a moment

I don’t know what you picture when you think “homeschool.” I know that what I imagine isn’t what my reality ends up being most of the time. We don’t have a school room, but rather a kitchen table — as well as a couch, a piano, the floor, and other random places school occurs all day long. We don’t all sit for 2.5 hours, break for lunch and recess, and then reconvene. Sure, we eat together 3 times, and there’s our Circle Time, but otherwise it’s a lot of managing moving parts.

And so today, when I got them all situated for our weekly painting session, and even the baby was happy nearby, I had to take a picture. No talking, just paint; we all need quiet, I said. And look, all those sweet head bowed around the table. 7th grader to kindergartener working happily while music played in the background. My soul took a deep breath and I smiled.

living life.

There is so much activity in the fall, isn’t there? After a summer that always feels full enough, I am suddenly launched into that same fullness, but with the addition of school for x number of kids, birthday parties, church routine in full swing, teaching CFA, field trips and fun trips and scrambling to be outside for one last hurrah — and all to the tune of shortening days.

This October seemed especially so, with every week requiring a planning strategy of its own, as I did my best to keep the essentials and be flexible with everything else. Some weeks or months or seasons are just like that. (Perhaps most are?) Our house has seemed extra-full, and that is my favorite kind of busyness.

But through it all, in it all, under it all, a sense of peace and provision and daily bread. Pressing needs that keep us all thinking about the faithfulness of God and praying in faith for His touch. We are busy each day but there’s also a unifying waiting, carrying happening in our hearts, down to Cecily. A text comes in with new numbers for Jack and we all stop, hearts in their eyes as they wait for new news. An email from the church prayer list with heavy news, and they all pause quietly, letting it sink in. A man they all know from church gets answers that aren’t answers from doctors, and they begin to ask for a miracle. And more. They are learning to carry one another’s burdens.

We are learning to do our chores well and to be more careful with math problems but we are learning far more.

Sometimes I wonder if I’m doing it right, this thing called life, this task of raising up people. Most of the time I’m too busy just doing it these days, though, and have to cast even those cares on Him, trusting that He is my Shepherd and that He is their Shepherd, and He will lead us through every hill and valley.

*****

A decade of William

William Sinclair Dunphey, my second beautiful boy, born mere hours after celebrating Ryan’s 36th birthday, turned ten this past weekend.

How we cherish him!

Sitting here and pondering who he is and all that there is to value in him, I’m struck by how intense and aggressive his love is. He is deeply invested in each member of his family, aware of us and who we all are, engaging with each of us each day in meaningful ways. He is also incredibly self-disciplined and already has a tough time when I direct the day in a way that disrupts his carefully laid out school and chore plan. He is learning already to take a deep breath and cheerfully serve, trusting that God knows the needs and desires of his little heart. He is black and white and likes rules to be observed, and here, too, he is already being shaped as he lives in a house full of renegades and wretches who are in the process of sanctification. Gentleness. Kindness. Understanding that life is not always lived through his perspective. These are lessons he struggles with and then latches on to with that intensity. He is deeply sincere and will occasionally weep over revelation of his sin and the brokenness it has wrought. He is sweet and funny and kind but he is not all softness. No, there is a rod of iron in there, a burning heart of integrity that makes me think of David who aggressively pursued the presence of God.

And now he is 10. Again, I wouldn’t trade this blossoming young man for the world! But oh — his sweet little dimpled face and games of dress up and crying for Mama at night… that all was too fleeting.

Happy birthday, dear sweet William. We treasure you.

autumn catch-up

Oh, another month of living, pressed down and running over — that’s the only way to measure these incredibly full days. Days full of beauty and adventure, or the refining rhythm of routine, read alouds we love and workbook pages that must be done, church things, work things, school things, family things… So much, and most of it with a baby in arms, which is why my thoughts tend to stay jumbled in my head instead of getting straightened out into neat and tidy sentences here.

Tonight, while I laid in bed with Enid next to me, amusing herself with the crinkly package of baby wipes, I looked through pictures and was a bit astounded to realize how long ago the end of September already feels. And so, a quick photo / memory dump:


Daily work with this eager kindergartener.


Thursday’s nature journaling, packed up and moved to the park.


A Sunday afternoon with the whole family, soaking in September sunshine.


Farewell to this old friend, and even more, to my favorite neighbors EVER.


Paint and journals abandoned and Mama left just sitting in silence. I may or may not have sat there for quite awhile.


Getting rounder, cuter, and more smiley all the time.


A crazy day that managed to get collected and calmed and tied up with the comforts of Autumn.


Another year of CFA begins!

We made it to John Brown’s House, near Lake Placid. We are history buffs and history buffs in the making and studying the Underground Railroad is all the more real with trips like this.

Our day doubled as an autumn holiday in the mountains.


Besides the stunning leaves, the array of mushrooms caught Beatrice’s eye.


Passing through and noticing three friends playing piano together in the evening, and realizing, somehow in a very profound way, that this moment is their real life.


And another moment that stopped me in my tracks: turning around to see my brand new baby playing on her tummy with toys. *sigh*

That’s all for now. A son is in need of tick removal. Life never stops, does it?

a favorite kitchen corner and my favorite granola recipe

I really do love this beautiful, quirky and customized, finally for real and not just on paper kitchen! I love how the room has opened up, how the cherry counters gleam and glow with just the right warmth, how the cupboards open and close without any loud magnets, and of course the beautiful craftsmanship of each detailed trim piece and mitered corner. As the days are beginning to cool, I’m eager to give this heart-of-the-home its first fall and winter experience: fill it with heavy pots of apple sauce and the scent of stews and floured counters and floors as we cut out cookies for the holidays… Food is an amazing thing, isn’t it? How physical and basic it is, but how deeply it nourishes souls and creates community and family identity? Amazing.

One of my favorite quirky-custom parts of the kitchen is this long, shallow drawer right next to the stove. I wanted a space for my spices, and I knew I didn’t want an open shelf because too much dusting, and I didn’t want them just in a cupboard because I was tired of digging and rearranging and knocking them over. And so I designated this space for them. I open the drawer, and ta-da! There they are. (I bought those jars on Amazon for my most-used spices.)

And below, my flours and oats and sugar have a pull-out drawer perfectly sized for the jars I keep them in. They used to sit on my counter top, and as much as I love the look of them, I just didn’t want to devote the space to them anymore. I also didn’t want my kids pulling huge jars out of cupboards, so this seemed like a good solution. So far, I love it.

Also, I love the hardware on this little corner of the kitchen! It matches the patina and style on the antique Swedish hutch across the room, and that little tie-in just makes me happy. It’s the little things, right?

And because I’m thinking about food and kitchens, a quick nod to summer eating:

Those tomatoes have seriously changed breakfast and spoiled me for all winter eating. I don’t know what I’m going to do when my CSA pick-up is devoid of them. Seriously: if you’re local, you need to try a Kent tomato. Their veg is simply some of the best I’ve had.

While William and Jameson have rather commandeered the kitchen as far as baking goes (cookies are their new passion!), I do manage to slip in every other week or so to make a big batch of granola. I have not delegated that task, as it’s primarily for me and I have particular ideas of how I like it. Probably you do, too, or maybe you’re still looking for the perfect granola recipe. I can’t promise you that your particular ideas will be satisfied by my particular recipe, but if you’d like to give it a whirl, here it is:

My Granola (at least, currently)

Mix in large bowl:
6 cups old fashioned oats
1/2 – 1 cup whole wheat flour (optional; helps bind)
1 – 2 cups unsweetened coconut
2 cups mixed chopped nuts (I do walnuts, almonds, pecans, cashews, and pepitas)
1/2 – 1 cup dried cherries
1/4 cup chopped candied ginger
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cardamom
dash allspice
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

In small bowl, stir together:
1 cup melted coconut oil
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 T kosher salt
2 tsp vanilla

Add wet ing to dry ing and stir well. Spread in sheet pan. Bake at 300* for 90 minutes, stirring halfway through. (This makes a crunchy, fairly loose granola. Lower baking temp and shorten time for chewier results.)

twelve; seasons; pray for Jack

This past Saturday, that adorable little boy turned 12. Twelve! There’s such a strange tangle of emotions as he grows, because I could just weep buckets of tears with sadness of the precious days I’ll never have again with a sweet first baby and a sparkly-eyed toddler and a helpful 5yo and every other day of this always-by-my-side firstborn’s life. And I most certainly would weep those buckets if I wasn’t so busy being filled with delight over the young man he is today, and how much enjoyment there is as his life unfolds.

He spent the morning of his twelfth birthday completely engrossed in writing and presenting a play with his siblings. This isn’t an everyday occurrence; most of his ideas these days have less pretend and fewer sisters involved. To say, then, that the younger set was in heaven would be an understatement. He couldn’t have planned a more special morning for them if he’d tried. What a blessing of a big brother!

Then an afternoon of playing some video games with William and two friends (oh, the hard decision of two friends! Whose idea was it to limit the birthdays in such a way? Oh yes, mine…) Ryan brought them into town for a couple of hours, and then we girls joined, carrying bags of gifts and picnic baskets of food and dishes, and of course, a chocolate cake! We closed the coffee shop a bit early and took it over: “Closed for a Private Party” — yup, that was us! Bagels and soda for the kids, salad and water for the grown ups. Gifts — such kind and thoughtful gifts those two friends gave! Again, the joy of watching young boys grow into thoughtful young men! — and voiced appreciation. Cake and milk.

Twelve.

And while it’s still just a warm-up to those [regularly regarded as infamous but difficult doesn’t need to mean bad] teen years, in our church and social circles, twelve is a pretty big milestone. Two days later, he scrambled through his dinner clean up and put on clean clothes and got himself ready for a first in our family: youth group at church. Ryan and I were one big jumble of emotion — in disbelief that we’re already here and wanting to put him back in kindergarten just one more time, and full of so much expectation for how God will meet him in these coming days.

So he joined this tribe of young men and women, and launched into a new season of life.

And in so doing, launched me, too. Here I go. Laugh-crying all the way.

Appropriately, his first night at youth, many of them wore their “Jack’s Army” t-shirts, a visible representation of their spiritual support of my nephew, Jackson Paladin. This morning, as the sun rose, so did my prayers for the nephew I love so dearly. Today that port he had installed on Monday will carry the first doses of chemotherapy to his body. This is hard for me to think about. This whole procedure of a bone marrow transplant has made me feel as I do when I’m boarding an airplane and everything in me is screaming to turn around and run from that little tiny plane that will bring feelings of claustrophobia. But there is nothing for it but to press forward, buckle in, and know that the destination is worth the difficulty between. And so this morning dawns with that same sensation of me wanting to bundle us all up and just run the other way — but no. Forward, resolute, and knowing that God is in this place. He will deliver and is delivering, as He stands guard over Jackson’s body every moment and speaks His nearness to His heart with every breath.

Pray for Jack, if you will. There is a great destination of health and strength awaiting him on the other side of this journey.