August 15

That weekend sort of killed my daily writing thing.

But today is feeling all sorts of fresh week and new day-ish. Maybe because the first thing I saw was the chubby baby in bed next to me wide awake and beaming at me with so much love and joy — that’s a hard start to beat.

The weekend was:

— a few new bouquets from my (meager this year) August flowers — and such things used to be as “daily” as brushing my teeth, but this summer, remembering to cut flowers is suddenly an event to be celebrated!

— food, of course, including my new obsession: banana with salted cashews and unsweetened coconut. It’s almost as good as Kettle Cover salted caramel ice cream. (I’m such a liar, I know. But I’m pretending, okay?)

— an oldest son deciding to build the hand-me-down playmobil castle, which meant gluing pieces, finding directions online, and getting creative when pieces were missing. He literally spent all day working on it, and it was the best rainy summer day thing to do. It was all set up, at last, at nearly 10pm, and he was proud.

— being absolutely smitten by a delicious baby who is suddenly so old (for instance, sitting and playing in the family room all morning without any need for me!)

— being thrilled to see the rain clouds moving in, watering the thirsty earth. But catching some lovely sunshine here and there, too.

— deciding to just do it: empty the incredibly awful corner of chaos formerly known as the school cupboard, and start sorting. Three (3!!!!) huge trash bags later, we’re starting to make some progress toward an orderly beginning to a school year. (How do you just, you know, have three bags-worth of garbage just hanging out in your house??)

Okay. Photos are dumped; back to my regularly scheduled writing tomorrow.

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.

September

It’s November.

This blog-turned-family-journal is woefully behind. I thought once a month was bad. This once a quarter thing is really bad! Before a new baby comes and life takes turns that I can’t fully predict, some catching up:

September was warm and beautiful.

It was peaches and apples.

It was babies really starting to grow.

It was school! Rediscovering the magic of books, loving new math programs, discovering a whole new world called Ancient Egypt.

And it was Jameson turning nine. Nine.

A special shopping trip for taco fixings and ice cream cake ingredients and even lemonade. Lobbying to invite three friends instead of the customary two, and why not? Waking up with so much thankfulness for a day of forecasted sunshine. And finally, a yard full of running and laughing and ambushing and nerf-dart-shooting, light-saber-wielding boys and little sisters. Kind, happy, thoughtful young men.

We celebrated this boy who sits politely and listens intently as we share things we appreciate most about him. A boy who can think of nothing better than to share his candy with each birthday guest, even Mama and Daddy. Who bursts when he opens a sling shot and brand new fleece. Who stays up late poring over new books about Most Famous War Campaigns and How to Tie Knots and Severn Wonders and Famous Explorers.

He sings and hums his way through life. He cheerfully does any job asked of him and is growing to be not just a contributor, but a reliable and needed piece of this family puzzle. His eyes show love and concern for me, and the deepest of admiration for his daddy. He just likes to be with us and finding out he can go to work with Dad is the best news ever.

He’s playing piano and banging away on a new-to-us drum set (can you imagine how exciting it was to open those boxes??), reading the books I borrow from the library faster than I can pay the late fees to get more. He loves his soft and worn sweats and chamois shirt at home, and a tie and sports coat every chance he gets. His favorite outdoor activity is football, of course, because it’s football season and that’s how he rolls. Hands-on projects are his favorite, and sewing buttons is his newest skill set. He’s inquisitive, he’s sensitive, he’s loving and loves life.

More and more I truly mean that sharing life with him is a treat. I can’t believe I get to live all these years under the same roof with someone so great. Maybe the next 9 years will slow down a bit? Somehow I don’t think that’s at all how it works. So, fleeting as they may be, I will invest in these days together, by the grace of God.

I love this boy of mine.

full days, full heart.

Don’t let him fool you. My boys call for me every night to come tuck them in (even though they already have their quilts up to their chins) and kiss them good night. The arms that lock around my neck are strong and wiry and all boy. I love my boys.

I love/hate that every meal would look like this if I let it. I can tell if the book I assigned them is good by how long it takes them to get hungry for lunch. Poor Beatrice. She can’t wait until I teach her to read so she can be part of that world, too. They love to read.

And I never get tired of watching them together. ALL DAY LONG. They love each other so deeply. They are such opposites, and already, I can see iron sharpening iron. They’re learning how to interact through differences, how to point out weaknesses in an encouraging way. I wonder what their future together holds. Maybe just a deep connection each time their paths cross? Or will they be shoulder to shoulder, pursuing Jesus together?

*****

We’ve had a few PJ morning walks, when my little sidekicks wake up before I can slip out of the house. Are they the cutest? I really think so. And isn’t summer all about fresh mornings spent in pajamas?

She sings. All the time, everywhere. Her favorite theme is “When the storms come, You will be there.” Yesterday, as we drove to do errands, her chatting turned to, “When I’m a big girl, I’ll sit up next to you.” I smiled and nodded, imagining trips together and long conversations and a life of having that wonderful person for a friend. She chatted on about, “And I will fill up the car with gas for you! And go into the store and buy the things. And I will order the bagels!!” Apparently ordering bagels is quite the milestone in her eyes.

*****

I know it’s almost July, and I’m still trying to realize summer has started. I’m surprised to look at my gardens and not just see daffodils — in my mind, that’s where we still are. But no. A sea of evening primrose, the start of lilies, baby gooseneck loostrife ready to pop, delphinium waving tall and proud (unless this current rainy day does them in.) And yarrow. Deep, sunshine-yellow yarrow. I’ve never fully appreciated how many perfect little flowers it takes to form one of those beautiful heads of gold.

*****

And food. The food tells me it’s not April anymore. We will eat lots of salad, in place of winter’s pb&j. Along with our CSA’s generous shares of greens, I also planted plenty of kale this year. I hope it does well, because I can certainly eat my way through a LOT of kale in a week.

She enjoys it all as much as I do. She’s a bottomless pit! While the boys sit and read, she quietly eats all of the food. ALL of it.

Sautéed garlic and spring onions, baby kale, lemon juice, and heaps of fresh basil and parsley. It makes my mouth so happy. I forget what fresh herbs taste like!

Making pretty food does something for me. Nothing fancy, just pretty. Edible sweet pea flowers, golden yellow eggs, deep red strawberries, ta-da. Even with a fridge that is bare, it feels like we’re eating like kings.

*****

Growing.

Suddenly, last week, overnight, I went from feeling round and lumpy to being quite clearly pregnant. Funny how that happens. Ryan, the boys, my friends tell me it’s true as their eyes widen and they exclaim, “Hey! Your belly!”

Sixteen weeks of baby growing in there. Already! It’s flying by. Maybe that’s why I’m so surprised to suddenly not fit in my clothes? Perhaps pulling out some stretchy-waisted pants will help me remember: there’s a baby coming.

(I love getting a peek at what this avocado-sized baby looks like. Astounding.)

*****

Even more astounding is realizing ten years of marriage has come and gone. June 25 ten years later was a much more temperate day. It also came and went with much less fanfare, but a quiet shared remembrance that Hey, today is special. This covenant is special.

*****

And this man is special. He’s talented in a hundred ways that I am not (and therefore am all the more impressed by.) He grows. Stagnant and stubborn is not his style. He wants to grow. There is always a sense that we are moving towards eternity as we live life together, because he just wants Jesus. Sometimes it’s hard, this calling to build something that is so here, but with our eyes continually lifted to then, but he crunches numbers hard because it’s faithfulness, and he treats each person like they’re deeply important because they are, and he comes home and gets smothered by adoring children because he needs space but they need love and they’re the most important to him.

He makes the most of life’s moments. He’s not a “at 7pm every night, we’ll have devotions in this particular format” kind of guy. He grabs the teaching moments and sits down right then and helps them learn how to hear from the Lord, and how to process life by His word.

So he grabs paper as soon as he walks in the door and draws a diagram to teach about executive, legislative, and judicial branches, their powers, and the breaches thereof. He talks about the American Constitution. But he talks mostly about kingdoms rising and falling, and our God reigning forever. About living lives that are sown in death and raised to life. This is “home schooling” at its best.

spirit-led school days

Routine and I have a strange, love-hate relationship. If I’m being positive, I call myself Spirit-led. Other times, I just think I’m a pendulum-swinger. I’m learning from my tendencies toward the latter, and allowing it to be molded more and more into the former — this is the work of God in my life, leading me as a Good Shepherd.

We have our schedule. It’s posted in plain sight. It was thought about, long and hard, the result of prayer and pondering. But it is a tool, in the end. It is not our master.

In September, stirring everyone with an exhortation to be “up and at ’em” is altogether fitting and even fun. By the end of January, the constraints of climate seem to just beg for more fluidity inside. And so it is required of me that I learn to observe needs, act as guide and not sergeant, hold big picture in mind and enjoy the twists and turns that it takes to get there.

Take now, for instance:

Morning chores amounted to a bit of tidying and taking care of laundry. I’ve been poking away at tidying my room, but really, spending more time sitting on the edge of my bed in prayer for this one and that one, and dreaming with a friend via the internet about future homes.

The boys woke up with a big Lego plan, and you know what? That doesn’t happen often. So I set aside the school plans I’d written for the morning, told them to turn on an educational CD they received for Christmas, and play their hearts out. They will be there for hours, slowly assembling Star Wars ships, pausing regularly to listen to the familiar stories of Boston Tea Parties and First Continental Congresses.

Girls are at the table coloring, after playing Peter and the Wolf for awhile (where Peter looked an awful lot like a baby doll who was rescued by her mama from a fox?)

We need this time. We all do.

And as I learn to keep big picture in mind, and am led by a Shepherd as I lead my little lambs, I regularly am amazed to find that He knows how to get it “all” done. Sometimes doing it His way requires being fully engaged for more hours than I would like, letting the day creep into evening hours rather than being tidily finished and wrapped with a bow at 4:30. That’s okay. I have not died yet from too much noise and activity, although I’ve come close at times (can you say stimulus overload?)

There are plenty of days when the chief exercise is learning to do what we must do whether we want to or not. There are plenty of “work hard and fast” hours, followed by “here’s your list of school work, now do it” mornings and afternoons. But then there are these moments, too, when I realize that He knows how to fit in the special things:


a baby who snuck away from me, a brother who loves to read to his sisters


General Washington and Alexander Hamilton planning an attack


early morning company, enjoying the rare treat of looking at family photos


Liberty’s Kids, in a new (therefore fun) spot.


impromptu “school” project with my big girl

time out.

I am trying, once again, to get outside with the kids each afternoon. Some days it doesn’t work. Some days I just don’t want to. But the boys love when I go out with them, even it’s just me pulling on my boots and yelling, “Okay, who wants to tromp through the field with me?” And Beatrice would live outside if she could. “Snow Mountain,” the huge pile created by the snowplow each year, is her favorite place in the world right now.

I’m not really an outdoorsy type: I don’t own hiking boots or even sneakers, I don’t ski or canoe. But is there a category of outdoorsy that just needs to breathe fresh air and see vast sky every day, and thinks a great afternoon is one spent walking for miles? Because that’s me. And so this time outside, even if it means giving up a shower or another load of laundry done or whatever, it’s good for them and it’s good for me.

Today we missed it; sick boy and sleeping baby and such. So I’m looking at vast sky via pictures. Reliving the joy of snow angels. Remembering the thrill of following bunny tracks and deer tracks and bird tracks and others we don’t know. We have so much fun.