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.

life in June.

Oh, June. How we love you.

Even this year’s variety of June, with cold rain that drives us to turn on the furnace just to rid the air of freezing damp — still somehow wonderful.

We closed out our school year on June 2 (well, 3rd; I woke Saturday morning at 6am to find Jameson already at the table, finishing up his last two lessons of math. June is motivating!) I have to say, we all seem to truly love our school days and routines, and my children are, generally, a joy to teach, but by the end we are itching and squirming and ready to just wake up and go. Go play, go read, go sit by the window and stare. Anything.

And so here we are, ending our second real week of summer vacation, and well on our way to a fun, eventful summer. Eventful in the sense of you never know what may happen; one day you’re happily living life, and the next, your backyard is torn up because there’s a septic issue. Time to stock up on paper plates and quarters for the laundromat.

*****

One thing I am finding about mothering many children, more and more of whom are of the school age variety, is there is a shortage of time. (You can laugh, I realize that’s the most obvious realization a girl ever made.) Consequently, during the course of a school year my linen closets and medicine cabinets and kitchen drawers and freezers deteriorate into some chaotic semblance of their formerly organized selves. For the last few months I have just gritted my teeth, put the band aids away, and closed the door on the rest of the mess, saying to myself, “Someday.” But when? When is the “someday” that no one needs me and I tear the house apart and do some good old fashioned spring cleaning?

I’m not sure. It eludes me.

And so I did a brain dump. That always, always helps me: get it all down on paper. I have a list in the back of my “planner” (a Mead college-ruled notebook, because I am that organized) of all house projects, and another of outdoor/garden projects. This means that on any given day, when a snippet of time presents itself, I don’t have to wonder where to start (which ends up in me doing nothing); I can flip to the back of my notebook and select a project that fits the moment. AND THEN CROSS IT OFF. Is that not the best feeling in the world?

*****

There are aspects of summer that have always been challenging for me. Namely, the lack of routine and quick spiral into disorder of our hearts and environment. I am slowly learning our family and our particular brand of needs, and maybe, just maybe, getting better at this summertime thing.

June 6th, we began our summer days with this pinned to the wall:

We have a couple of chunks of scripture we’ll memorize and discuss this summer, beginning with Proverbs 3. Taking our time with one passage means great discussion, with time to ponder layers of meaning and application. It also means I’m not in a hurry to cram them full of all my thoughts at once — we can just take it line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little, there a little.

I’ve selected two books to read aloud (maybe three; we’ll see how far we get), and began with Winnie the Pooh. Because no, we have never read it in its entirety, but this year it is perfect. My boys just love dry, British humor, and we find ourselves laughing all the way through each chapter. And the girls love the stories. Throw in an inordinate amount of rainy indoor days, and there you have it, the perfect start to our morning routine.

*****

Summer mornings means I feel less hurry in my own morning ritual of coffee, Bible time, and a walk. I’ve been slowly going through Nancy Campbell’s “The Power of Motherhood” in the mornings, and finding it amazingly rich. So, so much to think about. Very highly recommended.

*****

And pictures. I love summertime pictures.


Playing with cousins;


Beatrice’s graduation from kindergarten, and the aftermath of her little party;


waking up early to play with Beattie’s new toys;


breakfast at the picnic table turned into a morning playtime — my favorite kinds of breakfast!;


out with the old and in with the new;


gardening with Beatrice;


beautiful evenings spent as a family;


and our most current event: learning about how septic systems work. Or don’t work.

*****

Lastly, listening this week to a series my father preached. It is really, really good. He is easy to listen to, keeps things very simple, and yet communicates principles that are truly life changing. If you’re on your way to work, or getting laundry going, or slipping out for some exercise, give it a listen.

Happy Friday!

home inspiration


Beatrice’s latest cutting, so simple and pretty.

Where do you get your homemaking inspiration from? And by homemaking, I do not mean home renovating or home perfecting. If ever a generation of women has been inundated with perfect images of what a home should be, it is surely ours. It can be overwhelming.

While I certainly have my hopes and plans for improvements here, and keep a list and a few pinterest boards of ideas, those things are sometimes a bit far off. Meanwhile, we’re living here today, and this is my opportunity to make home.

I don’t always feel it, though. Sometimes I just get tired out and it’s so easy to just settle into a rut. And that “sometimes” gets more and more frequent, as I find I must actually make time for cultivating a home environment that comforts and nurtures and functions and inspires.

So I look for regular boosts of inspiration — and I often find it on the pages of children’s books! We gave Fiona a couple of Angelina Ballerina books for Easter, and I am in love with her home. Warm, inviting, pretty, full of the things they actually use, and even — quelle horreur! — signs of being lived in. I also have foxglove envy, if I’m honest. Ha!

What inspires you? Don’t get weighed down by unrealistic expectations or images that don’t really suit you and your family culture. Ask who God made you to be, and what qualities you can cultivate simply through creative care of your home. If you’d love to read and learn more about the subject, I highly recommend Edith Schaeffer’s The Hidden Art of Homemaking.

springtime

A month of magic: from twiggy trees and yards of last year’s faded grass, gardens piled with wind-blown sticks and muck, there is the magical transformation of spring.

Leaves.
Emerald lawn.
Perennials waking to new life.

Over all, truest blue skies and softest white clouds.

Fox runs back and forth through our field, hunting for a little den of kits somewhere in our woods. Birds of so many varieties wake us before dawn, a dawn that comes earlier and earlier. Deer brazenly meander through field, somehow keenly aware that this is not the season for hunters.

The world awakes, every year.

This is an awakening I am often watching for so eagerly — but this year, it slips in all around me and takes me utterly by surprise. (Wearing wool socks more often than t-shirts may have something to do with that!)

*****

We turned to May and saw every calendar day of that first week marked PRODUCTION! My four children performed with our homeschool program’s high school musical, and it was the most wonderful experience for each of them. Jameson loved being a part and watching all the backstage workings from an up-close vantage point; Beatrice just loved the camaraderie; Fiona, it would seem, has a great love for this sort of thing and had every line and movement memorized; and William (in a larger role) was just wonderful. He was full of sparkle and life and energy, and worked so hard to do his very, very best all the time, despite how tired he may have been. I was incredibly blessed to watch him come to life up there, with his fellow cast members, in a way I’ve never seen before. The production itself was phenomenal and a testament to how much can be accomplished in a setting where parents and church pour into and value children.

*****

My dear mother in law also came for a visit, long enough for us to get used to her being here, living life with us! The kids were all so sad when she had to leave. The best moments (for me) were looking into the family room to see her sitting on the couch in conversation with a few of the kids, them happily telling her all about something or other, just so happy to be with her.

*****

And now, whew, where are we? Growing children, yearning soul, weed-filled gardens, filling forms for next academic year…

For now, today, just a pause.

I know there are so many things to do — needful things, hoped for things. But these last few days have slowed enough to just breathe, and rather than quickly cram with the next page of to-dos, I’m smiling and laughing and getting off that bad habit of a hamster wheel.

april in pictures

This spring is winning the award for Most Money Spent Heating Our House. To welcome May 1st, I turned up the thermostat. But rain or no rain, this month promises to be bursting with fun and activity. Before we launch into all of that, a quick bit of reflection. April was…

…days of routine at home,


(I love Beatrice’s drawings!)

…bringing the boys to their NYSSMA performance evaluation, where they both did superbly,


(I tried to get pictures of the boys getting ready to perform, but too many nerves to stand still and smile.)

…Easter celebrations!,

…a few mild days that found us running to be outdoors,

…food, of course,

…presbytery meetings at church, and William receiving prayer,

…and shuttling my four little thespians back and forth to rehearsals. Each drive finds them more and more and more excited to perform this coming weekend!

That’s it! April is done. A fresh page today (true, with many squares filled in already), that can be given completely to Him. He’s got a book, too, and all my days are written in it. Comfort and purpose.