October days

Have you ever looked at photos of truly amazingly beautiful places in the world and thought, “I can’t believe people just live there! Wake up every morning and do life in that stunning place. What is that even like??”

In October, I feel like I am that person.

You can’t believe that I live here, that I just drive around doing errands, folding laundry, checking the mail, and THIS is all around me. Just casually being more stunning than anyone can even absorb.

I know that this little rural pocket has never made it onto any global tourist brochures, but that just makes it more amazing to me: that this little canvas, painted every single season with absolute brilliance, is an every day sort of painting for the Great Designer. He just does this because why wouldn’t He?

That makes me smile as I think about the deep clean I did of my closet yesterday. Probably no one, not even Ryan, will even notice or care that there isn’t dust on the baseboard no one can ever see anyway, but that’s okay. I bet the sun glances off of scarlet leaves in a wood no one ever visits, and it’s not wasted effort or beauty. It’s consistency and character we can count on — and I want to mirror that the best I can.

*****

Two weeks or so of October, and we’ve filled it to the brim with living. A trip to Burlington to celebrate Jameson’s 13th birthday, the start of Friday Enrichment Program for the kids and me, apples arriving by the bushels to be processed and baked and just plain old eaten at a startling pace, up to our eyeballs already with learning and reaching our first milestone with a special “German Day,” an overnight with friends, ballet and Lego League and learning to read, and packing up for another special outing to see my grandparents.

Finding rhythms that serve us where we’re at (finding rhythm is different that forcing rhythm, which is what I naturally tend to do, as I assume my rhythm is the right one.) Shifting things around, being flexible, helping the kids to learn to do the same. Coming face to face afresh with my weakness and old sin patterns of frustration and impatience and lack of grace when the noise and activity overwhelms me, revisiting the truths God has shown me many times over.

*****

Time to wrap up those pies and hit the road. More October days to live!

time + tending

This morning, the horizon was flushed with pink when I emerged from the shower at around 6:15. The world was yet mostly dark, but soon, the sun promised, day would break.

Remember when the sun was up before my alarm went off at 5:50? Wasn’t that just yesterday?

I exercised along with my usual video, which is accompanied by a sound track including the calming sound of birds and such. And I realized those pre-recorded birds were all I could hear, because our windows are shut tight and probably the only birds to hear are Canada geese, anyway.

Remember when every morning was greeted with bird song of every variety? When did that stop?

I set up my Bible and notebook at the kitchen table, ready to dive into my morning routine, and then wondered when I suddenly stopped heading out to the picnic table each morning. All summer long, for months, watching the birds and smelling the grass and enjoying the humid dawning of a summer day.

Remember? When did that stop? Was it too dark, too cold? I’m not even sure, but all at once we’re all tucked safely inside with slippers and blankets, waiting for the sun rather than the sun waiting for us.

It’s October, suddenly.

*****

Turkey families are everywhere, while the deer are (cleverly) disappearing from sight. The sky has once again become a thoroughfare for migration. Hydrangeas are settling into their deepest pink hue, while the rest of the garden begins to shrivel, having been touched by frost. Football lines are painted in the yard, and fingers and cheeks are pink at the end of playtime. I dug out mittens for my morning walk yesterday. Already, school sessions on the picnic table are rarely an option; stiff fingers make for poor penmanship. Winter squash is in the CSA rotation, and Christmas music has joined the stack on the piano. Here we are, the glowing end of summer. Up here, it means days more glorious than any July can boast, and tinged each evening with the scent and knowing of goodbye. Winter is coming.

*****

I love every season of the Northeast, but I only wish they could slow down a bit. Doesn’t this crazy spinning earth know that every rotation ages my babies another day, every revolution brings us closer to them leaving? One thousand miles an hour around its axis, and I believe it; my head is spinning.

*****

It’s a scramble to quickly bring in every last thing from the vegetable gardens this time of year. There’s a hard STOP looming, a frost that will bring an end to the season of harvest. It is a reminder to me, too: I don’t just get to fiddle around in my garden forever. There’s a hard end to each season, and the time to work is now. The time to sow my life into a future generation is now. Dig, sow, water, weed, prune, stake, spray, tend.

My friend tells me, “They say the best thing a farmer can put on his garden is his shadow,” meaning, don’t plant and forget. I let that sink into my heart. Every day, let the shadow of my invested presence linger over the hearts of my children. Don’t plant and forget. Tend daily.

Tend my own soul: taking in the Word, pouring out my heart, listening to Him speak, walking out obedience.
Tend their souls: bodies, souls, spirits.

Tend now. This is our season.

another first day.

On Tuesday, we had our last day of summer, celebrated with a family outing to Lake Placid and the top of Whiteface. Ryan and I each strapped a little girl to our back, and we all climbed that last 425 feet to the top. (Fiona the Fearless was like a mountain gazelle once we reached the top and there was the summit to explore.) It was a perfect day of sunshine and clear views, new shoes and ice cream cones.

Yesterday we dove into a brand new school year. I just love being with my kids. Managing our routines and connecting with individual needs while moving us along as a whole each day is challenging — and then of course remembering that I’m still the cook when dinner time rolls around! But while some days are more smooth than others, I wouldn’t trade this for the world. The years are short, and I’m so glad they’re here with me. The investment is enormous, but it’s also weighty: days of math pages and consonant sounds and gerunds and butterflies bursting and charting of Nazi invasions — they are days of talking and living Jesus out loud. Chores, character training, piano practice, sibling interactions all opportunities to see us grow into our destiny, responding by faith to the grace of the gospel and purposing each day to yield ourselves to the good works prepared for us to walk in.

As we capped off the first day, I sat in a circle of women — sisters — and pondered the incredible courage and investment of Moses’ mother. And investment that set him apart and positioned him to respond to the call of God on his life. She knew the years were short, too, and she made them count.

Lord, I want to make this year count. Be glorified.


found in William’s nature journal — my child who doesn’t love art and thinks himself unable, but has learned to obediently engage and do his best. I couldn’t believe how lovely it was.

Fiona is six! (in lots of photos)

This five year old turned six on August 25, and we celebrated with her much anticipated rainbow themed party! When I say much anticipated, I mean that we sat together in FEBRUARY and jotted down all of her thoughts. Ever since, she has regularly flipped to that page in my planner and just looked at the magical words at the top: “Fiona — 6!”

Her special party that happens only once. A theme, friends to fill the table (her friend list was composed mostly of parents and siblings — how sweet!), games and favors and real invitations (except I got behind and had to do evites, but she didn’t care). This all means special chats with Mama about what food you want and which napkins to choose. It means a special shopping day to buy the balloons and skewers and other supplies just for your party. It means a week with special preparations each day. It means seeing tabs open on Mama’s laptop with directions for rainbow cakes and ideas for party favors and so many things that are all about YOU.

And so she turned six on a beautiful, perfect August day, with friends and fanfare because we love her so very much. Fiona is pure delight. She is friends with everyone, has an imagination that keeps her entertained all day and makes her eyes sparkle, sings and dances and plays piano and giggles and climbs trees and creates play houses in the trees and just never stops being happy and easy. Her eyes are huge and don’t miss a thing, and she’d rather learn from other siblings’ mistakes than make her own, and for the most part, she does. She does her chores faithfully with hardly any reminder. She’s incredibly patient with her younger sisters and intuitively knows how to keep them happy. And she loves people.

I am so eager to see who this young lady will someday be, but feel so incredibly privileged to be here for the little girl years. I get to hold her hand and braid her hair and guide her in wisdom and listen to her little and big woes. I get to be her mama. What a wonder.

I love you so much, Fiona Elspeth.

Some rainbow preparations

Ready for church on her birthday morning

Waiting for guests

They’re here!

Her face in the background as her “surprise” plan was revealed!

Games, gifts, shared appreciation, and rainbow fairy wands outside in the sunshine — while Fiona happily soaked it all in.

This beautiful little girl. Picture taken by Jameson — didn’t he capture her sweetness so very well?

july.

Time for a photo dump, as apparently it’s now August, July is somehow over, and except for pictures I’m not even sure I would remember what we did!

Somewhat in order, with huge gaps because I did a horrible job remembering to take pictures this month, July was:

taking the kids to Norwood Lake (my one and only effort at “I’m going to get the kids to the beach this summer!”);

celebrating the 4th with no parade due to heat + humidity, but an enjoyable discussion of the Declaration around the breakfast table, and a long and lovely afternoon in Carina and Ricky’s backyard;

a trip to Maine where cousins are always the highlight, but beach trips and ice cream and pool time and baseball games are fun, too;

summer evenings of frisbee and reading and learning to do the slide by her 1-year-old self and somersaults and mosquitos;

starting the brain dump of school planning (if you follow Brietta on IG now is the time to laugh at her table of books vs mine. We all laugh over our kids and how “different each one is.” That never stops being true. My sisters all amaze me in so many ways!)

swim lessons that cousins did, too, and the fun day they stayed with us and we rocked the van all the way home to the tune of Newsies;

playground visits with a toddler who’s way less scared of heights than her mama;

waking up one morning to a lawn full of the tiniest, prettiest mushrooms;

slipping away from this one each afternoon (that we’re home!), and making myself pause to notice her sweetness — it’s always so tempting to rush to the list of things I hope to do in the one hour when everyone is napping/resting/reading!;

the summertime pleasures of juicy fresh fruit, free bouquets along the roadside that are yours for the picking, and a freckled daughter getting older by the moment;

a last hurrah with cousin Margaret before their big move, and laughing at all of her wild imaginations and antics and brilliance (they really are all so different, and I get to see that up close times 24, almost 25, make that 26… plus 4 on the other side… so many nieces and nephews to enjoy!)

Not pictured at all is my sister Camilla’s stunning performance in a community theater production that was so far beyond community theater quality; lots of work with Ryan as he keeps the ball rolling with his company; a church picnic that was lovely; play days with friends; lunches after church; lots of walks after dinner; chess obsession for the boys; Shakespeare camp; goodbye party for the Gilchrist’s; and beautiful sun-drenched mornings sitting with my Bible and journal on the side lawn, serenaded by a thousand birds and wishing it could go on forever.

July is over. Time to go inside and flip the calendar. A whole new month, another month of summer, although my thoughts are turning… Here, the past photo on my phone:

An invitation to fill those empty spaces with all the new hopes and plans for a year of learning and growing.

a short thought on work

We finished school two weeks ago, and this week the kids found their summertime groove. Monday was warm and summery, and I just sort of soaked in all of the smiles and free time that resulted in sibling play and enjoyment. Flowers blooming are the icing on the cake.

There are many things to do right now. The list is long — and when I get through with it, I could always do more laundry. Or glance at Ryan’s list and realize how many hours of help he could use. Just always the next thing.

But sometimes the next thing is cutting peonies because the won’t be here forever; they’re a “this moment” gift. It’s reading to a baby who suddenly wants to hear all of the animal sounds. Going slow enough to give many hugs to growing sons who so clearly crave my affection, even if they don’t fit on my lap anymore.

Sometimes the next thing is just giving thanks, rejoicing, not letting those lists stop up the flow of gratitude for has been, what is, what is promised to be.

Today there is work to be done — but I want to work deeply (to borrow a phrase from Ryan), and not just skimming the surface of a checklist.