It's been raining. Lots.

In theory, I'm grateful for water. In practice, I wish we could get it in smaller doses. There's mud everywhere, and laundry has been a nightmare with no way to dry it.

But the last few days have been gorgeous. Blue skies, gentle breezes, even a bald eagle fishing in the flood waters. We're mostly caught up on laundry, and today was a perfect day to catch up on some overdue birthday celebrations.

RV cake-baking is no joke, when everyone is eager to help, including the dog, and I'm juggling a dozen other things simultaneously, and what was I doing anyway? I may or may not have thrown a tantrum.

The cake was still in the oven when Grandma and Grandpa arrived, but we had a lovely time enjoying the cake and ice cream that they brought, and after they had to leave, one of the big boys took Peanut Butter for a nice long walk while we decorated the other cake.

By the time the cake was frosted and thoroughly covered in m&ms, boy and the dog were nowhere to be seen, and by the time Andrew found them (at the other end of the park) it was time that he had to leave for work.

So the cake is in the fridge, ready and waiting for the next moment we can all be together in the sunshine. When a family reaches a certain size, birthday celebrations become a teensy bit like laundry--you're never actually entirely caught up.

But we're less behind on both counts, and it feels very good. Our rambling dog-walker has redeemed himself by supplying us all with lots of fresh-squeezed orange juice. The kids are watching Andy Griffith and Gomer Pyle, giving me a much-needed respite. It's not exactly quiet, and I'm no more likely to fully catch up on my thoughts than on laundry or celebrations or emails...  but it's good.


Birthday Donuts

The twins' birthday happened to fall the day before grocery day, so I had to get a little bit creative for their birthday breakfast. I didn't have the ingredients for any of the recipes I looked up, but I found lots of inspiration from all over the world, and made up my own drop-donut recipe based the ingredients I had on hand. I must say I'm very proud of how they turned out, and will definitely be making them this way again!

Orange Spice Potato Puffs

1 potato, peeled, boiled, and mashed
1 egg
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 drop food grade orange oil or 1tsp orange zest
1 cup flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 cup coconut flakes

Mash together potato, egg, vinegar, and orange oil/zest. Combine dry ingredients and add to potato mixture.

Drop spoonfuls of batter into hot fat and fry until golden brown. Roll in cinnamon sugar.


Last night I tangled with a bike in the driveway and banged myself up pretty badly. My knee is feeling somewhat better, but my hips, ankles, shoulder, and back all ache from trying to hobble around without putting weight on my knee. When one part suffers, the whole body feels it, and it's not easy on the rest of the family when I'm incapacitated like this. Andrew was going to go study tonight, but since I need to stay off my feet, he set up a cozy nest for me in the garden cart, brewed me some tea, and we're sitting together in the gentle evening breeze. The kids are running around playing some variant of cops and robbers as he studies and I write. The pressing ache in my chest means that it's time for another poem. I don't know where this one's going, but I'm excited. Occasionally the kids pause their game to tell us what they're doing or to ask about our progress. It's the kind of moment that makes all the other moments worthwhile, and all in all, I'm glad.


Johnny brought me some paper and a broken crayon (Strawberry Red).


So I wrapped it up (again), hoping that this time he would forget about the tape.

He didn't.


So I taped it up (again), gave it to him, and he danced, beaming like Chesterton's sun.


Then he opened his gift, marveled at the shard of pink-red wax, and asked me to wrap it again.

Because that is what crayons, pens, and paper are for: unwrapping wonder and making it new, again and again and again.


Motherhood is not a vocation

This has taken me a long time to figure out.

Motherhood is more important than just about anything I do, and it's the driving force and motivation behind most of it.

But it's not a vocation. My kids are not a project.

They're people. Little people with lots of dreams and needs, frustrations and competencies all their own. As they grow, their relationship with me will shape them profoundly--but that relationship only thrives when I accept them for who they are.

Love sees and celebrates the good that is there, and longs for its growth. Love supports that growth in many ways, but simply seeing the nascient goodness is the main way.

It is an idealistic fantasy to think that we can scold, shame, or punish the vices out of our children.

There is a more excellent way, though it, too, is fraught with uncertainty.

Slowly, I am learning to let go of my expectations, and delight in my children regardless. To seek out what is wonderful in them, celebrate and cherish the virtues most natural to them, praying that those virtues will lead them into other virtues, crowding vice out of their souls.

This is my deepest longing... yet motherhood is not my vocation, and my kids are not my project.

Love is my vocation, becoming fully human is my project. Swirling through all our other projects and vocations, that is the main task for all of us.

We're learning it together.


The mud here is wonderful.

It has been too long since I have spent much time in mud. After years spent in cities, surrounded by the works of men, it is good to come back to the earth.

When I was small, I spent many long summer afternoons next to the creek. I would dip into the clear icy water, then roll in the hot sand until my body was well coated, like breaded fish. When I felt that I had baked enough, it was time to jump back into the water, savoring the flowing coolness until I was chilled to the bone. Then I would hop back out, bread myself in sand again, and the cycle would continue, hot and cold, earth and water.

It is one of my favorite memories, but I would hardly dare mention this to my children; mud brings with it so much chaos. Fortunately for them (and unfortunately for the upholstery and the laundry!) they have discovered the wonders of mud just fine on their own.

They squish and squelch and revel in it, and then when the wonder has worn off, they shape and sculpt it, make it into something new.

And so the cycle goes on.


The other night we had an impromptu picnic at the other end of the park, where the big oak trees twine together looking over the lake.

Andrew loaded up the green garden cart with grill, charcoal, food, and the two youngest kids. The rest of us rode bikes. The bluebonnets are in bloom, and I stopped to take pictures until my battery died.

The battery died pretty quickly, which is probably just as well. I could have stayed lost among the flowers for hours, and missed out on most of the magic.

By the time I caught up with the rest of the family, Willie had joined his little brothers in the cart, having had a flat tire. He pretended to be a stranger that they had picked up on the side of the road, and he informed me that we were adopting him. I told him I was glad. I'd always wanted a kid just like him. The whole afternoon was everything I ever could have wanted, and then some. I remembered those glorious afternoons through the years, when the light was so beautiful it made me ache. All of those moments felt like little foretastes of this one.

We had burgers slathered with avocados, and when we realized that we'd underestimated everyone's appetites, we sent Nathan back to the RV to get some more. It is such a good thing to watch your son ride off, strong and hearty and free.

The sunset washed over us with liquid light, and I ran down to the lake to get some pictures. I waded through the squelchy mud, sinking down to my ankles with every step. I snapped photo after photo. They were all very pretty, but none of them did justice to the glory. It was entirely worth it.

And then Andrew took the opportunity to wash my feet. He always does, in a hundred different ways. 

Then we rode back. The big kids raced on ahead, while Andrew lugged the cart full of kids and gear. Kiah rode around and around them in epicycles, and I trailed along behind, practicing my balance as I tried to ride slow enough to take it all in.