the kitchen remodel so we have running water upstairs. And yet I see the best of memories unfold right in front of me despite the mess, irrespective of inconvenience, oblivious to background and expectation. There. The moment right in front of me. This is the gift of life that one day when the papers, and laundry, socks and hangers, miscellaneous yarn and shoes and child spindrift are all put away I might be full. Full and grateful. Everything else is just props.

Monday, November 27, 2017


"Jooooooooeeey," Jack bellows. "Joe is eating ALL the cookies," he says.

Halfway through an elephant documentary, the nine of us lounging across the couch or spilled onto the ground ensconced in quilts and cozies, Craig raises his brow and sighs.

"Joe, how many cookies have you eaten?" he says, the side table weak legged for all the popcorn, cookies, pretzels, dips, crackers, snacks and bowls balanced and skewed over the tabletop. Joe pulls his hand from the gingersnap tin.

"Um, I don't know," he says.

"Hm," we all groan, attention pulled from the elephants to the home docudrama.

"Whelp, then go to the end of the hall," Craig says. "You're definitely in trouble if you don't even know how many you've eaten."

"Oh," he says, his face a chess move, eyes probing Craig's brow for a number.

"Want to try again?" Craig says. "How many cookies did you eat?"

"Maybe twenty?" he says.


All notions of three or four or even ten now dwarfed, eyes ping and pong from Daddy to Joe, we blink.

"Yeah?" Joe says.

"Ok," Craig says. "Go to the end of the hall."

Twenty, just twenty.

"So Zeke and I decided to play with his mummy," Myra says. Sunday morning and we sink into the big red couch, it's wide arms a thick hug around us.

"Oh," I say, George nursing, Myra chattering, her features exaggerated femininity. "What's a mummy?" I say.

"I don't really know," she says, her forehead smooth, her cheeks round apples.

"Hmm," I say.

"It's apparently a little thing made of really special stuff that will shatter if you drop it," she says.

"Ohhhhh," I say.

"Apparently," she says, "and I don't know why, but he got it from co-op."

"Ahhhhh," I say.

And we ohh and ahh, and I listen to George coo and the morning washes over us. Elation and quiet pauses poured out in equal measure.


6441. Thanksgiving comes and we celebrate with family. I bring potatoes made in the instant pot and everyone brings something and the tabletop seems to go on forever for all the delicious food.

6442. We celebrate communion as a family. Gratitude unspeakable. And yet we celebrate by going around and speaking aloud the things we are thankful for.

6443. Craig and Jane cook a turkey for us the Sunday after. For all the adventures of cooking out of a bathroom, this will live long in my memory. For all it's beautiful appearance, the turkey emerges from the barbecue raw from the waist down. Pink, just pink.

6444. So we scoop out enough drippings to make gravy and eat everything with gravy, tons of gravy. All the side dishes become entres and we eat away. By 11pm the bird is cooked down to it's tippy-tip toes, the children long in bed. So Craig and I eat a second dinner, while we debone the bird. We eat while we work. I pull the cooled gravy out of the fridge and a few potatoes. With grease dripping to our elbows, we eat.

6445. So it is gratitude finds us, the hilarity of a Thanksgiving meal without the bird but gravy filling every crack. And we all reach points of desperation, irritation, exasperation, and stupidity, but there we are all together. The gravity defying act of being all together, it fills every crack. I shake my head for the hilarious miracle and gratitude unbidden rushes in.

Monday, November 20, 2017


"Mom?" Joe says.

"Yeah?" The breakfast table splayed with empty oatmeal bowls, I look up from my Bible and coffee, Joe and Betsy paused across the table, picture Bibles flopped open.

"Can you make Betsy be quiet?" he says,

"Hmm," I say.

"I'm trying to listen to you read silently," he says.

"Ah," I say. "Listening to me silently read?"

"Yeah," a nod, eyebrows arced, drawing tiny lines across his forehead.

"Umm," I say.

They lull back to silence and chatter. I slip again into morning devotions, a diver slid into a glass-like lake. Something like communion seeps in between us, what with all that listening to each other silent reading.


6428. I linger in morning devotions, coffee and oatmeal, the liturgy of peace and clatter like a ship cutting through water.

6429. Craig continues to work away installing cabinets. The opening perfectly built for the pantry some how one inch small, still, he buoys like the bobber on a fishing line, and still, we forge ahead, kind hands of family helping us each step.

6430. George begins saying, "NUM," when something tastes good.

6431. A dutch oven. Green. Wheeee! And all the conversation and thrifting that surrounded it.

6432. The oven installed, countertops on the way, I look at our bathroom/kitchen with the fond affection of vivid memories gradually winding down.

6432. Tea, coconut Hawaiin, a parting gift after an unexpected lunch of homemade food and nourishing conversation.

6433. Two visiting baby wraps come to our home, both extravagantly beautiful. I relish the moments using something so lovely.

6434. Betsy tosses The Adventures of Bobby Coon into the washer and no one notices until it is scrubbed clean with a load of sheets.

6435. A friend and I exchange ideas for Christmas traditions.

6436. I meet a mother in Israel over the sale of a baby wrap, a dear orthodox Jew. I am struck again at how similar mothers all over the world are.

6437. George shows a complete devotion and affection to his blankie.

6438. Betsy continues to attend Craig's weekend Sunday school class intent on mimicking the big kids and succeeding. Peer pressure wins the day.

6439. I remember afresh the sedative of a hot shower before bed and take full advantage as we draw deeper into winter.

6440. The days seem to get fuller and fuller. I feel the margins of daily routines get pressed and squeezed and sometimes eclipsed altogether. I set my mind to preserve those moments between the moments, lucid bubbles where we suddenly know each other, where loyalty and love are born, moments where we listen to each other silently read.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Get Out Here

"Get out here, everyone. Children, everyone come out here," I say. There in my PJs I stand, wool sweater and stripy pants.

Seven thirty and the cogs of the house in motion, children patter down the hallway; two pad up from downstairs.

"Did you not see that my door was closed?" I say.

"Um," Lucy says. Blank stares, nod, almost-nod.

"Yeah?" Myra chirps.

"I had a very hard time falling asleep last night," I say. "Now I almost have a headache. I woke up at 6:30 and thought, Oh good, I can get a little bit more sleep, and I bet I'll be ok. But I couldn't fall asleep with all the noise."

"Oh," they say, "oh."

"Yup," I nod, my eyebrows practically pinned on the ceiling.

"I told the other kids to be quiet," Lucy says.

"And then you were SINGING right outside my door," I say.

"Oh," she says.

"Lucy did clean up the end of the hall," Jane offers. Lucy, a half-smile under furrowed brows, diminutive mock-ups of my staccato-ed brows, shrugs.

"I've been trying to do an extra chore in the mornings to help out," she says, half-shrug.

"Mmm," I say. "That IS nice, Lucy." An appreciative-but-no-thanks-necessary smile, she shrugs again. "Thanks," I say.

"Sure," she says.

Then it's lunch, we're gathered at the old black table.

"I think I need to start practicing piano for longer," Lucy says.

"Oh?" I say.

"Yeah, I have so many songs I'm working on I just don't feel like I can get to them all in half an hour."

"Huh," I say.

"I think I need like maybe 40 minutes," she says.

"That is a very good idea."

And so it is, the arms of time enfold these children and begin to turn from children to something more than a child but not yet adult. I see the teen years will be something altogether different than the expected teenage-ness, something more like the balancing of a scale than the pushing of a bird out of the nest.


6414. Brisket. Warm, falling apart, crockpot brisket. Meat cascading into soft bread and falling into our mouths like manna. Brisket.

6415. Craig gets the new-old-fashioned farm sing set in place, our rapturous eyes blinking happiness.

6416. Shortbread cookies, the toasted almost black kind.

6417. Craig travels to a conference and back. The kids and I continue the daily routines, the school day blended to real life, and our symphony of life carries on as if our beloved tempos could carry the whole endeavor.

6418. Craig returns home safely and carries on the continuing saga of kitchen remodel as if it were the work he'd been born to do. Adoring eyes watch his every move.

6419. His beard grows long enough to be silky soft.

6420. A dear friend offers to send a lovely wrap for me to try.

6421. Another friend receives terrible news and then horrible news on top of that. The burden is Christlike paradox of both unbearable and weightless. I pray for her trials.

6422. Sad tragedy of a third friend leaves me breathless. I throw myself on the mercy of God. I long for the day when all wrongs are made right. And I feel so grateful for his presence with me now.

6423. I find playing piano more sweet than ever.

6424. Lucy discovers nourishment in music. She plays piano, and it's there. She sings, and it's there. She raises her hands in worship, tender affection of Christ, and it's there. Something sacred lingers, the kind of something that seems too delicate for direct gaze. I hold it in my peripheral and try not to look, all the while staring long and sharing in her nourishment.

6425. Craig buys me barbecue chips. Swoon.

6426. Joe and Betsy help me finish some old chocolate from last Christmas. Joe concludes it's the sickness-curing kind of chocolate.

6427. We settle again into the daily routines like the comfort of favorite clothes. We let the familiar creases pull us down the familiar paths, all the while taken by the loveliness of being together. Minus all the regular struggles, of course. That's still there. But it just seems smaller and smaller each day, it's importance fading like babyhood.

Monday, October 30, 2017


"Seems people are like, I just really want to change the world," Jane says. She leans an elbow on the back of our 1990's black pick-up truck.

"Yep," I nod. Fall leaves stir in the breeze. We linger, a morning run fresh in our breath.

"But if you reeeeally want to change the world," she says, "you have to be a servant. Seriously, a SERVANT."

"Yes," I say. I watch her talk with her hands, emphasis drawn between her palms.

"'Cause if you aren't serving, you might get glory for yourself, but you aren't even going to get ANY glory for God."

"Yep," I say, autumn astir, we breathe and parse out petals of discovery.


"I really like that they are frank," Jane says, our friends, frank people, unusual these days.

"Yeah?" I say. Bedtime, we visit at the end of the hallway. Jammie-clad, we speak in whispers then lapse into full voice as conversation turns and we forget that the little children might wake.

"It's like they aren't afraid of looking stupid," she says.

"I know," I say. "Seems like when people are afraid of looking stupid, everyone looks at them and are like, Oh, well, that DOES look kind of weird. But then someone else will do the same exact thing without even giving a care and everyone will just be like, Well I guess that's fine."

"YES," she says. "It seems like if you do things with a certain amount of confidence," she traces the air, "you can do the most outrageous thing and people are like, Oh, well, I'll take that into consideration."

"Yes," I say. "It's so crazy."

Conversation orbits, twists, interlaces pearls of events, the morning run or bedtime jammies. The events all hang on it's silken string, whole universes. Gravity undone, we don't clatter to the ground.


6403. We attend a Bible conference with the kids.

6404. We continue to putter ahead on the kitchen remodel. Endurance, we remind ourselves, is not a trait easily won.

6405. Thrifted cashmere. I invent a pattern and make a dozen woolen pants from the thrifted sweaters.

6406. Libby invites the whole sister-in-law clan over for a Tuesday afternoon. Seventeen kids, three adults, everyone heaves a collective sigh of enjoyment.

6407. Jack joins Craig on a work related trip, the men off traveling together.

6408. Craig's dad brings us a roasted chicken.

6409. The kids join me visiting a dear friend. We commune with an afternoon of waffles and tea. She sends me home with homemade Indian food. Bliss. Manna, both the conversation and the food.

6410. We listen to a book on tape all week with the kids, all of us hurrying to finish our work so we can shore up and slip into the reverie of a good story together.

6411. Shoulder to shoulder we work to make good habits in the midst of so many household and cooking inconveniences. Though hand washing and drying dishes, I hear Lucy humming a hymn one night, and the next, a whole smattering of children chattering away as they care for dinner dishes in the basement utility sink.

6412. Craig grows a beard.

6413. I work to find the good things right where I am at. Like low hanging fruit, they are right there in front of my face if only I will open my eyes to see them. I feel foolish for my angst and discontent, and in response, happy. Gratitude begets strength, endurance, fortitude -- happiness the invisible shadow trailing behind them all.

Monday, October 23, 2017


"Mom," Myra says, "it may have sounded like I was talking harsh to you, but I wasn't." She blinks earnest eyes. "I was just trying to not talk to you with rubber lips like you've been telling me to."

"Ohhhhh," I say. Rubber lips, where you apologize expressionless, noodle limp lips. "That's good, Myra," I say. The end of her apology all grins and giggles, we sit there on the big sleigh bed. We blink into each other's eyes. "You didn't sound harsh," I say.

"Good," she says. It's a date. Every end-of-apology is a date, the sinews of love drawn up tighter.


"Jesus," Joe prays, "help me to not be scared in the dark."

The two of us sit in the suburban, the traveling cafe, another end-of-date, there in the front seat, just Joe and me. And just like usual we pray, gather up life worries and hold them up-up high to God.

"'Cause you know I am scared," he says. "We love you, Jesus. Amen."

"Amen," I say. And in that little eddie of moment, that cove where the prayer just sort of recoils, we sit, a slosh of silence washed over us. Then, "Yup," I say, unconscious acknowledgement the simple goodness, prayer. "Yup."

He nods.

And then the afternoon swallows up this tiny moment with the normal pace of normal living as if it's gentle cadence had not just paused to part the universe.


6397. Prayer. We pray together.

6398. I get a new sweater.

6399. I make wool pants for George out of thrifted sweaters.

6400. Another dear family with seven kids invites us to dinner. Such goodness there. So much fellowship and gladness.

6401. Dad comes Saturday morning to help us with the kitchen. And my brother. And Craig's brother. Again. And still. We all band together, work-work-work until this project is drawn up in completion. All the help and advice is kindness to us. A gift. We are humbled and grateful.

6402. We slide into Sunday, a late, late night for me. Still, tomorrow awaiting my faithfulness in small things, small things that actually define us, I find myself landing grateful and ready for endurance. I pray that the mercy of God makes me patient and kind when I am tired and cranky. I picture this strength and realize I honestly desire it. This, what riches.

Monday, October 16, 2017


"After eating a bowl of oats, three cookies, and some apples, it feels good to eat some actual REAL food," Myra says.

She wolfs a mounding spoon of rice to her mouth. I stir a bowl of creamy tomato soup, electric burner clicking with effort, the makeshift bathroom/kitchen a card house around us.

"Yeah?" I say.

"Yeah. It's just so. good," she says another bite bulging in her cheek.

Rice. So. Good. Nourishment. I scoop a sticky mound into my bowl and cover it with tomato soup. We lean over a rustic cutting board and spoon rice and soup as if it were life itself.


"It's like it was actual worship," Lucy says.

There, in the front seat of the suburban we wind up an afternoon date. It's the traveling cafe, suburban front seat. I buy chocolate. We climb in the front, crank the heat, and watch rain splatter the windshield, conversation and chocolate between us.

"Yeah?" I say.

"Yeah," she says, "actual worship. 'Cause sometimes in children's church they are like, Come on sing LOUDER," she claps her hands and raises eyebrows in time with sing LOUDER. An overly sweet smile alit on her face.

"Huh," I say.

"That DOESN'T mean it's worship," she says.

"Yep." We nod, the crinkling of foil, the dull crack of chocolate fractured and pulled out of the wrapper.

"It's like the other night when we were at that worship time; there, it actually was worship."

"Huh," I say.

I picture us there, the whole row of us, back of the sanctuary, music unfurling. I sang with my eyes closed. I'd peeked to count my chicks, gathered Betsy to our row and slipped back into worship, with images of Jack raising his hands, earnest, serious, Joe at half-mast and the other in various stages of mimicry, solemn, careful imitation.

"You're right," I say. "That was actually worship. I love that you can see that." Again, we nod, small agreements like tokens of affection.

I replay this discovery, the dumbing down of spirituality makes it small and tiny, thin in the eyes of this nine-year-old, pretend. Then there we are at the back of the church just standing there singing, just the naked effort to sing to God and suddenly, she sees it. Worship. Naked adoration, unmistakable.


6381. Lucy begins to understand worship.

6382. Jack bakes cornbread. Lucy invents a cranberry bread recipe. And the two of them bake enough ginger snaps to make a tower.

6383. Jane begins to gain traction with another level of her math.

6384. Myra takes off with reading carrying a book like a cowboy with a pistol all the time now.

6385. Joe and Betsy try to copy her achievement by "reading" the pictures in books.

6386. I catch coffee with a dear friend, and we spill our souls, puddles of connection, meaning, and encouragement. Peace and courage ensue.

6387. Even amidst a week of out of town engagements, the pressure and chaos of regular life, and bone-weary tiredness, Mom and I eek out an afternoon of errands and a continuing river of conversation and connection.

6388. We begin a new journal/devotional as a family.

6389. We make the first hot chocolate of the season, a whole pot of it on the little electric burner. Milk, chocolate, and sugar, just simple.

6390. I find the joy of a new friendship, visiting over motherhood, life, and baby wraps.

6390. The kids begin to navigate the waters of what it means to "leave someone out'' when kids are playing. Everyone senses my complete intolerance of this.

6391. I continue to knit an ochre sweater for George.

6392. He begins to favor certain toys and scream displeasure if they are taken away. I smile at his resolve. Training the will is so much easier than teaching a passive child to have initiative. Oh joy, no lack of initiative.

6393. Betsy and I fall into the arms of our big wooden bed and sleep away Sunday afternoon.

6394. I begin to gestate the idea that the goodness of my soul must put down roots and thrive when things are hard. Isn't that the true measure of strength, the moment of adversity?

6395. I set my mind to see adversity as the moment when things become as they really are. The gift of unveiling.

6396. Every single day our moments are mingled with conversation after conversation, human lives intertwined. All these children and it's a symphony of becoming. Every move affects someone else. Joy and adversity hold hands.

Monday, October 9, 2017


"Joe, Jooooe, make me oatmeal," Betsy hollers up the stairs. "Joe," she staccatos the air, "make. me. oatmeal else I'll TELL on you." Her bare feet pad on the wooden stairs, They pat-pat across the wide kitchen all hardwood floor and nothing else yet, not even cupboards.

A promenade of feet, bare feet, stocking feet, tromping feet, and Joe pokes his head around the basement stairwell.

"Hi, Mom," he says.

"Hey," I say from the couch under the kitchen. "Better make Betsy oatmeal," I say.

"Yeah," he says a half-grin pulling half his face skyward. He purses his lips and ducks into an unfinished bathroom turned temporary kitchen. A clattering of bowls, the soft snow of oatmeal, hot faucet water, the crinkle of a cranberry bag yawned open and he emerges.

"Hey," I say, nod.

"Hey," he says, nod and same half-smile.


"Yup." He plants a bowl at the coffee table next to mine. Betsy sidles up to my knees and scoops warm bites of still runny oatmeal to her mouth.

"That's my oatmeal," she says.

The morning unspools like this.

Then, it's lunch and everyone washes up outside, dishes unfinished, an economy of bread crumbs piled on the cutting board littered across the makeshift kitchen. I keep meaning to call the kids in to polish the kitchen, but the afternoon yawns itself open and swallows the middle of the day. Somewhere well past two, I head downstairs. I stop.

"How did you get so FILTHY?" I say. Halfway down the stairs, Myra carrying Betsy, two dirt brown faces blink up at me.

"Um," Myra says. Betsy blinks, her arm slung around Myra's neck.

"HOW did you get so FILTHY?" I say.

"Um, playing outside?" Myra says. They blink, astonishment and mirth awash their faces.

"Oh," I say as I notice dirt embedded in Betsy's thankfully already brown dress. But those blinking eyes, "Oh," I say.

They trundle down the stairs and for all the outrageous dirt covering their bodies I forget about the kitchen. By the time I gaze out the picture window, I see a hole the size of a riding lawnmower in the middle of the old carrot bed.

"Oh," I say. "Oh."

Yup, that's life right now. From oatmeal at the coffee table, to bread crumbles sleeted across the kitchen, to a hole birthed across the carrot bed, signs and wonder are everywhere. I shake my head. I hope I can memorize all the terrain before everything changes and we finally finish this kitchen remodel.


6374. I make a pot of tomato basil soup in the little bathroom kitchen. It tastes like God himself made it for all the beans and rice we have been eating.

6375. Dear friends invite us the the birthday party of their little girl. A meal shared, a mile-post marked, and the communion of friendship surrounds us. And all that food made from scratch, so abundant and nourishing, the words of encouragement shared between us, it was an event that was more than all the parts.

6376. A neighbor brings us asian pears from the tree in her yard.

6377. Jane and I have late night conversations four out of five nights. It starts with math homework, but we could talk all night in that quiet end of day pool of time.

6378. Craig continues to spend every waking moment puzzling together the kitchen remodel. I note again his steady persistence, nothing flashy, nothing even to really notice most days, but I see it's the foundation the whole house is built on. Good old fashioned dependability is underrated.

6379. I get an afternoon with my Mom before she heads to see her dad. We measure the universe with our words and compare long streamers of questions turning them over and over and over until we've both memorized everything we want to know. In the process crumbles of knowledge land in our laps. We gobble them up nourishment filling us both.

6380. Even though I get a headache and feel desperately ill for a day, the week seems good. Craig holds everything together, the children fill in the gaps, and everyone knows how to make something good for someone smaller than them.

Monday, October 2, 2017

The Drywallers

"They work really well as a team," Jack says.

The seven kids and I shimmed into our basement library, we visit over a makeshift dinner. Shored up on a couch, an ottoman, miscellaneous stools and lawn furniture, bookshelves along all the walls, we sit. Homemade salads and cold burgers balanced on our knees, we visit. A master drywaller and his two children smooth our kitchen together upstairs. Experts. Artists.

"Just really well, they work really well together," he says again.

"That's an interesting observation," I say. "What makes you say that?" Out of the corner of my eye I see Betsy's bowl, salad juice bloomed over the edge. She optimistically fills her spoon. Half a cherry tomato falls off her fork, over her knees, rolls under the couch, rice in it's wake.

"They each know their part," Jack says.

"Yup," I say.

"They're not like, What should I do now?" he says. He mimics the annoying I-don't-like-to-work voice. He nods, a faraway glaze in his eye.

I replay the scene I think he's picturing where Kevin hands a smoothing cloth to his dad, nary a word between them. In the same motion, all twelve years of him, he hold his father's drywall knife. Then, as if playing by heart they switch back and move down the wall. It's art and affection, the interplay between, adoring son eyes, attentive, obedient, watching out of the corner of his eye how to be tall and strong and good.

"Yup," I say. "They do it well." The others nod between crunching bites of salad.

"They really do," Jane says. Lucy nods. Myra nods too but more out of agreement with the group than any passion about the topic. Joe and Betsy elbow each other on the double camping chair.

Working together. The images emblazoned, the practiced two-step of obedience and initiative, the dance partners of work, art, and play, we trace their countenance until we can spot it amidst the camouflage of regular life. So subtle, so outrageous, apparently unmistakable to the eleven-year-old eyes there kitty-corner from me and to the gaggle of siblings nodding applause.


6266. Stainless steel bowls to use in the rustic alternate kitchen set up in the basement.

6367. We take an afternoon to hunt grasshoppers.

6368. We begin to form a more cohesive way of working together in the middle of inconvenience, disorder, and irritation. As we meditate on the challenges, I remind the children (and myself) that even the weak appear strong when there is no challenge. When things are difficult, that is where our true character shows.

6369. We set our minds to be made stronger, kinder, and more suited to whatever the future holds.

6370. I remind myself that getting enough sleep is a small kindness I can give and should.

6371. Invisible peace begins to settle on us. The moments grow more precious. We begin to see the blinking eyes behind each face and love them.

6372. And somewhere in the middle of it all Craig works more on the kitchen. It continues to take shape. Family continues to help us masterminds problems and solve road blocks. The project marches forward, miraculous.

6373. Something inside of me grows less afraid of everything in life and more mindful of the good right in front of me.