a purposeful home

In August, I made an impulse purchase. I judged a book by it’s fabulous cover and bought it. This week, it made its way to the family room, where I’ve been perusing its contents (while nestled under an afghan, sometimes by candlelight, because of course.)

It’s that time of year. My kids say lots of great things, but something William said a few months ago made my heart happy: “My favorite time of year is winter, because it gets dark early and there are candles and music and we’re all together.” This from my boy who is out playing football as often as possible. Who knew the regular rituals I’ve attempted to create, in order to craft “homey” out of a time that could just be cold and dull, were making a clear impression on him.

Of course, that freshly inspired me. It’s not always easy, being all together indoors from 4pm on, keeping hearts and hands occupied, trying to convince myself to not just send us all to bed because it’s pitch black, after all. It helps to remember that the quiet music or the fun board game or even the “everyone get a book and sit quietly at the fire until I say” is doing more than just keeping us sane; it’s making memories. It’s making home.

Back to the book: hygge is a Danish word and concept, and so here you’ll find the makings of the unusually happy Danish culture (according to statistics.) Lighting, food, furnishings, friends… all of the elements that add to a slow, cozy enjoyment of the moment — especially the dark ones.

But I couldn’t help but think, as I read with a pink-cheeked baby sleeping in the crook of my arm, that I didn’t see all that much about babies. About making this culture for others enjoyment. I did a quick check, and sure enough, the Danes seem to be missing something crucial.


And not just Denmark; it is an overarching problem in many countries.

This made me sad, but it also was a very powerful reminder: candles, warm bread, an emphasis on friendship over productivity, and sheepskin on every surface rings a bit hollow if it’s all feeding a need for my happiness. That just can’t be the point. And I know: toddlers knock candles over, kids grimace at the slow-cooked stew, your favorite afghan is in the wash because someone escaped the table with banana hands, and late night game nights with friends are tough when the baby needs to be nursed to sleep. This investment costs something.

But home is meant to be created as an investment in the next generation. That’s the whole point: homes as a safe, welcoming place of ministry.

This is a good reminder for me. Home is a tool, the end to the means — not the end in itself.

november.

November 1st.

Darkness greets me as I open my eyes, and the soft murmur of furnace faithfully warming house.

Coffee drips steadily, body slowly warming to awake as I push through today’s core work, sitting to read John and sip that warm brew, finally breaking away from the lure of Christmas shopping online to don coat and hat, and: still dark.

Clean air greets me, albeit cold. Swinging arms to fight cold, weaving on and off road to stay away from cars that don’t see me, pulling hat lower over ears: my winter morning routine has begun.

Warm breakfast from oven, candles lit. Sunlight spills glorious and bright, then just as quickly disappears in a cloud of brooding gray. At lunch we pause, listen, and then sit with mouths agape as tens, scores, a hundred or more? geese wing overhead. By late afternoon, windows are wet with drizzly rain and darkness creeps in again, already, hemming us in. Scent of pumpkin pie wafts, piano is practiced, and we grab books and gather close to one another.

I love November.

True, leaves are gone. No one schedules a trip to the Adirondacks now, as every last vestige of beauty and life has been ripped from limbs by wind and turned to mush by autumn rains. Bare gray branches stand exposed against the sky, and corn fields quiet to a soft gold. Everywhere, a palette of steel blue, chestnut brown, spun gold, faded green. It is alternatively gentle and austere, changed in an instant by the drama that unfolds moment by moment in the late autumn sky.

Our flurry of first days of school have calmed, and we have settled into how this goes. A few more weeks, and the steady routine will begin to fall apart as we anticipate and plan and create for the coming holidays. Beef stew and buttermilk biscuits, applesauce and roast chicken — these are novel again and fill not just tummies but hearts. Board games are rediscovered in the evenings, and throws and blankets don’t stay folded long between use. Favorite books are pored over, made all the more enjoyable by the flicker of firelight.

I love November.

*****

Goodbye, lovely October. You were beautiful, too.


Taken on the morning of the first frost.

Taken on a hike last week.

Taken in our backyard.

Taken on a Sunday morning just because.

to grandmother’s house we go

Having our entire septic system rebuilt has been an experience, with huge equipment tearing up a massive section of our yard. A couple days into limited water usage, as we headed toward no water usage for at least a bit, the kids and I went down to my parents’ house for the better part of a week.

Living close enough to my parents to have them at most every birthday gathering and special day, as well as the quick visit here and there, is just wonderful. The down side, of course, is that a few hours here and there is usually the length of a visit. Settling into their home for day after day of just being was such a special gift. The kids got to move slowly enough to peruse bookshelves and find treasures and make up games and just absorb that sense of being at “grandmother’s house.”

Our unofficial first vacation of the summer:


devotions at breakfast each day


plenty of time to just sit with a babe or two


Nana’s magical garden path, where toddlers get lost in primrose


keeping house


finding a new corner to explore


sleeping in with baby


game after game of wiffle ball


naps on rainy days


somebody snuck my phone during our read-aloud


boys I love


heading out to play in “my” backyard — so special.

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!

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.