February, in photos

The shortest month, almost done. So much just life crammed into four short weeks. So many moments of ordinary, and every one special and meaningful. I think that’s amazing.


This little one learning to stand, and take a few steps. Making us laugh with antics, loving when all eyes are on her.


This oldest one readily helping out each and every day.


Many mornings spent at the kitchen table, with kids drawing or painting while I read out loud from our current history selection. This hour+ is NOT on the schedule I made last fall, but that’s my favorite part of deep winter months: the quiet hours of books and creativity that sort of insert themselves in a way that just fits.


Mornings that occasionally look like this. Waking early and getting out for a walk before it all begins has been harder this winter than any other season in 5 years! But I keep trying. Something is better than nothing.


This blurry pic represents a whole-family excursion to scope out a new business location. As soon as we were all buckled in, I suddenly realized we hadn’t done anything all together since Christmas. We went out for dinner and it was special. We love each other.


We read lots of books in the winter. I wish it could be more — does anyone else look over their bookshelves and think, How can we read all of these wonderful stories today?!? But a moment here and a page there. It’s regular and routine and part of our lives, and I’m glad for that.


Reading is also togetherness most of the time.


I love hearing the boys read out loud. They put their best into it (although occasionally not, and I tell them to do it all over without the race-to-the-end effect!) This book is our 2017 winter favorite. “Snow,” by Uri Shulevitz. The kids always begin the story with title and author, because saying “Uri Shulevitz” is the most fun. If you don’t have this book, and you have littles, get it! Fiona had the story memorized immediately, so captivated was she by the simple text and fun illustrations.


February is when spring endeavors begin. William has begun rehearsals twice a week for his role in the upcoming high school musical. And no, he’s not in high school yet. Phew.


This. Every morning (except the occasional day when my routine gets thrown off and I forget!) A salad for Ryan. Probably most people think of him as a free spirit, spontaneous. And he is, somewhat. But not completely. He loves, craves routine. So each morning, this.


This past week, days that reached 60* (!!!), and rain that has melted all but the biggest piles of snow. But the week before, the loveliest snowfall of the entire winter. What I have no pictures of is the kids outside. Every single day, regardless of how on or off track we are, they head outside after lunch. They laugh and play (and fight and resolve), and are friends, even the ten year old boy and three year old girl. I love it.


This baby of mine. I just love her. She naps in a little “nest” on the floor, because I’m a weird hippie or something. We have no crib. Somehow I’ve always gotten through the crib stage without one, even if it’s a bit unconventional for a few months. She’s too old to be left on my bed, of course, but wants to lay down and nurse to sleep at nap time. So we do. I love these baby days. I know, and you know: they go too fast.


One of those mornings I did get out to walk, I sacrificed exercise for fellowship. I’ve been thinking about cultivating friendship with these girls. Rapport. Fiona, especially, really loves me. Somehow it’s easy to not really notice that, or to somehow think she just loves the mom in her life, but not necessarily me. I don’t want to take for granted or assume her affection. She’s a unique person who genuinely loves me as a person.

And so much more not pictured. Thoughts, conversations, piano lessons and meals and laundry piles and chores crossed off. Friends and family we share life with all week long. Choices made that allow for regular remembrance of Who our lives belong to and how we can honor Him.

So Happy Sunday. Thanks for following along with this update of the ordinary. Have a blessed day!

september 6: starting school

Yesterday, we jumped back into the full swing of things.

Something about this year has my head swirling, nervous and excited, and I’ll confess that I had a hard time sleeping in anticipation of the First Day. Would it go okay? Did I think it through enough? Would they like it? Would it go hilariously awry or be tragically disastrous? (“Hilariously awry” is a pessimist’s attempt at positivity.)

It was great.

It’s a lot of work, isn’t it? It was after dinner before I caught my breath, and then wondered how on earth I ever fit anything else into life — including basic things like returning text messages! I did, however, get to shower before evening, so I’ll count that a big win for me. Jameson was, of course, excitedly pushing through as many math lessons as possible before I finally noticed he was still awake last night and sent him to bed. William loves a checklist and excitedly crossed almost every item off (I may have some pie-in-the-sky hopes for what we can do in a day. That will get reevaluated this week as we see how our rhythms really flow best.) And Beatrice, of course. “I can’t believe this is really my first day of kindergarten!” Then last night, getting ready for bed: “I can’t believe tomorrow will be my second day of kindergarten!” I wonder how long she’ll be keeping track?

And, in true homeschooling fashion, the boys even spontaneously spent the afternoon helping my dad with a project. Rocking real life is the name of the game, joyfully looking ahead to each day with a willingness to bend and bow and weave learning into the fibers of real moments.

We got to the end of our day, and they all played basketball and frisbee with so much joy for a few minutes before bed, and I felt so soul-satisfied. It is good to work hard, with abandon, at the will of God. One can’t measure success by “soul satisfaction,” of course, but there is fruit. It is deep calling to deep, echoing, “This is right, and this is good.”

Sirens, a rare occurrence in my part of the world, woke me long ago, and so I am up meeting the day, admiring lingering stars, savoring quiet. Maybe some of you are up, too, maybe getting ready to begin school at your house. Send students off for the first time. Or maybe there are no little pupils in your life yet, or anymore. No matter the season, this day is written in His book for you: Seek His face, say yes to His will, and therein find delight and fountains of life.

August 18

We had a birthday.

I’m not the best party-thrower, and we aim for simple around here, but it is so good to stop the usual and celebrate the fact that God gave us the gift of each other.


making cake together


last hug for her 4yo sister


first-thing presents from neighbors who love her


coloring at the picnic table — the big event that held their attention for over an hour!


I love Fiona, quietly taking in every nuance of these big girls


getting ready


ready!


soaking it all in


“It’s just what I wanted!” I wish I could have captured her face. Perfect.


best big brothers

We are really thankful that God gave us this bright, perceptive, loving, joyful little lady.

august 11: Beatrice

Today Beatrice and I watched the sun rise, the air already heavy with the sticky humidity of the day. She brought books outside and read almost quietly while I spent a few minutes with my Bible.

She wants to help me cook all the time. Even when I’m trying so hard to just bang something out, she’s there, asking. Yesterday morning I wrote in my journal, “Help me to draw [the children] close,” and then had to laugh when the opportunity presented itself at the wrong moment. You know, the way God seems to do. I thought you wanted to be stretched, to embrace them more in each moment? Is this not a good one? No, God, it’s not quite what I was thinking, but the joke’s on me. I get it.

And I pull up a chair for the eager little girl next to me. She painstakingly puts each cucumber slice into the bowl, and I do my best to resist the urge to hurry her along. Her eyes sparkle and her dimples appear when she pops a slice into her mouth. I shake my head and laugh.

She has a birthday in six days. She’s been on cloud nine ever since the calendar page flipped to her month, and she is just bursting with anticipation. On August 2nd, I brought her on an errand and she very confidently walked next to me in the parking lot without holding my hand because, she asserted, she was nearly five, you know.

School books just for her are collecting, along with the boys’, in the corner of my room. I can’t imagine how excited she will be when she sees them all, just for her. Her very first CFA uniform came in the mail (had to grab that sale price in July!), and it’s been tried on and carefully hung. Each sock is rolled and tucked into a little navy blue shoe.

And tonight, she told me her tooth hurt, and when I touched it, it wiggled. “Oh my! You have a loose tooth!” Her eyes turned round as saucers, and then the biggest smile. “I have a loose tooth?! I’m getting to be such a big girl!”

These little people. They grow so fast. The circumference in which they travel around me grows wider and wider each year, and Beatrice is slipping into an orbit that is just beyond my perpetual reach. A little bit independent. Thinking about life a little bit more on her own. Laughing and singing and playing and doing it all without me much of the time.

So when she fingers that loose tooth, I grab her into my arms and give her a long squeeze. She’s growing, but she’s not grown quite yet. Still my little girl, still just right for a story on my lap.

an overview

The snow is long gone, though lingering days of cold have made the spring feel slow. No surprise, then, that I can’t quite wrap my mind around May. Well into the fifth month of this year that I thought just started.

Even more shocking is to look recently for a blog post I wrote a little while ago — only to realize it was 2.5 years ago already. And reading it over to realize, sure enough, there’s been a significant shift in this little [growing] family of ours: a shift from all littles to most definitely young men. Sleeves are still rolled, and I’m up to my elbows in the very real work of shaping young lives, but already there are glimpses of what will rise from these foundational years. I am, in very real and very practical ways, enjoying the fruit of days and days of digging in dirt. It’s happening: they’re growing up. Not just getting bigger — although oh my, the length of those legs and size of those feet! — but shoulders are broadening and starting to carry weight. Hearts are awakening and needing shepherding in deeper, slower, tender, firm ways. We have five children. Five! We are moving ahead. I think part of me always thinks life will settle back down and we’ll get back to “norma” — where my boys are forever little, stuffing pockets with who-knows-what and imagining themselves to be heroic explorers as they head off with a big stick and tri-corn hats. Where Beatrice never outgrows missing Rs and little girl cuddles.

We’re not going back to that. We’re not.

I could cry buckets about that. Knowing it goes fast, treasuring the moments, doesn’t slow life down. And it doesn’t mean you’re not sad to know those moments are gone.

But the path of the righteous shines brighter. We look ahead, not because it’s the only way to look, but because that’s where our hope lies. The morning sun dawns, and there is for that day an amazing promise of the presence of a faithful God. He leads us on paths of righteousness that are going somewhere. We live on this spinning planet, watching folly after folly unfold, knowing with King Solomon that there is nothing new under the sun — and yet, we are rescued from cynicism and fatalism by the Savior who has come to redeem. Now, tomorrow, and then. He is redeeming and making beautiful.

I see it in my growing sons. I see their minds growing and their words forming, their hearts widening and softening. I see it in my Beatrice who catches herself mid-sin and chooses to repent and turn — all on her own, because the Holy Spirit is her Shepherd, too. I see it in our marriage, blending us and tethering us and already forging something that could never be separated to the two parts we were ten years ago when we began. I see it in our lives, not because every day is easier (ha!), but because the light that leads us into the gathering dusk of this Age becomes more steady, more brilliant, more sure.

*****

It’s always easier for me to look out and see redemption than it is for me to look in. If I catch a glimpse of my soul, I am quick to say, “Who will deliver me from this body of death?” And this will be a mountain I’m sure to circle again, a familiar foe. But becoming equally familiar are the truths the Holy Spirit equips me with to fight the good fight. Is it a coincidence that Philippians 1:6 was a favorite verse in my early childhood? No.

And He continues to pour truth into my soul.

*****

We are running outside, soaking in life-giving green and the vast blue above. We are squealing at daffodils, celebrating bleeding hearts, dancing through dandelions. We are wearing sundresses and wool sweaters.

School books are nearly done, to be gladly replaced by more trail-blazing and swamp-searching, Huck Finn-reading, and Four Square-playing. (All that diligence in February pays off in the spring!)

Family came, playgrounds were visited, bagels consumed.

Meals have expanded beyond the early postpartum options of Main Dish Salad, Spaghetti with Meatballs, Repeat. Bread is made! –even if it is just the quick cheat kind, more often than not.

Colds are nursed, fevers tended to. Laundry is continually washed and dried, although less often folded and put away (got to figure out a better system for that.) Books are read, perhaps not on the couch cuddled under an afghan (as my idealistic self requires), perhaps while little girls sit in the tub, or while pb&j is being consumed. Correction is given, obedience required, kindness cultivated, anger and malice put aside. (Mine and theirs.)

And all the while, wrinkles appear on my face. Is it possible I’m this old? I’ve been too busy to have time to get older, but I guess that’s one thing that happens with no effort or intent on our part. Suddenly noticing that my hands don’t look 18 anymore — a quick reminder that life is short. Carpe diem. Give it all. This is my only chance to live, and give, today.

January, and thoughts.

I don’t know how to absorb all the wonder that is a new baby. I’ve really given it my best try five times now, and still the time slips too fast and change happens in a dizzying way and I’m left with a heart full of a love and a memory that is too full of holes to catch and hold so many moments. So many amazing moments.

Like watching her chest rise and fall in sleep.

Like seeing a twinkle emerge in her eyes as she recognizes us, smiles at us.

Like seeing her tongue quiver, mouth open wide in a newborn howl of protest.

Like scooping her up and having her immediately settle just because I am who she wants.

Like just feeling her near me.

I try to soak it in, breathe it deep, memorize it forever. This is the great Wonder of the World that I will see this year, after all, and while millions of others ogle over the Eiffel Tower and the Wall of China and Rockies breaking majestically from endless plain, only I will see her perfect yawn as she stretches awake in my arms at sunrise. They don’t make postcards of that moment. It’s just here, tucked into my heart, slowly becoming the fabric of a deep bond we’ll have forever.

*****

I think these thoughts as we settle down to sleep, we three who share our bed. I squeeze her just a bit, acknowledging the end of yet another day in her life, never to be had again, thankful I got to share it. He sighs and turns into his pillow, turning away from whatever burdens linger after a day of work, and I think, not for the first time: It’s the end of yet another day in his life, too, that will never be had again. Did I share it enough? Did I treasure it enough? His mother’s heart holds those sweet memories of his sweet yawns and cries and smiles, but is my heart treasuring these days of side-by-side hard work, of Daddy-kisses on princess cheeks and happily being hero to two waiting sons at the end of a grueling day and cradling fussy babe even though his shoulders are just as burdened as mine? Am I noticing the new creases near his eyes, the sprinkle of gray that’s not such a sprinkle anymore? Do I smile a bit as I fold a pile of undershirts and socks, maybe not so cute as those newborn sleepers, but belonging to an equally wonderful person? Do I just breathe in him and the way the bed sinks to his side and the lingering scent of shampoo on his pillowcase and just the solidity of him being here?

Suddenly I am on the adventure of a lifetime, taking in Wonders of the World all day long.

*****

New rhythms that are so gentle, legato, harmonious, they simply slipped into place without much effort at all:

A Circle Time of sorts each morning after breakfast. Long moments spent singing hymns, memorizing scripture and things, practicing what it means to hear Jesus, praying for what is on His heart. Reading out loud chapter after chapter of beautiful new Puffin Classics we got for Christmas. Hurrying through chores to get outside where they will run and chase and build for long stretches, leaving me with a new baby and a sweet toddler to read to and sing with and maybe, just maybe, get a shower? The sun stays so much longer all of a sudden, and so our afternoons stretch just enough to allow quiet book work with two delightful boys. Dinner is as simple as possible, made mostly from food I’ve prepared and tucked into the freezer, and for the first time ever, I’m sticking to simple. No “oh, since the soup is done, I’ll just make this new bread recipe and a pie or two while I’m at it.” No, just soup and quiet and practicing priorities for this season. It’s all good.

*****

Several afternoons, I’ve even gotten to slip out for a quick walk. Sometimes I do so with my head down, pounding my feet on that pavement as quickly as I can, trying to get all I can out of a mere 10 minutes. But sometimes I make the mistake of looking up — and the walk abruptly ceases. Who can absorb the beauty of a January day? I find them breathtaking.

*****

Stopping to see beauty certainly is aided, in my life, by cultivating an awareness of beauty in general. The children and I are having our thirst for beauty fed by poems from this book — a gift from my mother this past Christmas. I have written before about how in over my head I feel with poetry, but much to my astonishment, my children don’t seem to need to understand the meaning, or know what makes a poem a poem, or any such thing. They just listen, smiles dancing in their far-off gaze, as the words make music and magic. They, inevitably, beg for more.

Here’s a favorite —

(This sort of thing — taking a picture of a field, reading poetry with the kids, listening to Bach Violin Sonatas on a sunny sub-zero morning — this is “mother culture” for me. It’s self-care. It doesn’t even require that I get away or spend a single cent. Our Shepherd is very capable of finding fields and streams in the season we’re in. He restores our souls.)