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.

spring growth

What a slow spring we’ve had.

And even as I type that, I realize how many things we can learn from observing the course of nature. Sometimes promised seasons of vibrancy and fruitfulness are slow in coming — but they come. Lilacs two weeks behind, peonies nowhere to be found, furnaces getting a break for the first time since October — this is a northern spring, for sure. And yet, green is bursting forth in all of its June glory, shade upon shade, dazzling and sumptuous, rejoicing to take its place on the stage of time.

It comes. He makes all things beautiful in its time — and somehow, in a soul-deep way that you and I both know but perhaps can’t quite understand, that beauty and marking of seasons makes us aware of the eternity set in our hearts. We long for more, for what the New Earth will be.

Snow melts, grass grows, but more amazingly: legs stretch long into girlhood, muscles grow hard into the density of manhood, babies forsake infancy and begin the efforts of talking and interacting, new skills are learned and workloads undertaken. Grades completed, books finished, fresh horizons are scanned in the continual longing of children for tomorrow.

There are springs when the heat comes before I’m ready, and I find myself scrambling in a panic to get ahead of weeds and voracious perennials that have enforced their dominance while I was unprepared. I am feeling a bit like that in this garden of motherhood. Gorgeous new blooms are ready to burst alongside the mayhem of weeds and untidy borders and pruning (and did I miss my chance? Is it too late?) Sometimes I wonder if I’ve turned a bit more sod than I should have, and if the garden dream has outgrown my reality. In this garden of motherhood, I’ve always been in over my head. Shape a person? Love them well, teach them well, train them well? Me??? I can fumble around with fertilizer and cuttings outdoors without too much fear of messing it all up (there’s always next year.) But what about this? This immense task of nurturing people?

It’s more than I can do. It’s what I was made for, and at the same time, it’s a calling that demands I do things I simply cannot do on my own.

But you know what? It’s not my garden. There’s a Master Gardener at work here, with a beautiful scheme in mind, and He’s asking me to work and learn alongside Him. My work is like 2 fish and 5 loaves — which is to say, not much at all in the face of the enormous calling — and He does miraculous things when instead of hiding that, or putting a limitation on it, I offer it all to Him.

The sun is shining hot this morning. Rain is forecasted for the next [as many days as my weather app will load]. But today, soaking in the warmth and and joy of gardens growing by leaps and bounds and the sound of children laughing and running and blooming.

another month

I get busy — busy with my time, but busy in my mind, too — and suddenly it’s been a month and there are only a few pictures on my phone, nothing written here, and life has just slipped by again.

A month ago, the boys were off skiing with Ryan on an epic (to them) three day tour of three mountains, thanks to tickets Ryan was blessed with. Today I’m looking out rain-spattered window panes to a new color — one that sprang up overnight, as pouring rain drenched the earth and awakened dormant life. Green. Green is hard to even remember in February, and by the end of March I’m wondering if it really ever will come, and then suddenly it’s here. Robins are here, leaf buds are here, crocuses are here, kids in mud boots laughing and running and rediscovering are here — it’s all here.

Can I be honest? I was sad to watch the sledding hill melt. The path they walked every single afternoon and the trails they had carefully established for their sleds were the last to go, and I took a few deep, shuddering breaths that bordered on sobs as they caught my eye day after dwindling day. A whole winter gone. I love these warmer days — love to watch them scatter this way and that, dribbling balls and riding bikes and exploring in the woods and carving out new “houses” under bushes — but they scatter, and in the winter, they are a little tribe of playmates, always together, always inventing games they all can play, helping one another and laughing together and being my little brood. And so I sigh each year when it ends. Happy for the warmth of sunshine and hours of fresh air and ready to dig into the work and maintenance of summertime, but there’s a special quality of being hemmed in that winter brings. And now we have said goodbye to another year’s snow and are hurdling headlong into the outward days of summer.

A month looks something like:


Skiing!


Snow disappearing.


Three days away with Mama and Daddy for a work trip.


Five weeks of a Bible study and sometimes her cousin came to play.


This one on the go, but also wanting me so much still.


William calling me from my task of switching clothes from winter to summer, and finding this waiting for us. Wow!


She’s off and running, about 6 months ahead of the Dunphey standard.


Neighborhood games of “box ball”.


So eager to try some carrot.


This one! I could write a book about her.


Naptime every day looks like this. It will be gone before I know it, but for now, she nurses and drifts off every afternoon.


This week: Easter preparations!


Flowers!


I gave the hydrangeas a serious pruning. I love working outside and watching kids play!


My littlest and biggest. He loves her so much!


Every chance they get, long into the evening.

fiona is FIVE!

More birthday-celebrating, more time-marching. Lots of deep breaths for this mama, as already shadows of grief for days long gone occasionally pass over my soul. We looked at pictures of brand new baby Fiona, held by by a little Jameson and William with 2yo Beatrice in the background, and once again I just couldn’t believe that that will never happen or be again. Sometimes I can just sigh and shrug and smile, and sometimes it’s more painful. But whether I smile or cry, the truth of it remains: those days are gone and today is what I have to cherish, invest in, and give thanks for.

Yesterday we celebrated Fiona and her fifth birthday. She is so easy and delightful. She wakes up smiling, ready to play and dance and sing her way through the day. Once in a while, the cloud of anger will pass over her face when something doesn’t go quite her way, but she quickly returns to a smile and kindness, only occasionally requiring my help to do so. She has long been a tremendous friend to Beatrice, and now is becoming one to Cecily as she grows old enough to play and talk and be a friend in return. She swims without fear, thrives in a theatrical environment, loves friends and laughter, is eager to learn piano, and does her little chores at home with diligence and pride. She is a treasure.


This cake was dreamed about and discussed for an entire year: chocolate, layers, pink frosting, pearls, and strawberries in the middle. She knows what she wants!

_____

And along the lines of time slipping by, this little one is getting chubbier and smilier every single day. Goodness, I love her!