Wednesday, 4:17 p.m.

I have two loaves of French bread rising on the counter and a pound of shrimp defrosting in the sink.

I have an eleven-year-old boy, feverish and teary, working his way through a heavy load of homework on my couch.

I have two girls who took the keys and the car, and drove themselves up the road to the temple to spend a couple of peaceful hours.

I have another boy rigorously practicing his Bach partita, providing the daily afternoon soundtrack to my life.

I have a dog sniffing the yard apart and protecting us from all manner of treacherous and cunning birds that might happen to land.  You can't be too careful.

In the whirlwind that is my life, this is an afternoon to be savored.

Wish You Were Here

To Whom It May Concern (you know who you are):

First of all, you were missed.

Second of all, you missed out.

See how that works?

I told David that spending a week anywhere with us should be temptation enough, but seeing how that is clearly not the case, it occurred to me that maybe I haven't made the argument strongly enough. And so for your consideration, here are my top ten reasons you should pack up your sunscreen and your beach towels and your reservations and your hesitations and be here next year.

1. There is no better place to be a child. Period.

2. There is no better smell than sunscreen and salt water. Period.

3. There is no better feeling than sand below you, sun above you, and kissing in between. Exclamation point!

4. There is no better sound than to hear your children shrieking in delight as you fly across the waves together. Parentheses. Unless it is hearing the waves crash behind you while you snuggle them around a warm fire. End parentheses.

5. There is no better delight than the little curl of anticipation that comes from cracking a new paperback on the beach. Comma. And the magic world that its words will weave around you. Comma. And knowing that nothing is going to interrupt you.

6. There is no better weight than wet eight-year-old boy wrapped in a towel and snuggled under your chin. Sigh. In quotation marks.

7. There are no better dreams than those you have in a beach house because real life has never seemed farther away. What is worry. Question mark.

8. There is no place with greater evidence of God's love. This sand, crushed for millennia just so you could build castles with moats and turn your children into sandy merpeople (semi colon) this coast split and torn by cataclysmic events just so your children could throw themselves into the surf at the edge of the world (semi colon) this sun which fired the sky last night in hot oranges and brilliant fuchsias just so you could stand there with your mouth ajar in wonder.

9. There is no better sight than our long line of bicycles trailing down the boardwalk at dusk, headed towards the park, the pier, chocolate donuts with sprinkles, and hot chocolate if we're cold. Another exclamation point. I'm feeling exuberant.

10. There is no better place to count your blessings. Ellipsis. They are as numerous as the grains of sand at our feet.

You think I'm exaggerating.

That's impossible. You cannot exaggerate the joys of this kind of living.

This morning as I type from the most perfect view in creation, the sun starting its long graceful arc across the sky and warming my back, I cannot imagine anywhere else I'd rather be.

The girls are all laying as they have for six days, heads together, wearing their sunglasses and floppy beach hats. They gossip and laugh as Olivia dishes everything she knows about junior high to her younger, adoring cousins. Don't worry. Savannah, with her perfected eye roll, never lets it go to her head. Soon they will grab their boogie boards and scream as they jump in the ice cold water, and I've heard rumors of a dance routine performance they've been working on. You don't want to miss that for anything.

Caleb and David are beside me reading. Their toes have disappeared in the sand, while their heads have disappeared into the world their authors created out of nothing. Ethan is napping in his beach chair. The hair on his legs has turned golden. It's not too much to say that I see that as one of my greatest personal accomplishments.

Soon I will go boogie boarding and amaze everyone, especially David, who is the only one I'm trying to impress anyway. And then I will lay in the sand, press my ear to the earth until I can hear its slow, steady heartbeat, and take a well-deserved nap. (It's hard work being a world-class anything...boogie boarding is no exception.)

As usual, my thoughts this week have been about magic and miracles and creation--the millions of years and enormous effort that had to be expended for me to be right here with those most precious to me. I am humbled by that knowledge.

And I have no doubt that if I ever make it to that mansion in heaven, it will be beachfront property.

Join me here.

The Slope of the California Sky

We were home for exactly 18 hours.

Just enough time to wash the clothes, repack the duffle bags, replenish the snack box, and strap the bikes on the back.

And pick up David. (The most important part.)

This time we went west. As far as we could go, to the very edge of the continent as it were.

I know what you're thinking. This is too much. How much vacationing can one family do? Is this a blog or a travelogue? David was a little concerned as well. He worked extra long hours all week, getting caught up and getting ahead, but still felt a little guilty about missing another upcoming week of work.

It can't be helped, I said.

They're growing up, I said.

This summer is one more in a very limited number that our children will spend with us.

Gotta make the most of it.

Tonight David and I walked down a lovely stretch of beach. He was holding my hand. Delicious. It was among the nicest moments of my life. We watched the sun sink down the slippery slope of sky. As it neared the disappearance point, it seemed to speed up, falling faster and faster the closer it got to the horizon.

See? I said.

At sunrise, it seems like you've got forever. In the middle of the day, you're too busy to even notice the slow, steady track of the sun. But suddenly, at the gloaming, the sun is all out sprinting for the horizon. The colors on the clouds change faster than you can describe them. Then boom. You're standing there a little stunned that it's over. Wait. Wait!

See? I say. It goes so fast. We have to make the most of it. And even though he doesn't say it, David squeezes my hand because he knows I'm right and he feels that urgency as keenly as I do.

Tonight as we were readying for bed, David gestured for me to come see. I peeked out of our bedroom to see my children kneeling with their cousins among the air mattresses and pillows and quilts, a nearly indistinguishable mass of limbs and bodies and bed coverings. My younger brother was offering the prayer. Petition and thanks, simple and heartfelt. Their heads were bowed. Their eyes were closed. The ocean waved behind them in rhythm. My heart tugged. The earth turned.

And another day passed out of sight.

I am happy to have been here, right here, when it did.

Across the River Now

Dear David,

Look at your children. Aren't they gorgeous?

I know I'm supposed to be in bed sleeping. There is a sixteen-hour drive ahead of us tomorrow, after all.

But I know if I don't write this down tonight, it will probably never happen. And sometimes there are days I never want to forget. Today was one of them.

I don't have time to retell everything. Let me just try to say the most important things.

I woke today, to the temple bells ringing, eight steady chimes.

I ironed Caleb's shirt and braided Olivia's hair. (It was so delicious I took my time and made it last.)

And then I took them to the house of the Lord.

They were shining when I picked them up.

We went to the brickyard and and the blacksmith and the print shop (my personal favorite). We ate ice cream and bought souvenirs.

In the evening, we sat under a cloudy dark sky and watched a cast of hundreds sing praises to our God and King. We all wept to be so blessed, and when they lit up the temple, Ethan looked at me knowingly and smiled. He knew it was coming all night.

Tomorrow we take our own trek west. Across the prairies, towards you, towards home. How I am dreaming of the reunion.

As I sat there tonight looking at that glorious temple on the hill, I thought about how that is the very word of all my beliefs and all my faith. Reunion. Reunion here and hereafter. Reunion with each other and with that God that gave us life. Reunion after all. Reunion at last.

We're coming home.