school days

This past week was a special one: We officially started school! True, there was quite a bit of math and lots of pages of language that had been finished here and there, in pockets of time, but our real honest-to-goodness start was this past Monday. (There are many reasons I love homeschooling, and being able to accommodate our life’s schedule, rather than the other way around, is a huge reason. Some years we begin in August, and this year we pushed it off to enjoy the gift of visitors. In so many ways, curriculum is a tool, not a master!)

There isn’t much new or sparkly about this year. Our rhythm looks similar to past years. The important elements of our day, around which other things just have to fit, remain pretty much the same. This meant a fairly smooth beginning, as the kids all know how to do this. We worked hard and got the week’s requirements finished, and still had time for a good long annual trek in the ADKs with our friends. And an ice cream treat after grocery errands on Thursday afternoon! (Gotta celebrate school and a September that is maintaining highs in the mid-80s!)


Ready and waiting.


In action.


“Free time!” = kids sitting inside and reading. We’ve missed school!


Boys figuring out the rhythm of their days and deciding a jump start is more fun.


slipping into september

September came…

A few weeks with a dear family — continual laughter and friendship and food. What a gift!

And then back to just us.

They love each other. So much.

We’re slipping math and workbooks into the days, but looking forward to one more special guest this week before we break out the new routines. We can’t wait to break it all out — and we’re also loving the fluidity of these weeks.

Soon.

For now, the beauty of transition.

au revoir, august

Our field is finally hayed. The wild tangle of goldenrod and Queen Ann’s Lace is gone, cut and dried and rolled into a momentary pastoral tableau that made me smile with satisfaction before it was carried away on a flatbed farm trailer.

We’re cleaning up from summer, I guess.

Crickets chirp continuously. Are they louder in August, or do I just grow more aware, knowing windows will soon close and then the world will close, too, hemmed in by snow and ice and stillness. A cicada interrupts the monotone symphony and I hush us: Listen! See! Smell! Savor it all, bottle it up, soul fed and ready for a long hibernation and an austere diet of frozen beauty.

We sit in sundresses and shorts still, soaking in sunshine, but keeping cardigans and afghans at the ready, knowing the sun will dip sooner and leave us damp and chilly, smelling autumn in the evening air.

Cupboard doors, closed, hide the shelves I’ve organized, sharpened pencils in jar, curriculum chosen after long deliberations. Fresh notebooks, new chore charts, basket of living books at the ready — but for now, tucked away. Waiting a bit longer.

The end of summer is celebrated here with cakes and presents, thanks to my August babies. Fall will be ushered in the same way, thanks to boys born under harvest moons. The signposts are everywhere, I guess is what I’m saying, and yet… I’m stubbornly, sentimentally lingering. I’m not ready, not quite, not this year. I contemplate pulling out that math program during a quiet afternoon hour but then you grab a glove to play catch and I almost sigh in relief. Yes, let’s do that. Let’s be carefree and in the moment, just for one more day. Or maybe another week? Yes. Grab a blanket and book, listen to the crickets. Let’s do that.

*****

Fiona

My incredibly fun Fiona turned four last week. I don’t know how or when, but she, too, is getting older!

What a gift she is, as her personality develops and she begins to make a greater impression on the identity of our family. Her imagination is boundless. Her bravery is, too. She smiles and laughs almost all day, save for the occasional storm cloud that passes her face when she’s put out with you. There’s a feisty streak in there, but quick to learn, too, and she delights in her own growth. (“Mama, did you notice? I didn’t whine at all today!”) She’s full of ideas for how her pretend world should go, and happy to boss her generally-compliant older sister around. She’s affectionate and delightful and the greatest moment in her life was being in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, which she discusses in the present tense.

I loved three year old Fiona, but I’m sure four year old Fiona will be great, too — especially since she still has the roundest, chubbiest little cheeks.

We do love her so.


Last night of being three!


Morning playground outing


Me and my girl all matchy, in chambray and denim.


Lunch with friends


Candyland before dinner. Not pictured: pizza, ice cream cake, and the huge crowd of cousins that descended!


All tucked in. Still my baby.

Beatrice’s birthday party

Birthday season has begun around here, and it was kicked off this year with an especially big celebration: Beattie’s “real” 6th birthday party!

We pick a theme — for her, a tea party. The soon-to-be-6yo can invite a whole table full of guests, and while Beatrice could have filled ten tables, we sorted it out eventually and mailed invitations. We pick a menu — in this case, heavily influenced by a mother who could commit to a variety of little desserts but not also an entire dinner. Games are selected and prepared. We decorate party bags and place cards and just make this day a big deal. There is one big idea here: to bless and affirm this child in a special way. I can’t do it every year, but we can do it once, and it is fun.

Beatrice loved it. She counted down the days and lit up with every incoming RSVP. She also kept trying to lobby for those 9 other tables of guests, but I held firm. She would see me gathering supplies and pretty things, baking ahead and preparing and just glowed.

And finally the day came, and we welcomed a houseful of sweet friends, from young cousins to high school graduates and grandparents, and we celebrated our Beatrice Elaine, bringer of joy and light.

Happiest of days to you, my oldest daughter and special joy.

*****


All in readiness


They’re here!


All the pretty girls!


Pin the teacup on the saucer.


Nana won!


Houseful.


Pretty desserts,


in tiers, because tea party.


Make a wish


Brothers who happily dressed the part and helped me out.


I love these three.


The birthday crew, including two incredibly generous young adults who made her birthday dreams come true by coming and and being nothing less than selfless in their interactions with these many young children. Hats off to them!


The aftermath… *sigh* All just memories.

memories

Mid August.

The sun changes, the air cools each night. And the scent. I love the subtle changes of scent as summer blossoms, then matures into autumn.

Nostalgia.

As this 30-foot long row of hydrangea bursts into bloom, its powdery scent filling the yard and wafting through open windows into the kitchen, I’m taken back to my Augusts of expectation, nine months pregnant with Beatrice, and then Fiona. I hear the bees buzzing, morning till night, in these sun-drenched blooms and am transported to those days of waiting, anticipating, and finally of bringing a swaddled newborn outside to see the hydrangeas for themselves.

On this day six years ago, I awoke still pregnant, overdue for the first time in my life, and I started to know what hope deferred felt like in a physical manifestation.

I listened to bees buzz and smelled the hayed fields and Queen Ann’s lace and brought in new bouquets of hydrangea, and waited.

This morning it all comes back to me. And I know the best is yet to come, but these memories — they are my most precious treasures.