Most mornings I meet these ladies somewhere in the kitchen. They stumble out, red hair a mess, asking if they can help mix up this or that even before they can keep their eyelids open. We talk about how we slept and Ruthie usually tells me that she was woken up either by Mabel Howard (her “baby”) or a blueberry animal.

In case you are worried, wearing jammies with pockets protects you from the latter.

It takes at least 30 minutes to locate clothes, break up the ensuing argument over who is wearing what, and make sure everyone made it to the potty on time. I try not to comb hair before coffee (for me) or breakfast (for them) – it’d just be asking for trouble.

When everyone has had eggies (Ruth) and pancakes (Annie), they help with chores or get out books or look up at Daddy with take-me-with-you little girl eyes as he heads outside. There is always a pause when these girls lock eyes with their Papa. And I know, having seen this moment so many times before, that unless Stewart is working off the land or doing something that would endanger them, they will nearly always get a yes. His face says it before he even gets the words out and I wonder if they realize just how rare and beautiful this is.


The rest of the day I get a lot of help from Annie and a little from Ruthie too. We make and cook and ferment stuff. We chase and feed and snuggle their baby brother. We hang laundry and bring eggshells to the compost. We do reading lessons and sing our ABCs. But what these girls really want to do – besides going with Daddy – is to bake.

So they help me mix bread dough and pour in sourdough starter. If I tell Ruthie we’re making muffins, she’ll declare (in front of everyone) “I’m not tellin’ nobody we’re making muppins!”. Surprise baking, you see, is far more exciting.

Pancakes and muffins and sourdough breads are nice, but the real desire of these girls’ hearts is that three letter word we all love to hear: pie.


Ruthie wants to make strawberry pie and Annabelle switches from pumpkin to chocolate to raspberry. The reality is that most days we don’t make pie; most weeks we don’t make pie. Not because we don’t all prefer it to just about every other dessert. It’s simply that Mama runs out of time and energy.

But one thing is for sure, on a daily basis, come rain or shine, whether Mama’s helping or not, these girls are making pies. They are telling me of their flour and fruit and sugar endeavors. They are bringing it inside, leaving a puddle of pie on the kitchen floor in their wake. They are giving you bites and putting them into ovens and sharing it with the neighborhood.

Most days with these girls involves hugs, some tears, and a whole lot of conflict resolution. But most days involve some really good pie too.