I wish I could adequately describe the level of chaos that is usual during “school.”

Okay, it’s really not that bad but Gemma is just on the cusp of hanging with the big kids (an aside: she is trying so very, very hard to figure out what it means to be her at this moment.  “Mama?  Am I big or little?”  Mama Syd said it perfect when she told her she is smaller than Max and bigger than Lucy, but Gemma’s still ironing it all out.) and that means that there is a lot of chair hopping and interruptions and loud whispers and some complaining from her siblings. It also means that there are days that give a sliver of a peek into what I think will be the very near future and that’s pretty sweet.

She takes very seriously the job of beginning morning prayer by leading us in the sign of the cross.  She wants the hymnal opened to the right page and wants it to be a song she knows so that she can sing, too.  And sometimes she will join in on our studies at the table in an earnest way.  Today was one of those days.

We are learning about Christianity’s arrival in England and life in the Dark Ages.  It was a great moment of pride and encouragement when I wrote “Illuminare” up on the wall and the kids guessed it meant light.  “Manus” meant hands (“Like manos,” Max explained) and “scriber” meant write.  But my heart really leapt when I asked what they thought a scriptorium was and without a pause Max said “A room for writing.”  He figured it out. Boom.

Anyway, they colored illuminated manuscript letters while I read aloud from our history book. Gemma laid on the table from the waist up, her toes barely reaching the chair behind her.  She scribbled line after line on her page, demanding new colors from her brothers and rolling her artwork to give to me only to take it back to “work some more.”  We follow up our reading with questions about the content and, to keep bickering down to a minimum, I usually ask a specific kid a question.

Today I just happened to make eye contact with Gemma while I asked a question.

“Do you remember what they wrote on?”

Several kiddos started to answer but Gemma cut them off.

“Hey!  Stop it, guys!  Mom asked me!” she yelled.

They snickered and I raised my eyebrows.  She glared her frustration at her siblings for a second then turned back to her paper and back towards me.  “I’m ready.” she said quietly, purposefully coloring away.

I held back my laughter and smiled while the other kids held their breaths.

“Gemma, do you remember what the monks wrote on?”

She stopped drawing, squinting her eyes in thought and tapping her lips with her pencil.  After a moment of thinking she said, “Yes.  Their bikes.”

She went back to writing. The rest of us nearly died from suppressed joy.

The remainder of the morning, the kids kept repeating it to the same response while I pondered if she should have her hearing checked.  “Their bikes . . . ” I can’t wait to see what tomorrow will bring.