"I wasn't licking her."
I peer over my book at Lulie. She leans on an elbow next to Rose.
"What?" I raise my eyebrows.
"I wasn't lickin' her." She blinks.
"What were you doing?"
"I wasn't lickin' anybody," she says and stands up.
She swings her arms, "Yeah."
Later I sprawl in bed, headache-engulfed. I squeeze eyes shut, just breathe. I hold still, perfectly still. Children cavort down the hall.
"Shhhh. Momma has a headache, come on." Jane encircles me with her words. "Come on, you guys, lets go downstairs." Their voices grow faint. I breathe.
Time tumbles, jumbles. I wake up. Squint, the door open a crack.
"What do ya need?" I whisper.
Her hand soft on my tummy, "I made a birdie for you, Momma." Jane nestles soft on me.
She slips out, pads down the hall.
Dusk cradles me.
"I love you." Jack. He pokes a head in, "I love you, Momma." He whispers.
"I love you too."
He softens the door shut, calls to Jane and Lulie, "Guys! I just gave Momma some love and she gave me some back."
I stretch, wiggle toes. Breathe.
"Momma," Jane whispers, "It's 6:10. Can you get up and get me something to eat? We're really hungry." She pauses, slips out.
I press my spine back, curl my shoulders, sit up. Tender as a newborn, I move. Down the hall, I walk as if the whole word were made of water. Sleep falls away in layers. The tide of pain washed out, I crack eggs for dinner.
Children trundle up the stairs.
"Oh, thank you, Momma!" Jack eddies at my elbow.
"We made sure to pray that your headache got better and then came up here to say, THANK-YOU!" Jane chatters.
The evening snaps to motion, but everything is pleasant and soft. I'm baptized with gratitude.
559. Headache gone.
560. Children making play while I rested.
561. The color-checkered bag Jane sewed for Jack's matchbox cars -- green ribboned drawstring and white label and all.
562. Lulie's prayer, "Please die for my sins so I don't have to go to Hell," and her follow-up comment to her prayer partner, "Here, smell my feet."
563. I blow up over coffee splashed on the carpet and sewing projects, I mean really freak out. A round of forgiveness and I tell the kids I'd go to Hell for that sort of display if it weren't for Jesus. Then Lulie wants to know all about Heaven and Hell. Grace.
564. Laying in bed with Luli, she whispers in my ear, "I like bunk beds," and tells me all about the warm side and the cold side of her blankie.
565. Learning coupons.
566. Peach pie.
567. Boxes of pizza. Garlic breadsticks. Gifts.