Tuesday, December 28, 2010

A Cabinet

A cabinet sealed entirely in toothpaste. "It was supposed to keep Lucy out," she says.

I hand her a washcloth, and we scrub. The bathroom smells like bubble-mint. We forget all about a plugged toilet just behind us and agree toothpaste was a terrible idea.

"But you told me the truth," I say. "So, when you finish, this business will all be done."

"Here," she smiles, "I can get that for you, Momma." She smudges and polishes. "I should be doing this anyway," she says. And so she does. I marvel that discipline has made her so lovely.

Monday, December 27, 2010


"Can you carry me upstairs?" Jack pulls Daddy's elbow.

Daddy gathers him up all lanky limbs and wiggles. "Yeah, I can carry you upstairs because I am a big strong man like you," he says.

Little boy smiles, lays a cheek on Daddy's chest. "Well," the boy says, "I'm only half a big strong man right now," and he rides Daddy's arms to the top.

Sunday, December 26, 2010


"Do you think we'll have legs in heaven?" Jane pulls a flannel quilt up on one shoulder, sidles down under it's wings. "Legs to walk," she says.

"I think so." I elbow over the bunk rail, stand tip-toe on the bottom bed. "What do you think?"

She sways curls over jammied shoulders. "Nope. Wings. Wings to fly." She captures my eyes. "In heaven we won't need to walk. We'll just fly."

"Hmm. Fly." I snug the flannel in tight around her six-year-old self. Of course, we'll just fly.

I pad bare feet down the hall. Christmas words circle back soft in my ear, You're the best part of my day, husband says. And, You make everything make sense, I say. And it does.

Between flying in heaven and husband's words, Christmas unfolds, another Christmas, down the hallway and into the evening. Christmastide.


448. Husband.

449. Child-wrapped presents, lots of tape.

450. Gelatin, radiant, sprayed kitchen-aid-mixer style all over the kitchen.

451. Rapturous grins the children try to hide.

452. Peppermint marshmallows.

453. More wrapping paper than ever and tape and markers and scissors and an assembly line the kids set up that manages to cover every lumpy present with paper and tape of some sort.

454. Janie's reminders, "You guys remember, Christmas is really about GIVING gifts."

455. A clock. The clock. One that chimes and makes Great-Grammie cry.

456. Open arms that welcome us, that hold the door between trips to the car, and carry our children 'round piggy-back.

457. Gifts. So many gifts of love. And the uncanny feeling that someone has read your mind.

458. Being truly, genuinely, completely, utterly surprised.

459. How the children laughed and played and played and laughed and no one begged to open presents.

460. And the gifts, every one, love made flesh.

461. Alice in Wonderland. Reading to the children. How they snuggle bumped under my elbows and chin and press in close to see the words and stare into space to picture the story.

462. Books, books, books galore! The classics. Peter Pan, Les Miserables, Oliver Twist, Gulliver's Travels.

463. Janie learning to sew.

464. How Lulie explains that she doesn't have to wear patches anymore now that she's two when I forget to patch her for a day.

465. The way red nail polish chips off and leaves white nails underneath.

466. A full pot of stew, three loaves of banana bread, and a tidy kitchen.

467. Time off with husband and how even if the house gets messy we just step careful and be together and make time go slow.

468. How even though little Rose has a fever she cuddles extra long and smiles when I kiss her feet.

469. Sleep.

holy     experience

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A Gift

"That's ok. No big deal," I say.

Jack grins. Broken pencil forgotten he jumps, claps his hands together.

"Yeah, that's our gift to each other today, you guys. That's-ok-no-big-deal. It's a gift," I smile.

The morning pivots and Christmas begins.

Monday, December 20, 2010

A Horse

"I'd rather have a horse than a coon hound," Jane blurts between chapters of Where the Red Fern Grows. And then at night she prays God will send her a horse. "Probably not what you wanted," she sighs to me, "but I did it," prayed for a horse.

"If I had my horse," she adds later, "we could just ride my horse around the block and that would be the funnest." She sweeps curls out of her eyes. "And when I pull left, he would go left. And when I pull right, he would go right."

"Yeah." Jack nods and zips his coat up. They tromp out to fill the yard with tracks and snow angels.

A horse. When I was all of six I prayed for a piano.

Who knows? Maybe God will send a horse.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

December Thanks

"Is it sometimes hard when you're the smartest person in the room?" Janie wants to know.

Later, Jack bobs through the kitchen in blue jammies, "We played Go Fish, and Janie won," he jabbers, "but I'm gonna be first in heaven." His bare feet pad down the basement stairs. I make oatmeal with lots of cinnamon and some apples.

At bedtime, Janie tells me, "I heard Lucy say, 'Jesus come into my heart,' and I asked her if she loves Jesus and she said, 'Yes.'" Jane runs the words together, but warns us that Lucy probably doesn't really understand.

I tuck the sheets in snug, kiss her neck, "I love you, Jane."

Jack rubs my face and smooths my hair back.

"You make me happy," I whisper to Lulie and she nods, sucks thumbie.

Another day winds down.


422. Go Fish. And teeny tiny playing cards.

423. Chex mix made with Grampa's secret recipe, the one we thought passed on with him.

424. A batch big enough to fill a garbage sack made by sister-in-law.

425. Early Christmas and an overnight sleep at my parents with brothers and families and kids everywhere.

426. A Christmas pageant with cousins, one with towels and scarves and headbands with flowers, and how Uncle Peter had to be Joseph because all the boys wanted to be wise men. But Mary didn't mind. And no one minded that we all had to pretend that Zeke's stuffed owl was baby Jesus because all the real babies were asleep. But all the wise men still bowed down to the baby Jesus, and we acted out the story.

427. How Janie sat and nibbled Christmas candy with the grown-ups while we played Balderdash.

428. The riotous laughter.

429. The letter I wrote to George, the boy we sponsor in Adiedo, Kenya. His mother and father have both died. He's eleven.

430. The picture Jack drew of him and George to send with the letter.

431. An old song book of Mother Goose rhymes -- 1906.

432. Another Christmas book, The Gift of the Magi, by O. Henry.

433. Prime rib, baked potato soup.

434. Breakfast and Psalm 19 with Jack while the girls splash in the bath.

435. Bananas black enough to make banana bread and sweet Chinese cinnamon.

436. Nail polish, red -- and how we sit at the breakfast table and polish fingers and toes between bowls of oatmeal.

437. Nice short fingernails, the kind you can play piano with.

438. How Craig never worries about anything. Not a thing.

439. And the unspoken permission to not worry with him.

440. How Rosie plays soft with my hair when she nurses.

441. How the other kids arrange the baby monitor when she sleeps, and how Jack wears both receivers clipped to his pockets to keep an eye on her.

442. How they still try to figure a way to use the monitor as a walkie-talkie.

443. How my brothers all respect my dad and love my mom.

444. Kazoos. A whole army of them on full volume.

445. Jesus. The real Jesus. The one who died for my sins.

446. And the unbelievable, my every wrong is made right in Him. Unbelievable. A miracle.

447. The gentle passing of each day, each one good.

holy     experience

Thursday, December 16, 2010


Chicken soup. Bread and grapes. Janie lugs the silver stock pot from fridge to table, places the settings, flops a bag of rolls next to the pot.

I scoop a tornado of papers from desk to trash. "Momma," Jane calls, "come have dinner." We eat. We smear the rolls with butter, dunk 'em deep in the soup. Crumbs fall to the floor.

Later, I splay the night with temper.

Craig raises his eyebrows. I frown, hands on my hips.

And Jack. Jack tootles down the dining room bench in black rain boots. "Daddy," he chimes, "you're the king of this castle," he hops one foot to the other, flaps his arms for balance. His boots clap loud against the hardwood when he jumps down.

His words wash up around my ankles like ocean surf. The king of this castle. For a moment the world pauses. King of the castle. How do you treat the king of the castle? Every one waits for their cue.

Sunday, December 12, 2010


You are my light
in the dark,
my beacon
on a hill,
the only one
I want
to come
home to.

A poem.
From husband.

The words encircle us,
loop and spiral,
wheel and whirl.

Our world orbits the poem-words
gravity between us.
I memorize small lines
at his eyes,
and rest
in the crook
of his arm.


397. Chicken soup with rice -- my first try.

398. Hot chocolate with vanilla beans and cream.

399. Vanilla beans.

400. Lulie's wide eyes when I explain that the public toilet won't flush her down, although I did one time hear about someone that accidentally flushed their keys down. And her serious blink and, "Holy moley."

401. How Janie trolleys everyone in for naps on Saturday -- their giddy grins irrepressible from the broken open binkie-bin from storage, the one they stole binkies from and hid under all their pillows.

402. Patient children who forgive me when I shout about the banana on Lulie's dress right before we leave for church.

403. The miracle, we pull into church 1 min. early.

404. The amazing, awesome, good deal we find on a computer that turns out to be stolen and how we don't buy it. How doing the right thing is always, well, the right thing.

405. Husband, who says, "I'm not worried, things just always seem to work out for me."

406. The confidence I borrow from him.

407. The continual ebb and flow of children and laundry through the house.

408. How Rosie humors the children trying binkie after binkie, old relics of Janie's babyhood.

409. How we sing carols down the halls of a nursing home in town.

410. The children gathered elbow-deep in fabric to cut bookmarks before I even get up in the morning -- bookmarks for the nursing home. And how they press the gifts into Ron's hand quietly after Happy Birthday and a hug.

411. Ron with a wide smile and a wooden cane and the woman who cannot speak but sang along to the carols.

412. How Lulie hugs my leg and peeks around at the residents.

413. How our children drew names for Christmas this year, the giddy secret-name bubbling on the tip of their tongues.

414. Jack's whisperer each morning to me in bed, "Momma, I made you a present, do you want to open it?" More bookmarks.

415. Prayer with my parents and how my dad is such a man of integrity even at great personal cost.

416. Penzy spices.

417. How my mom is always kind. A dignity giver.

418. Dinners on the farm, cousins, fresh potatoes from the cellar, beets, sweet potatoes, turkey sent home in a baggie for later. Arms-wide-open generosity. In-laws become parents to me.

419. Sledding children before farm dinner.

420. Oranges. And how Jack can't resist eating his like an apple when I step into the kitchen.

421. Another night's sleep and everyone well.

holy     experience

Wednesday, December 8, 2010


Totally regretting, "Sure honey, go ahead and try to make lunch," the jelly explosion.

"How did you get jelly EVERYWHERE?"

"I don't really know," he purses lips, wrinkles forehead, "I wasn't really watching." Decidedly. I plop the jelly knife in the sink, break out the wet-wipes.

Now the boy's cutting a little-sucker-thing the baby can bite on out of scrap fabric. "Can you sew this for Rosie, Momma?" He flits at my elbow. I sigh, crooked edges, shining blue eyes. "Momma?"

Janie whispers in my ear her that she'll make a whip for the cousins. "They'll LOVE it," she says. Lulie unloads the freezer ice machine, toddles in, an ice cube frozen to her lip.

They wave by in shifts. "Now we have all the whips that we'll need," one of them says. "Can we use the pins? When will you sew them, Momma."

The world swings like a ball on a string.

All that Christmas spirit. Sigh. I almost missed it.

Sunday, December 5, 2010


"Awesome. Awesome, oh awesome!" Lulie gushes and pokes her fingers into my big red hymnal. I coax chords and melodies from my old piano. The children fight over a little spool-stool at my side.

Lulie edges over my elbow, feathers through the fat side of the hymnal, "Dat don't have pictures in it," she twaddles, both eyebrows up, she turns, "so be. careful." She nods and thunks the hymnal back to place, then sways dulcet.

Holy, Holy, Holy gathers around my untuned voice. Lulie's top-not of curls flops in harmony.


368. The sea. The great, big, wide ocean.

369. Wind blown faces and hair damp with ocean mist.

370. The layers and layers of friendship between my family and me. The remarkable strength of love over time.

371. Parents who are married. In-laws who are married. Siblings who are married. Aunts and uncles all married still. Grandparents and the immovable standard: to death do us part. The weight of this history, a footprint as big as the sun.

372. Our 16 hour drive back from the ocean. The adventure and thrift shops and coffee. The fun.

373. Five kids and three adults all splashed into a hot tub and their insistence that they were swimming in the ocean.

374. Claire. Olivia. Sophie.

375. The miracle of Claire turned woman pressing her stride in the world.

376. Our CLEAN house, the one sister-in-law and brother-in-law and kids made sparkle for us, the one we stumbled into at four minutes before midnight, bleary from road trip. How even the wet pants and soggy children seemed sweet after that.

377. My piano. And the piano dolly and three brothers and husband that wrestled my sweet beast into the living room.

378. How the children try to fly off the hearth when I play.

379. How Thanksgiving was like a dream this year wrapped in the ocean.

380. How Lucy favored my uncle and shared all the toys she stole out of cousins suitcases with him. And his generous heart, his quick mind, his gentleness with the children.

381. The way my aunt can embody peace and steadfastness and still laugh uproariously.

382. How Jack practically moved into cousins' family. The buzz of 5 little boys.

383. How identical twins can be so splendidly different. Did I mention Olivia's is taller and wants to work with animals? Sophie wants to be a pastry chef and help the poor. Such vivid dreams.

384. A blusterous game of Balderdash, and how I am completely awful at acronyms.

385. A green and orange hat knit in the round.

386. A husband so content I haven't a Christmas gift idea at all.

387. The 22 dozen cookies husband and I rolled out for half the night. How we had to use a curly piece of firmica in the middle of the living room rug so we wouldn't ruin the dining table with the pizza cutter.

388. Anise seeds.

389. Anise oil.

390. Children who blur all attempts at a family photo with their laughing and jokes.

391. Sister-in-law who tells me to make a cranky day good.

392. Six layer dip and salty tortillas.

393. Salami and cheddar.

394. A second Thanksgiving dinner with MORE family. {sigh} Such riches. Such. Riches.

395. The gathering up in preparation for Christmas. The liturgy of, no, to myself and, yes, to others. How giving ends in contentment.

396. Pockets full of seashells.

holy     experience

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Holiday at the Sea

"When we walk Jesus goes with us," Jack says.

And so he did. To the sea and back.

Many thanks to Auntie, Uncle, and cousins.