Saturday, February 28, 2009

Jack Sprat

The tidy version of painting.

Masterpiece in progress.

He can almost read the "tweedle-beetle battles" of Dr. Seuss straight from memory.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009


I watch from inside. Jane scoops a trowel full of snow and casually dumps it down Jack's back. He screams. She noodles around the yard as if totally deaf.

He stumbles over to our slider blubbering. I call Janie in.

"Jane, go potty and get ready for nap." All manner of tears and whine and foot dragging punctuate her distaste for this. She acquiesces only out of great experience with making consequences worse (and worse).

She sits on the edge of her bed, shoulders angled to display maximum dissatisfaction. "Think about how you feel right now." Stone girl is watching, but not talking. "Honey, how you feel right now, that's how you are supposed to feel if you do something bad." She looks my direction but is still snubbing her covers. "When you do something bad you are SUPPOSED to feel BAD." She skillfully avoids eye contact. "Janie, just so you know, this is so important that if you can't make yourself feel bad about doing something bad, I will help you out." Isn't this the beginning of realizing our own imperfection, the first domino in the story of redemption?

After more than a generation of self-esteem training for our children, studies show that people who consistently score the highest on self-esteem tests are psychopaths in prison. Sometimes I think that if you do something bad you should just go ahead and feel bad about it. We call it self-respect. And, suddenly my children can grab onto the invisible ideas of grace, mercy, love, the infinite value of each human being.

For more facts and research on parenting check out Parenting By the Book by John Rosemond.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Peach Pie

This is what happens if you put the candles in when the pie is still HOT.

Peach Pie Recipe

5 c. peaches slice 1/4" (Appx. 5 peaches)
1/2 to 3/4 c. sugar
7-8 T. flour
3 T. lemon juice
1/2 t. almond extract
1/8 t. salt
4 T. real butter

1. Mix all ingredients except butter.
2. Make crust*.
3. Put bottom crust in pan.
4. Pour mixture in shell.
5. Cut up butter and sprinkle on.
6. Put on top crust.
7. Bake: 425 for 30 min., then bake: 350 for 35 min.

*Double Pie Crust

2 1/2 c. flour
1 1/2 t. salt
3/4 c. olive oil (scant)
3-5 T cold water

1. Toss in a bowl.
2. Mix it up.
3. Divide in half.
4. Roll 'em out.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Heimlich Manoeuvre

Yesterday Lulu choked. She always eats banana, loves it, opens wide for big gulps of its pulpy flesh. I've seen her gag before - three seconds, maybe four, a sound pat on the back, swallow, and fine. Last night it was just like that, same gag, same plunk, swallow, then a jagged gulp-gag. Gag, swallow-gag. She couldn't get a breath. Gag. Lucy was not breathing.

I once had a woman show me the heimlich manoeuvre for infants in the middle of Target. I felt sheepish when Janie choked on a Cheerio, but the lady thumped her so confidently that I haven't worried over choking since.

Last night was different. In half a second less than no time I had Lulu over my knee, baby heimlich. She wailed. Good. Breathing. Gag. Not breathing. Gag. Then a script of gagging and crying and not breathing interspersed with vomiting and repeat performances of the heimlich. I'd lay her over my knees; she'd be fine. Sit her up, she'd seem okay and then couldn't breathe.

For the first time in my parenting life I actually thought about calling 911. I prayed.

The throw-up looked shiny on the floor. My sleeve felt damp. Both hands were slippery. As a last ditch effort I swept her mouth for any remaining debris and mopped it off on a discarded wet wipe. Oh, dear God, it looked bloody. Craig scooped up the other kids and shooed them into the sun room. The sweeties prayed for help.

Lulu was breathing for the moment so I stared at the wet wipe. The pink smudge was a perfect square. A square? I rubbed my fingernail over the mucous. Concealed in the fibers of the wipe was a small, clear plastic square a little bigger than my thumbnail.

For a long time Lucy just laid her cheek on my chest. She ate a full dinner, and I held her. I just kept thinking, "She's alive. She's alive. Thank-you, God."

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


Janie bought the binkie for Lulu while I was still pregnant. She pined over it for weeks before I actually hauled everyone out to Babies R Us. From Jane's rave reviews I thought it could possibly cure cancer or remove warts. Well, officially now, they've all given it a suck.

Monday, February 16, 2009


It is a chess match, first one, then the other of us jockeying for the high ground. Move, counter-move. Isn't every confrontation like this?

"But how can I tell you heart is really changed?" I ask.

She presses her lips, leans into the bunk bed ladder. Then, with full eye contact, almost a stare, "You can look at my eyes, that's how you can tell if my heart is changed." I look at the blue irises braided with veins, her gaze level. "Do you think my heart is changed?" She waits. Something passes between us. It's almost a permission, a leading and following all at once, as if we both grabbed hands and began to run.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

First Born

One of them found it in Daddy's shop, an old red toothbrush. It's the kind with little brown stains around the base of each bristle which are faded and yellow. No one seemed to know who found it first, but Janie confessed to washing it with soap before Jack actually brushed with it.

'Course I convinced three little brothers to leap off a tool shed with grocery sacks on their backs, parachutes. Guess Janie's in good company.


What did the rest of you do?

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Morning School

The children laugh and shout. In the other room they bound off the couch, rolling bundles of ankles and elbows. After morning school and carefully tracing the letter "U" all their stillness unzips into mirth. They are throwing their papers into the air. When I stop to listen, I realize that for a while now, Janie has been calling out, "The glory of God is coming! The glory of God is coming!" She whips her paper of wobbly "U's" up over her head, "Come everyone! The glory of God is coming!"

"Glory, glory, coming!" Jack can almost keep up.

When I told them "up" began with "U" I didn't realize it would end in parade.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

A Toe in the Door

For Janie the world is a collection of the obvious.

"I wash my hair most times so my hair doesn't smell like dog hair," she says.

Or, "I would not want to be a slave because I don't like to clean."

A few days ago I asked if she could think of one thing that would make our family better. "To be in heaven," she said, "for our whole family to be in heaven." Sometimes she tells me she just can't wait to go to heaven, and why can't she go there now? I try to tell her we would never see her again until we died, but she's just so glad about all being in heaven together with God that she hardly pauses. Life for her is just a comma or apostrophe in a long and involved story where God is the hero. It's her toe in the door to something big. Maybe all this time I've been trying to make our tiny comma of life significant, when it is really the whole rest of the story that is spell binding.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

To Bow or Not to Bow

"Jack, do you want to go to worship?" She is dancing around. "Jack want to go to worship with me?" Janie grabs his hand, yanks it up and down a few times like a water pump. "Jack, worship is when you bow down. Like this." She lets his hand go and prostrates herself flat down on the living room rug. "See, look." None of this silly singing songs for worship, Jane does the plain old bow down to the king kind. After Shadrack, Meshack, Abednego, the firey furnace, old Nebuchadnezzar, suddenly worship is a whole new sport.

We can't hardly start a prayer without Jack blurting out long semi-intelligible phrases asking God to heal Lulu's eye. He's unwavering.

A few weeks ago I was braiding Emma Jane's hair. He held her hand between both of his. I almost didn't notice. He turned her hand over again and again and finally said, "Emma, I like your hands."

Thursday, February 5, 2009

The Panther

Ever have a week like this?

On a lighter note, a few weeks ago I started reading Little House in the Big Woods to Jack and Jane. Somewhere near the beginning Grampa is chased by a panther. As I read, they sat breathless, eyes wide. Then, the panther SCREAMED. I didn't know that panthers screamed so I decided to demonstrate. It was spectacular. A little too realistic though, I guess, as both kids spontaneously burst into hysterics. It took some time to calm them down and finally finish the chapter. Strangely, they still LOVE the book. For weeks now however, Jack, Jane, (or Craig) interject story time with, "Don't scream, Momma." At first, they were seriously concerned. Now they just poke fun at a momma in love with reading.

Monday, February 2, 2009


Lulie making a grab for the patch.

Between cutting multiple teeth all at once, fighting a cold, and suffering terrific diaper rash she still performs amazing patch ripping stunts. Really it only takes a jiffy to rip, crumple, chew, or hide a fresh patch. Why use one a day when you can go through four or five? Plus, then we all get to feel part crazy each day instead of boring old normal. Normal is for sissies, I guess. At least that's what I keep telling myself.

Love that girl.