Favorite number. I don’t get it. Numbers are functional. Asking for a favorite number is like asking what my favorite gasoline is, or my favorite nail, or screw, or spark plug. My favorite is the one I need at the moment that is close to hand. They serve a function, not a fancy. My only favorite number is “Free,” which doesn’t count as a number.

My youngest daughter, however, has a favorite number. At first I thought it was just the biggest number she could think of. This summer when we were renovating the kitchen, she walked into the dining room, and surveyed my carefully laid underlay with screws every four inches, and said, “Whoa. There must be eighteen screws in there.” At the time it felt more like 1800, so I wasn’t amused. When discussing future family sizes, she often announces that she will have eighteen babies. (Reminded, of course, by her fertility challenged mother that one doesn’t always get to pick.)

We became aware, however, that it went beyond big. Sometimes it was funny, like when Jonathan was counting to twenty for hide and seek with the children. He got to eighteen, and heard, from inside a closet, “Yay! Eighteen.” Other times it was inappropriate, like when Jonathan was reading Judges 20 in family worship. “Eighteen thousand men of Benjamin fell, all of them men of valor.” “Yay! Eighteen.” Sometimes it is useful, like when the other kids get 20 minutes of screen time, but she negotiates 18. She can even set the timer herself, because she knows 18. Although one time she set it for 18 hours and 18 minutes. Two eighteens are better than one.

Last week I had the blessing of driving to Fredericton with only the snickerdoodle. On the way home we slowed down at the 218 kilometer mark so she could see it and say “Yay! Eighteen.” When we passed exit 188, she said, “It’s an eighteen and a broken eighteen.” The entire family has begun looking for eighteens just because it makes our youngest say, “Yay! Eighteen.” Eighteen has become her thing. When the older children get eighteen as an answer in their math problems, they call her over and show it to her. When they find something with 18 written on it, they automatically assign it to their youngest sister.

When my mackerdoodle was the same age that the snickerdoodle is now, I was often quoting her to people and listening to her little quirks. The two youngest children have speech issues. The oldest got to be the only one speaking for a long time. I don’t have those same moments with my youngest. I am catechizing and teaching spelling and reading and grammar and math. I am drawing maps for history and experiments for science. I am answering a thousand questions an hour, and only a fraction of those come from my almost five year old. The cuteness gets lost in the mist of daily doings.

I am always aware of the tension between what must be done and what must be noticed, because it is so fleeting. I didn’t realize that my mackerdoodle had been aware of that same tension. Earlier this week she had been doing nine times tables, so the number 18 was making regular appearances on her work. The snickerdoodle would stop every thing to come and see every single 18. On the last problem, the mackerdoodle looked into my face and said, “One day she isn’t going to say ‘yay. eighteen.’ any more. One day it will just be another number again. Please write it down so we don’t forget.”

From now on eighteen will remind me not only of my wonderful third child and her child like wonder at the things we barely even notice, but also of the growing maturity in my oldest who doesn’t want to forget the days her little sister said, “YAY! EIGHTEEN.”

Ill Equipped for the Task at Hand

On Thursday I took the children to our weekly public swim. Jonathan was out of town at the ARP Synod meetings, so I was flying solo, meaning I was required to field all of the questions coming from the three motor mouthed fruit of my womb without the option to call in a pinch hitter. In the midst of this, the Mackerdoodle asked me what a Black Hole was. I answered that it was a very, very, very heavy place in space that sucked everything near it toward itself. She then said to me:

“So it sucks everything into itself? So there could be a whole universe inside a black hole?” I was startled and answered, “Um. Yes sweetie. Actually scientists who study space are wondering exactly that.

She didn’t stop there, though. She followed it up with, “But all of that stuff that gets squished down into the black hole. I mean it can’t just disappear into nothing. It has to go somewhere. Could a black hole suck stuff in and send it somewhere else?” My brain was beginning to be distracted by the implications of this conversation, but I continued to affirm her. “Well, some scientists wonder exactly that. No one has been able to study it closely enough.”

“What if there used to be a huge black hole and  then it exploded, and everything in our universe came out of it!” She asked, excited at the possibility.

“Well, what do we know about how the universe was formed?” I asked. Praying for the right answer, and in answer to that prayer, her answer came quickly.

“Oh Right. God spoke and it was made. No black holes in Genesis.”

She was appeased, but I was terrified. My six year old had, from a very elementary explanation of black holes managed to hypothesize the same types of cosmological scenarios that doctoral candidates are considering for dissertation work.

I am clearly ill equipped to be her primary educator.

It’s late, and I’m tired, but I have to share some cute kid moments

The mackerdoodle had an assignment for school. Here is the message from her teacher:

“select a stuffed animal from home and make a tag to tie around the animal’s neck. The tag should include your child’s name, the name of the animal, and a true fact/sentence about the animal. An example of the fact/sentence is “A bear has fur.” or “A rabbit has long ears.”

The mackerdoodle chose a koala, then asked me to look up koalas and read it to her. Her card says:

Koala is not a bear. It is a marsupial. 6

I had to help her spell “marsupial”, of course, but Why the six? “Because the baby stays in the pouch for 6 months, but I don’t have enough room to write that, so I wrote 6 so I would remember how many months.”
In family worship, the children each take turns praying. The snickerdoodle, being only 2, is learning through repetition after us. We are praying for people in our church, and we ask the children to pray that they would (a) love The Lord, (b) love His church and (c) grow in grace. Today the snickerdoodle’s prayer went like this.

Me: Dear God. Snickerdoodle: God
Me: thank you for. Snickerdoodle: tantoo for
Me: [family name]. Snickerdoodle: [family name]
Me: please help them. Snickerdoodle: hep dem
Me: to love you. Snickerdoodle: wuv me
Me: um. Love Jesus. Snickerdoodle: and wuv Jesus. Amen.
A few days ago the cheesedoodle climbed up on my lap for a snuggle, and I held him close and asked him, “will you always give mama snuggles?” He hugged me tight and said, “nope.” “No?” I answered back, not surprised, but hoping for a different answer. He shrugged and said, “you be dead, sometime.” After a moment of startled suppressed giggles, I asked, “well will you give me snuggles for the rest of my life?” “Oh. Yeah.” He answered and gave me another tight hug before running off to play, apparently happier with my redefined parameters.

Some Thoughts at Midnight


The mackerdoodle turned six. That is remarkable to me in so many ways. She was our miracle baby, the balm on our grief, the answer to a decade of prayer and now she is six and she is still all of those things and more.

We celebrated over two days, which meant I didn’t get a lot of work done over those two days, so Wednesday evening I settled in for a long evening of work (and by work, I mean I cut and glued fun foam and felt. I am not a rocket scientist). At midnight, I called it and was just about to head to bed when I heard the sounds of feet coming down the hall. There was the mackerdoodle. She came straight to me, climbed on my lap and said, “Hi!”

“Honey, do you know what time it is?” I asked her.

“Morning?” She said, hopefully.

“It’s midnight. I was just about to go to bed.”

Tears welled up in her eyes – sure sign to a mama that a kid isn’t as awake as she is pretending to be – and I grabbed her before she slipped off my lap and back to bed. I hugged her close and thought that I don’t see her at midnight that much any more, and let’s be honest, I probably won’t for another ten years or so. I had such a clear memory of holding her when she was days old and day and night meant nothing to an exhausted but delighted new mama. I looked into her little newborn face and wondered what it would be like when she could talk to me and tell me that she loved me.

After a moment, we stood up, and she turned out the lights in the kitchen while I turned out the lights in the living room, and then I walked her down the hall, to her top bunk. She climbed it and settled back into her pillow doubtful that she would be able to go back to sleep.

I had no way of knowing, six years ago, that this little one would also have a brother and a sister. I had no way of knowing, six years ago, that six years would go by in a single heartbeat, and an entire lifetime. I could have never guessed that at midnight on her sixth birthday the last thing she would say to me before drifting back to sleep would be, “Mama, why are you still awake at midnight?”

20130808-012420.jpgThe mackerdoodle turned six, and that means that 1/3 of my 18 years with her is over. I pray that in 12 years, when she’s about to embark on that awkward journey into independence, her eyes will still light up when she finds me at a laptop, in a quiet house. I pray she will still have the spunk and the love to ask me why I am still awake at midnight.

The mackerdoodle turned six and I feel like I just said goodbye to my baby, but I’m looking forward to the walk with this little lady that has taken her place.

Happy Thanksgiving, Eh?

Today is Canadian Thanksgiving, and I thought it would be fun to bring a Canadian Thanksgiving snack to the mackerdoodle’s class, because that’s what cool mama’s do.

Only I’m not a cool mama, so on Saturday I sent this plea to my friend Becky under the subject line: “Help me Becky Kicklighter, you are my only hope.”

Monday is Canadian thanksgiving, so I am bringing a Canadian thanksgiving snack to mackerdoodle’s class.

What on earth was I thinking?

I bought Maple leaf cookies at Aldi (because it’s CANADIAN thanksgiving) but can you think of something to put with them or do to them to make them Thanksgivingy? Basically, how can I make this look like a theme snack, and not “oh look. mackerdoodle’s mama opened a box?”

Something that does not involve me piping icing faces would be great. Everything on pinterest has icing Turkey faces and mine would look like a preschooler pooped a crayon line.

Becky did not let me down! Look at the brilliant idea she came up with, and I executed:

Giving Thanks, eh?

It’s a paper CD sleeve that the older doodles colored with red stripes to look like the Canadian flag. I printed the “Giving Thanks, Eh?” on clear labels and stuck them on, then we tucked the cookie inside, and it stayed put, in the middle, just like an edible Canadian flag.

So happy Canadian Thanksgiving, my readers. Take a moment today to thank the Lord. I know I will.

The Other Shoe

Does anyone else do this? I was just about ready to head to bed tonight when the mackerdoodle awoke throwing up. There’s a stomach virus going around the neighborhood and it looks as if she caught a wee strain. I got her cleaned up, her bed cleaned up, and fresh sheets and jammies in place, and now she’s fast asleep again.

But I can’t go to sleep.

I’m tired. I’d love to curl up in my bed and let my eyes fall shut, but my brain is telling me: “It’s never this easy. Either she’s going to throw up again, or another doodle will join the fray. You’re in for a long night, so why even bother?” It’s irrational, and even sinful inasmuch as I am borrowing trouble that may never come. Here I sit. Yawning. Blinking the long blinks. Waiting for the other shoe to drop.

The thing is: if I go to bed tonight I could sleep all night, but I will certainly sleep until the much anticipated shoe drops. I may be tired, but I’m guaranteed to be less tired than if I stay up all night waiting for the vomit that may never come. Isn’t this exactly the point Jesus was making when he told us not to be anxious? Worrying can’t add a single hour to my life, but it can make a lot of the already written hours of my life completely miserable.

Ok self. I hear you. I’m off to bed. Each day has enough shoes of its own. Why wait for one that may never drop?


My doodles are all in a fun stage, so I thought I would share an update and a few stories.

Those are his Iron Man jets propelling his flight.

The cheesedoodle is still struggling with words, but there is a noticeable improvement in his vocabulary. He knows all of his colors (red is too hard to say, so he says “rojo”) and is learning his letters. He calls his sisters “MoMo” and “BaBa.” While the mackerdoodle has been around long enough that Jonathan and I haven’t added “MoMo” to our every day speech, the snickerdoodle has become “BaBa” to the entire family. The cheesedoodle is convinced that he will be Iron Man when he grows up, and because of this belief he prefers to wear “rojo” when possible, as well as adorning his wrists with empty toilet paper rolls.

One evening at dinner, Jonathan asked the children, “What will it be like when all three of you are talking?” The cheesedoodle began to laugh in this hilarious, old man, condescending laugh, and just shook his head and said, “No. No.” Apparently he understands that having two sisters will always put a cramp in his communication. But it’s ok, because he’ll be Iron Man.

When did she get this big?

The mackerdoodle alternates between being four and fourteen. I suspect this will continue until she is in her late 20s – or at least it did with me. She loves to cook and I have to make the time to let her help. We have some great conversations in the kitchen, and I know that if we can start talking over meal preparation now, we’ll be able to keep doing that when she’s alternating between 16 , 10 and 40.

On Tuesdays we have a regular dinner date with another seminary family whose daddy works Tuesday evenings. We alternate between homes, and one of the days they were at our place I planned a build your own pizza meal. The mackerdoodle and cheesedoodle were very excited about making their own pizza, but their doodlebuddy was far more interested in playing in our toy room. Mac n Cheese made pizzas for themselves and for the other two boys, and as I put the pizza in the oven, the mackerdoodle disappeared into the toy room saying, “Now it’s time to make the caramel for dessert! Come on! It’s time to make the caramel sauce!” Her doodle buddy was unenthusiastic and remained in the toy room driving our trucks in peace. The mackerdoodle came around the corner, looked at me and said, “I cannot BELIEVE he does not like to cook!” I wonder if I’ll hear that about some poor teenage boy in about 12 years.

She LOVES her baby doll.

The snickerdoodle is her own little being. She looks remarkably like her older sister, and yet has such a distinctly different personality. In fact, as much as my mackerdoodle reminds many in my family of me, the snickerdoodle reminds me of the stories of my younger sister. Two things about my snickerdoodle match the family lore about Melissa. The first is her tendency to bite me. I can be heard multiple times each day saying, “NO. NO TEETH!” Her answer, most frequently, is a giggle and another attempt.

The second, more flattering to all, is that every time she hugs anyone – including her baby doll – she pats us on the back three times. My parents used to joke that they should have named Melissa “Patty”and I’ve caught myself calling the snickerdoodle exactly that as she pats my back. I usually have to follow that up with “NO TEETH!”

She LOVES her baby doll and two days ago I found her sitting on the floor with a cracker that her brother had liberated from the counter for her. She had 2/3 of it in her mouth, and was putting 1/3 into the baby dolls mouth. She looked up at me and grinned hugely. Then she patted the baby lovingly on its head and bit it.

So there you are. A bit of a doodle moment for y’all.