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Preview: The Wuggy Chronicles

The Wuggy Chronicles

fourteen eyes, seven noses, seventy toes. the world is fresh and new.

Updated: 2018-04-25T03:38:24.884-07:00




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.[...]

Spilling the milk of human kindness


This little cutie just dumped an entire quart of milk all over the (upholstered) dinette. His adorableness is a very great consolation, but he wouldn't even sit still for me to take a picture, and so this selfie was was the best I could get. (The sight of a selfie -taking toddler is a marvelous antidote to toddler-induced stress. Until you attempt to take the cell phone back, of course.)

Aside from their cuteness, another nice thing about toddlers is that most of the time they eventually grow up into helpful and intelligent teenagers who read Harry Potter, discuss epistemology, and help change the waterproof mattress pads on the dinette cushions.

The big kids worked hard and well to restore order, but not without a sigh or two.

"He's the master of disaster. He does all this crazy stuff, and there's no way we can stop him. He just... gets away with it."

That's not entirely true. Most of the time, we can and do stop him. Most of the time, we put the milk immediately away, and if the baby dashes between our knees to try to grab the eggs while we have the refrigerator open, we're usually quick enough to stop him.

But not always. And then... he gets away with it. We clean him (and everything else) up, shower him with kisses, and teach him how to take selfies.

It's messy and utterly unfair.

Grace always is.

Soon, he will develop the sense not to dump out jugs of milk for the fun of it. And then he will be apt to get into other kinds of messes. We'll do our best to protect against those, too, but inevitably we will mess up.

The goal isn't to raise kids who don't make messes, though. It's to raise kids full of mercy and grace, who know that they have been forgiven, and are ready to pitch in and help clean up their little brother.



This kid.

This stage amazes me, with the constant learning, growing, problem-solving, strategizing. Every day, more words, more empathy, more communication, more ways to circumvent our babyproofing efforts. One time last month he started biting me over and over.

"No, no, sweetheart, that's owie!"

He smiled at me in relief, and nodded vigorously. "Owie!"

He has another tooth coming in, and this time we both know the drill. He bites my thigh, locks eyes with me, and points to my oil stash. I marvel at his determination to communicate, glance ruefully at my growing collection of bruises, and dream of the day when his words will be clear enough for me to understand them before he has to resort to desperate measures. Then I get out the copaiba.

At the beginning of this parenting journey, I was so concerned that my kids ask for things the right way. A good parent never gives in to tantrums... right? Yet the God of David receives our tantrums with arms wide open, lavishing us with frustratingly inscrutable and perfect care. He gives us what we need, and THEN he helps us to understand it.

As I learn the art of parenting from Father God, I am also working on the art of the tantrum. The Psalmist is a good role model in that regard, and so is my sweet toddler. I have much to learn, but nonetheless I'm putting the finishing touches on a bundle tantrums, and preparing to publish them soon. I hope that you find them edifying, or at least entertaining. In any case, God has heard my cry, and that's really all that matters.



Garlic is magical, and its pungent odor is wafting through our home like fairy dust.

Stinky fairy dust.

Cloves are also magical, but I caught the little dust-fairy before he got that package open.

There is so much magic all around us, and we spend most of our life trying to figure out what on earth do with it all.

He tosses the bag of peppercorns. I catch it like a beanbag before it breaks open, and tell his big brother to move his dancing before a fight breaks out.

I tuck the spices back into the cupboard, and gather everyone around to read the stories that will show us how to combine the wild unruly ingredients of life.



We are happy hippos, mostly, and mostly because we have been given good words with which to say so.

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Occasionally, we are angry ducks, but not very often. Sometimes, though, we are "NOT an angry duck! NOT an angry duck."

And sometimes we are normal nightingales, because that is what poetry is for: we unravel the fabric, take the thread, and combine it with our own yarns, as well as sundry twigs and leaves. We perch proud upon on our bright multi-colored nests, and we sing and we sing.

(Sometimes we unravel the pages as well as the words. Mama is not an angry duck when that happens! NOT an angry duck!)

Last night, it was hard to say. We might have been cuddling-up whales. But in the end it was decided that we were once again an assorted herd of hippos, happy in our huddle.

Saying Grace


No matter who thanks God for the meal, Amos usually wants to pray, too.

"Ah, Lord, thank you for this food. And put our helmets on..."

At this point, he always looks up. "Daddy, what are helmets for?"

"For keeping your head safe."

Sometimes this answer is satisfactory, and sometimes it isn't. Depending on the day, he will either nod vigorously, or offer a correction. "No, helmets are for racing."

Then he will bow his head again, and continue with a litany of requests. "And go down to the lake and go fishing... And get a bicycle..."

This may or may not go on for quite some time. The others are hungry and impatient. Sometimes there's a bit of prompting before he finally wraps things up.

"... And I don't know.... Ah, Lord, amen!"

He looks up, grins at us all. And then it's time to eat.



Flipping through the pictures on my phone, Amos was particularly interested in this one.


"Yes, that's a nice picture, isn't it? September took it."

"September... birds... Septembirds! They're Septembirds!"

And there you have it.

Roadschooling Wuggies: Day 2


A family of deer has been visiting us in the early morning, and at twilight.The deer and the fish and the birds all seem to be on the same schedule, and I'm trying to get our family to join them. This is easier said than done, but it's important. Exciting read-alouds over breakfast help.We are loving this series! Quirky and delightful, with lots of suspense, and important lessons too, about how the differences that make it hard to get along are the very things that make us need one another.(These books are also driving us into Ephesians. We are one body... one ecosystem... We can only thrive bound together in love through Christ.)We have finished the main trilogy already, and are making our way through the prequel.As an extra point of interest, the housekeeper seems to suffer from Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, and I can definitely relate!Speaking of which, the time in nature is doing me a lot of good. I am in substantially less pain, even though I've been pretty active.I may have overdone it just a teensy bit on our tromp through the woods yesterday, but all in all, it was with it.[...]

Roadschooling Wuggies: Day 1


And... we're on the road!

This week, we have a beautiful campsite by the lake (but not TOO close to the lake!), and we are beginning to settle in to our tiny home on wheels.

As far as the wuggies are concerned, the best thing about the RV is that it has so many nooks, crannies, and mysterious tunnels.

As far as I'm concerned, the best part is our library. Admittedly, this currently consists of four boxes of books blocking off the entry way. I'm sure we will find a better place for them eventually (sorry, kids, you're probably going to lose those hiding spots!), but in the meantime they work as a makeshift baby gate. And they are full of exactly and only the right books for right now. It is wonderful.

(image) (image)

This one is sparking all sorts of amazing discussions, driving us deeper into the book of Ephesians ("alive together with Christ" is truer than I dreamed!), and leading me to the conclusion that roadschooling will be greatly improved when we get Timaeus out of the storage unit.

I should have known we needed Plato. Also, the pencil sharpener. We definitely need a pencil sharpener.

But hey, we're making it work.



The oaks have been good mentors over the past year. I will miss them.

They tell me not to worry about it. I am trying to listen.

They also tell me that no matter how well I listen, I won't ever be a tree. We're migratory creatures, some of us more than others. Few of us flit around quite as much as the blue jays and the cardinals, but we all spend our lives skimming along earth's surface. This, too, is okay. The trees reassure me that humans are fine and lovely creatures with their own kind of wisdom.

I get the idea that they aren't entirely clear on the concept, but they take it on faith that we exist with a life as rich and vibrant as their own. That is enough.

Their ignorance has taught me as much as their knowledge. Out of all that there is to know, we will always be ignorant of most of it. I had better learn how how to become good at being ignorant. I had better learn how to reach into the dark with fearless love.

Trees are not afraid of the dark. Half of their life is hidden in the underworld, where earthworms nest in their branches.

I am not a tree. The dark of the earth is for me a place of death, and I am not strong enough to feast on unfiltered light.

The oak trees spread above me, mediating glory, and beneath me, recieving burdens to great for me to carry. For them, it is no burden. It is the stuff with which they gather light.

And now they urge me on to go do likewise, but in the human way, spreading my roots into migration's deep rich heritage.



The trees here are very wise. They reach down into the underworld, and invite the earthworms to nest in their branching roots. The earth gladly recieves our burdens. What is trouble for us is a feast for the creatures below, and what they cast aside, the trees take up, transforming it into light-catchers. The oaks invite us to rest in their shade, and bathe in their softened glory. It is good to sit beneath their branches, alive with light, and listen to their teaching. Quietly, quietly, they whisper the ways of bearing one another's burdens until all is transformed to joy.

All belly, no button


Amos happily pointed out his own belly button, and Daddy's belly button, but nothing would induce him to look for a button on Mama's 8-month-pregnant belly. As he skipped away, he paused briefly to issue a correction over his shoulder. "No, it's a belly helmet!"

Sailing toward morning


When I asked Willie if I could post this picture on the Wuggy Chronicles, he was a little bit confused.

"But there isn't anything about ships in the Wuggy Chronicles, is there?"

I said that I guessed we'd have to change that, and his eyes grew wide.

"You mean the Wuggy Chronicles are real?

I nodded.

"All that funny stuff really happened in our family?"

He was very impressed, and as a writer, I was gratified to discover that my kids had been enjoying the dogeared two volume compilation (thanks, Mom and Dad!) as literature more than as family lore.

I'm not sure how he jumped from the idea that the Wuggy Chronicles are changeable to the idea that they are true, but somehow the connection feels exactly right.

Because truth is a vast ocean, and my ship is very small. May God breathe tenderly upon our fragile sails, and give us eyes to see the stars.

Coffee resuscitation


All the cool mommy bloggers shop at Aldi's. Then they post amazing tips about how they effortlessly feed their families nutritious gourmet food for mere pennies, and you could too... if only you had access to an Aldi's.

Well. Now that they've opened up an Aldi's right next to the fine arts academy where I teach, it's my turn to torment all of you.

Seriously, Aldi's is great. The prices are good, but the shopping experience is even better. It's so... simple. And straightforward. And so... not an endless vortex of confusion and manipulation.

Their coffee, however, is decidedly not great. I suppose the upside is that they really push fair trade. Their fair trade coffee is solidly mediocre, but a few weeks ago I tried their uncertified coffee, and was severely punished for my error.

Not. Even. Drinkable.

But necessity is the mother of invention, and coffee is definitely a necessity for a mother of six wuggies... or, for that matter, any other caffeine addicted human being with a boatload of stuff to get done.

I got my idea from bulletproof coffee, which obviously presupposes access to nice coffee and grassfed butter. The stuff I had on hand definitely wasn't going to make me bulletproof, but I wondered if my cheap Aldi's butter might make my cheap Aldi's coffee slightly more tolerable.

It took some tweaking too get the recipe right, but eventually, it worked. I put four "cups" of coffee in the blender (coffee-pot cups, that is) with a tablespoon of butter and two tablespoons of milk. Then I add as much sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg as I feel like, and maybe a drop off almond extract. I whiz it up until it's foamy and wonderful...

And then I try to persuade the wuggies that they really don't need a sip of my coffee.

That's the hard part.



Once in a blue moon we all get up early, to watch the uncracked dawn split open in the darkness, and bleed across the face of the moon until it turns to blue-gray ash.

Which sounds kinda macabre when you put it like that, except it wasn't. It was glorious and peaceful, except for the part where we were squabbling over the telescope, but even that wasn't too bad, and when that blinding sliver of moonlight reappeared against the deep periwinkle sky... well Willie said it looked just like any other crescent moon, but Nathan said out was like that bird that's reborn from the ashes.

We looked at it through the telescope, and that was nice, but not as nice as sitting on the park bench and just being there. I tried to take a picture, but all I got was a grainy shot of darkness with a tiny fuzzy spot of light that insisted on spreading out beyond its boundaries.

The way light does.

Now it is full daylight here, and the moon is free from our shadow. It's a perfectly normal morning.


Surely it comes as no surprise that Isaiah fell asleep over the newspaper.

Wuggy Science Fiction: Isaiah's Space Roller Coaster


What if there was a roller coaster that went around Earth, and was in space? It would be a big hollow ring that goes around Earth.

There would be a station where spaceships would drop off passengers and take them back to earth, like at a train station. There would be a big line.
The roller coaster would probably take a couple of months or maybe even a year to go around earth, so probably they would have to have a bunch of food and drinks. I think people might get bored after a while, because the roller coaster would be going on for days.
Even a space roller coaster would get boring after a day or two.



Summer is a time for listening. Listening to crickets and birdsong, to the wind rustling in the treetops and the frothy murmur of the endless waves of traffic, the airplanes overhead, and the buzzing air-conditioners that never, ever turn off this time of year. It's time of pausing to realize just how little silence there is, a time of noticing and acknowledging all the noise.

Above all it's a time of listening to toddlers, of stopping to figure out what that tantrum was really about. The louder it gets, the harder it is to listen, but listening well is usually a prerequisite to peace.

But in this season, even peace is pretty noisy, and Dadders and I seem to be the only ones craving stillness. Well, September, too, but at any rate, we're soundly outnumbered. And even now, as I write out loud to the wuggies, Kai-kai insists that he doesn't want to listen to my song, he wants to listen to Bopatado. (The round red guy who hangs out with Larry the Cucumber, in case you're not used to listening to this particular two-year-old.)

He's really asking quite sweetly (though insistently), and you know, I think we will.

There's a time for stillness, and a time for Silly Songs With Larry and Bopatado, everything in it's season under the glow of the setting sun.



Nathan wants me to write on the Wuggy Chronicles.About Kai-kai and Amos, perhaps. Or bees.I guess you could say that we're swarming with new life around here. Fortunately, the apiary contingent has been safely relocated to the farm of some delightfully eccentric beekeepers, who captured our imaginations with their amazing stories while they sucked up 10,000 or so honeybees with their shopvac. An alpha-swarm, they told us gleefully, and presumable ready to produce gallons and gallons of honey. 150 pounds a year, if Isaiah's memory serves correctly, and Nathan remembers that they said it would be enough to feed a whole village, though I'm not certain of what size or honey-consumption patterns.(Nathan also reminds me to tell you that the beekeepers have lots of enormous bullfrogs on their farm, and that one of their friends had been killed by bees, and that they didn't kill our bees, but put them in a box. Of which box we were very sternly warned: Do. Not. Touch.) I'm told that when honeybees try to settle into a new home, they build precisely one new row of honeycomb per day. Sure enough, there were four rows of snow-white fresh honeycomb, one for each of the frantic days that it took to get someone out to our house to get those bees out of here. Apparently bee migration season coincides with peak honey production season, and every beekeeper in the area had a several-week waiting list. That would have added up to at least fourteen rows of honeycomb, not to mention all the honey.But during one of those (many, and mostly fruitless) phone calls, a wild rumpus broke out, and it became manifestly obvious to the beekeeper on the other end of the line that there were children in the house. Lots of them. (Six, in case you've lost count. Nathan would like me to be sure to tell you that Amos was born four months ago. But back when this happened, he was still only three months old, and still colicky.) At any rate, the interruptions made my case better than I ever could have, and he agreed to drop everything and come that very evening, which is how it happened that the wuggies only got four rows of honeycomb and only one bee sting. (Kai-kai was a very good sport about the sting, and his big brother Willie showed so much compassion that this part of the story is actually one that I treasure dearly in my heart.)Finally the wuggies have something to take to the zoo trading shop, assuming that they don't use it for sealing wax instead, and we've all become a little bit obsessed with bees. Bees are more wonderful and fascinating and important and dangerous than I ever imagined, and bee-keeping has assumed a delightful role in all our agrarian fantasies. But oh, how my skin is crawling as I type, just remembering all those bees swarming by the front door of our townhouse.Ever since the wuggies first grew old enough to upend their bowls of cereal all over the dining room floor, I've known that the promised land was a mighty sticky place. Back then I thought it was just a silly pun; mere humor.But slowly I'm learning that there's nothing "mere" to humor at all, and even puns can be profound. The rose comes with its thorns, and the honey with its stings. Everything is bittersweet, and sometimes the only way to see clearly is to laugh so hard that the tears stream down your face.Life is good. God has blessed us abundantly, overwhelmingly. We're so grateful, and so exhausted. It's very, very sweet, and very sticky. And when[...]



"The wall is a very bad man. It hit me on the head."