"Momma, I could make that go faster for you by helping."
Jack stands in the kitchen doorway, eyebrows arched. Striped footie jammies and still he looks tall. I clatter four plates into a stack, pull another four from the dishwasher. He waits.
"Aw, honey, that's a nice offer, but it's time for you to get in bed." I nod while I talk, tilt my head.
He nods too. "Ok."
I hug him. He kisses my tummy. "Love you."
Footie jams scruff down the hall. I assemble stacks of white dishes in the cupboards, pile silverware, sort plastic plates and glasses.
I turn his offer over in my mind, picture the quiet serving side by side, how he says, "Here, Momma," and, "I can do that," when he helps. In the yellow light of the kitchen, I wish I'd said yes. A tolken of love rolls out of sight like a lost penny back behind the fridge.
1991. Lucy's new song, "Mommy Knows The Muffin Man".
1992. And her question, "What's God's middle name?"
1993. How Myra kisses my belly to copy the big kids.
1994. How Jane helps me empty the dishwasher during her free time.
1995. How Myra uses a hand towel to clean up when the pencil sharpener spills.
1996. Soup with cilantro, grapes, fresh bread.
1997. Children sparring over who likes black beans most.
1998. The chessboard of marriage and the continual reminder: We are on the same side. We fight a common enemy.
1999. Angel food cake and strawberries.
2000. Jane's solution, "If someone's sandbaggin' we just whisper sandbagger in their ear so they can just sort of get a sense of life."
2001. Her conclusion, "Birthdays are all about presents. The PEOPLE are the presents."
2002. How Lucy calls our fly swatter a SMACKER.
2003. How Craig cleans out the sunroom on his day off.
2004. Finding another shirt to stretch into a maternity shirt for a couple of more weeks.
2005. Jack's first little guy wrestling tournament and the clan of family that flocks to cheer and watch.
2006. How after Myra gets in trouble she leans in and kisses me.
2007. How I ask Jack what he would ask Jesus if he were sitting right here and Jane pipes up, "Like how long 'til this world is gonna be destroyed? And when are we gonna go to Heaven?"
2008. Her evaluation, "I think it's gonna be a while before everyone really accepts the new baby as part of the family and is nice to him."
2009. Figuring out how to sleep perfectly propped in pillows for the next few weeks.
2010. The gentle routine of each day and how it makes room for lingering conversations with our children.
2011. Learning that the best way to convince our children to believe like we do is to be completely convinced ourselves.
2012. How this somehow brings our days into balance.