pictures of december

Excitement is ramping up around here. Today we exchanged names (well, the kids did) and bought gifts for one another. Four or five times, I was pulled aside because a little boy needed to tell me a secret — a bursting with joy secret because their gift is just so so so wonderful and the recipient is going to love it so so so much!

We drove home in relative quiet until William suddenly said, “Mom, I was just dreaming about opening my present [on Christmas Eve, when they exchange their gifts], and I was so excited, and then I remembered that the next day will be Christmas!! (Said in the most COULD LIFE GET ANY BETTER voice you’ve ever heard.)

Before that day actually comes, and I get swept away with everything that entails and suddenly find myself two weeks into a new year, I’ll quickly put up photos of this special month. I do so love coming to this little corner of the internet and reminiscing…

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Three little girls, Fiona wanting very much to be as big as Beatrice and Margaret


Ready to get a tree


Easily entertained


Can’t wait for Daddy to come with the tree


Here it comes!


And there it is.


Early Sunday morning reflections.


Rest and reading time after decorating the bagel shops!


She loves baby dolls.


Pigtail perfection.


Cookies baked for neighbors and friends.


Special afternoons with my grandparents.


Time with beautiful sisters and their scrumptious babes.


Concerts.


Lots of this.


A break from routine school means time for not-routing things.


They keep careful track of this growing pile.


Drawing names!


Fiona felt very grown up with that slip of paper!


Too excited to get a picture with all four looking at me.


Lunch with family at (drumroll…) The Bagelry. (Pretty yummy!)

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Have a wonderful last few days before Christmas!

december’s story: grace and peace

I can’t believe we’re halfway through December, and oh-so-close to Christmas.

It’s all Christmas, all the time around here. If Beatrice isn’t making up songs about angels and shepherds, boys are pounding out Christmas duets (duets! Yay!) on the piano, or Fiona is touching ornaments. Or I’m slipping to my room to wrap one more present— or make that one half a present, someone is pounding on my door.


December 1st Christmas movie, though I can’t remember for the life of me what it was.


celebrating our first Friday post-CFA with a lazy breakfast


sleeping under the tree


mornings like this.


performing with almost 100 voices and instruments in a beautiful Christmas cantata

Snow sure helps the mood along, and for some magical reason, it’s gently hanging over the edge of our roof right out the window in a way very reminiscent of frosting on rum logs. There is lots of outdoor play before breakfast, because somehow, jumping out of bed and pulling snow gear on over pi’s is just the most fun. (And it buys me time, since I can’t seem to make cookies and have breakfast thought through.)


early morning, after our first significant snowfall


Jameson has made all of the rum logs this year completely by himself


pepparkakor


preparing cookie gifts

We are watching Mary’s slow trek as she waits for her baby to be born. We do our best to read one little book each night from our Advent calendar. And this year, we’re sneaking in a bit of this book here and there — a whole week behind, mind you, but pressure is not very Christmasy, so I’m doing my best to not feel any. Today we read about Isaac, climbing a long road with wood on his back, a shadow of the Child of Promise who walked a long and dusty road for me. I’m blessed, blessed, blessed to hear the thoughts my boys share, the connections they make. William especially seems quite enamored with this whole typology thing, realizing that all of those stories were pointing to Jesus. And I get to be right there, watching that realization dawn. What a privilege.

This is a month made for Jameson, my gift-giver. Suddenly, he is busily hiding secrets and scurrying to prepare a surprise. He generously finds $1,000 guitars that he thinks I should buy William. (Ha!) He is in his element. Saturday, when William was at work with Ryan, he took advantage of the 20 minutes it took for me to lay the girls down for naps and found paper snowflakes to hang from the ceiling. After being stunned by that beautiful surprise, he then made coffee and set out a whole little “coffee date” for him and me. He beamed with love. Today he gave me the gift he’d made me and put under the tree: a little “Meery Christmas” garland. Insert mother heart bursting right here.


snowflake surprise


afternoon date with this boy


my Christmas gift this year

Then there’s quiet William, who made me a card two weeks ago and tucked it away for Christmas, but seeing Jameson’s gift giving (“I’m just so bad at waiting, Mom! I want you to have all of my presents right away!”), he decided to pull his out, too. Simplest, sweetest, “I love you, Mama” card.


cutest cards


moments to tuck inside my mama-treasure-box, i.e., my heart

Are you kidding?, I think to myself. How could anyone possibly be as loved as I am? Let alone someone as grumpy and ornery as me?? Is this real? Are these little boys really smiling that big at me, their hearts in their eyes? Is this little girl really climbing up to plant a random sweet kiss on my cheek with a whispered, “I wuv you so much, Mama,” in my ear? Is this baby really laughing and dancing and wanting me to know that I’m her world?

If it feels too good to be true, it’s because it is. It’s grace, a gift. I know what I deserve — I look that ugliness right in the face many times a day, and it’s ugly. There’s an equation here that just doesn’t seem to balance out: How can I have a life of blessing, of gifts, of walking with God? I could never seem to do a good job balancing my checkbook, but even with my enormous lack of accounting talent, I can see a serious discrepancy like this one. Maybe you don’t think it’s that serious, look at my life and see a good person who tries hard. But I know. I know the discrepancy. I know the selfishness and self-seeking and jealousy and pride that fights to have its way moment after moment. How can a heart like that then receive blessing?

Jesus.

That’s it. That’s the only way to justify the account of my life. For someone like me to walk with God, to know Him and love Him and know that He loves me — it’s Jesus.

So I open that handmade card with 6yo scrawl, I feel those arms around my neck and see bashful eyes full of love, and my soul feels more than just full. It feels grace.

“Hark! the herald angels sing
Glory to the newborn King
Peace on earth and mercy mild
God and sinners reconciled

Reconciled.
Justified.
Balanced.
Paid in full.

Waking up to morning after morning of new mercy.
Too good to be true.
God is like that.

november: snow, apples, thanks, books

from yesterday:

The snow flew today. It didn’t land, but it will, soon. I thought I wasn’t ready for winter, for cold, for the longness of it all, but when I woke this morning to hues of periwinkle and silver and rose — where yesterday it was all kelly and brown — I was smitten all over again.

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I happily drove home with butter in my van — butter that started as grass growing in a field 20 miles away, eaten by cows well-cared for, faithfully milked, never chemically assaulted or added to. I mixed in flour and sugar. Jameson and I cut locally-grown apples, he clumsily but determinedly mimicking my actions, proud as his hands learned the movements. We’ll eat pie tonight. It may be all we eat, at this rate, but it’ll be good.

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We listen to this play list as we slice. William colors a portrait of George Washington, and we talk about “those days” and all together — this November sky, these apples, that flute — it makes me breathe slow and deep and smile.

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Last week I took out the remaining fall decorations: pilgrim figurines and their stories. We recited Psalm 100 this week, remembering those familiar paths of praise and thanksgiving. And we recounted the story of the people — people like us, with natures like ours, whose bodies felt hunger and cold and loneliness and despair just like ours — who persevered through great difficulty and at the end gave thanks. Homes burned, men imprisoned, fleeing to a strange nation, selling all to travel a harrowing ocean-journey, braving shadowy fears and very-real impossibilities, watching half their numbers breathe their last, and then waving bravely as their last chance to just give up sailed back across wide waters. And through it all, thankful. Because God. They were not perfect, but neither am I. In this is the greatest challenge to me. In their raw humanity, they could have grumbled (example: Jamestown), but no. Instead, they gave thanks.

Pause.

I think it’s safe to say, I tell the children, that we can probably be thankful on our bad days. Because God. Isn’t that what makes knowing Jesus miraculous? That we are set free from the slavery of reaction, and grace is poured into our hearts that we might live by faith?

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I have some favorite Thanksgiving books that I thought I’d share. I like the content — some simple, some bursting with interesting facts. I like the drawings. It’s a story worth knowing by heart and setting as an example. Principle, faith, gratitude: I want to be like them when I grow up.

july, part 1

It’s the last day of July. Sand through fingers, vapors in the wind, all of that — it’s true. It just disappears. No matter how deeply you savor, how much of its pain and beauty you try to memorize, how thankful you purpose to be, these moments just fly.

July, especially. My, did it fly.

So now I’m a solid month of photos and happenings behind on this blog, my little record of family life. It’s Thursday afternoon, and after four days of a blessedly quiet week, my soul (and my house, for that matter) are starting to catch up. I can sit and do photos, at last.

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The Fourth of July. Reading and discussing the Constitution, the Declaration, the heroism of men who choose courage and principle that would benefit us. Not for their own sake, but for us, they signed their names on that Declaration, as good as a death sentence. Courage: Choosing the right thing in the face of fear. Not everything they did was perfectly right, I know, but acting out of selfless principle and with courage, as men ought to do? That is pretty right. What a good heritage. Dressing in red, white, and blue. Heading to a local parade, joined by most of my clan. Spending a lazy afternoon on the side porch together, and ending things with pound cake topped with berries and loosely whipped cream. Perfect.

And then, a few days later, there was a trip to Maine. The kids, my generous sister, and me. It was absolutely wonderful.

There was good food, which the kids keep talking about. There was the pool, from about 7:30am till dinnertime and maybe even after. There was whiffle ball and golf, water balloons and bubbles. Dress up! Excursions to the rocky shore. A morning at a quiet beach inhabited by hundreds of hermit crabs. Rooftop views. Ice cream cones. Babies napping long, children playing hard, grown ups soaking in sun. Cousins we seldom see, aunts and uncles we love. Lots of tears the evening before our departure, because this was the time of their lives. Special memories. This little family went home feeling very loved by Papa and Meme.

Christmas bits

Christmas Eve morning was calm, blue, serene:

…and then the sun broke through.

It continued to shine all through Christmas Day. Crazy cold, crisp and clear. The best of winter in the North Country.

We all gathered under one roof for an early dinner. We dressed into our holiday best and went to church for a lovely hour of choral music, hymn-singing, story reading, and candles. Jameson read beautifully.

Then home. We lit all the candles, ate cookies and homemade eggnog, and let the holiday music ring. Ryan read Luke’s account of Christmas, and then we opened a gift or two. Including, of course, new pj’s. These growing kids were in desperate need this year!

Then Christmas morning: the biggest boy crawling into my bed before the sun was up, me telling him we’ll at least wait until the 6 o’clock hour, and him asking me every 3 minutes for the next 45 if it was time yet? Please??

Stockings, presents, jumping and joy. Cinnamon rolls and clementines. Then over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house! Or just down the road to Nana and Papa’s. Either way, we sang as we went.


in the van; she couldn’t leave the house without purse and hat, of course!

The celebrating was merry, the food delicious, and being almost all together the best of all. We gathered again the next evening and ate pizza and sang more songs:

No celebration of this marvelous event could ever be too big, Dad said, and he is so right. A Savior came to deliver us. To walk among us. To reconcile and redeem. That’s worth a bit of celebrating!

And so we do.

But eventually we must find our coats and mittens, run out into the cold, starlit night, and turn towards home and bed.