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.

slipping into september

September came…

A few weeks with a dear family — continual laughter and friendship and food. What a gift!

And then back to just us.

They love each other. So much.

We’re slipping math and workbooks into the days, but looking forward to one more special guest this week before we break out the new routines. We can’t wait to break it all out — and we’re also loving the fluidity of these weeks.

Soon.

For now, the beauty of transition.

au revoir, august

Our field is finally hayed. The wild tangle of goldenrod and Queen Ann’s Lace is gone, cut and dried and rolled into a momentary pastoral tableau that made me smile with satisfaction before it was carried away on a flatbed farm trailer.

We’re cleaning up from summer, I guess.

Crickets chirp continuously. Are they louder in August, or do I just grow more aware, knowing windows will soon close and then the world will close, too, hemmed in by snow and ice and stillness. A cicada interrupts the monotone symphony and I hush us: Listen! See! Smell! Savor it all, bottle it up, soul fed and ready for a long hibernation and an austere diet of frozen beauty.

We sit in sundresses and shorts still, soaking in sunshine, but keeping cardigans and afghans at the ready, knowing the sun will dip sooner and leave us damp and chilly, smelling autumn in the evening air.

Cupboard doors, closed, hide the shelves I’ve organized, sharpened pencils in jar, curriculum chosen after long deliberations. Fresh notebooks, new chore charts, basket of living books at the ready — but for now, tucked away. Waiting a bit longer.

The end of summer is celebrated here with cakes and presents, thanks to my August babies. Fall will be ushered in the same way, thanks to boys born under harvest moons. The signposts are everywhere, I guess is what I’m saying, and yet… I’m stubbornly, sentimentally lingering. I’m not ready, not quite, not this year. I contemplate pulling out that math program during a quiet afternoon hour but then you grab a glove to play catch and I almost sigh in relief. Yes, let’s do that. Let’s be carefree and in the moment, just for one more day. Or maybe another week? Yes. Grab a blanket and book, listen to the crickets. Let’s do that.

*****

July memories and musings.

My mother wrote about the nature of July, and I certainly couldn’t say it any better. It starts out with flag-waving, kickball-playing, pie-in-the-sky hopes.

But those last two weeks sort of fizzled out, with me trying to figure out a plan each day, but mostly just pushing through till bedtime while fielding emergencies and everyday humdrum in the meantime. This summertime thing can really be my nemesis — me, of innate idealism and high expectations, who can’t help but try to measure productivity and purpose, floundering through days of loosey-goosey summer. I start to chafe for September, when I know what the goal is and what’s expected of me.


I had to laugh at this one. Someone snapped a picture of me at my best. Desperate moments call for desperate measures.

But Jesus doesn’t need September. His constant work in us doesn’t depend on chore charts. Isn’t that great?? And He doesn’t need magical summer afternoons to work His magic. In fact, it could (hypothetically) rain almost every day (just imagine with me), and He can still count the day a win!

I love that. It isn’t always magical. Sometimes it’s just putting one foot in front of the other. Sometimes it’s doing what you ought to do because you ought to. It can look a lot like breath prayers and confessing dependance on a strength greater than your own. But you know what is magical? The way He appears, with gentle peace, with fresh joy, with quiet conviction, with water for a parched soul.

“Let us press on to know the Lord.
His going forth is as certain as the dawn;
And He will come to us like the rain,
Like the spring rain watering the earth.”

*****


So much baseball.


Lymes and antibiotics. Thankful for catching it quickly.


Ballerina buns, every Wednesday.


An evening walk, a summertime gift.


Bookends who adore each other.


Amazon boxes are awesome.


A morning walk that was less exercise and more flower picking.


This baby doll.


Dinners that conclude with “run around the yard”.


Three Sunday morning princesses, one of whom will not stop reading. Ever.


Because sleeping with Mama chases all the bad dreams away.


Dinner for two.

null
Bedhead.


“Mom, can you take a picture of us in age order?” (Someone didn’t cooperate.)


The late summer flowers beginning to take over.


A special wedding weekend.


Last July hurrah: a picnic lunch with plenty of cherries.

Maine this year

Last week was our annual visit to Maine to see Ryan’s family. This year was especially wonderful, as we managed to converge for a few days of adults catching up and laughing while hordes of cousins played and played. Memories to tuck away.

*****


First things first: they jump in that pool as fast as they can after our long drive!


Breakfast gazing at the sea.


Being humored by Nana — over and over and over again.


Hunting for sea shells and hermit crabs.


Kettle Cove, from one generation to the next.


Meme’s bowls are at toddler height — Cecily was in heaven!


SO much cousin time, most of which was in the pool but not photographed — too busy lifeguarding!


The unchanging beauty of this view.


Building fairy houses in the woods (“I wish there really were fairies to live here!”, said with sparkly eyes.)


Learning to skip rocks.


Us.


Fried clams, lobster rolls, and a very happy crew.


S’mores with Papa


That time the van wouldn’t start, so we picnicked at Shaws.


Too, too much delicious food, thanks to these two.

And an overnight in Boston, which included a Red Sox victory for Daddy and the older three kids, and a special evening of walking and pizza with Mama for the younger two.

The End. Home Sweet Home, and ever so thankful for all of the wonderful memories.

do less, be more.

Do less.

We have the amazing blessing of living in a land of opportunity. We really do! It’s amazing. And in this great land of opportunity, the little corner in which I live boasts a multitude of fabulous people to share fellowship with, streams and trails and woods to discover, church activities to assist with and participate in — and the usual library events and music lessons and clubs and museums and nature centers and… Whew.

It’s a lot.

The privilege of opportunity brings with it the responsibility to guard and protect priorities. To keep margin and space as a valuable part of our lives. I was reminded of two big reasons for this recently: First, I find that if I am wound too tightly and have too many things crammed into my agenda, I have no time or grace for a child who falls ill. I don’t want to be so committed to the outside world that when my children need a bit more of my slow attention than usual, I’m not free to give it (because it’s already been committed elsewhere.) Second, especially in the summer months, space in our days (day after day) is what finally, at long last, will inspire new explorations and discoveries. If I let us unwind from the school year for a good solid month, the children tire of bikes and basketball and eventually begin to remember the many other things there are to do.

Lately, there hasn’t been so much of this space in my life. Well, there is — and that space has been taken by house projects and sick children and new shops and the things that are precisely why I need margin built into my life! But there was a Saturday a few weeks ago that was a gift, the exact sort of day I look forward to all year. Unplanned berry picking, kids spending long amounts of time making up electric guitar solos and playing piano together, jam and pesto making, cake-just-because, Daddy home for dinner and playing. Happy, tired, sticky kids on a summer evening and parents who are exhausted and full of blessing.

I savor these moments and let them refuel my soul for the work that comes with next morning’s sunrise. And I let them remind me: saying no to busy for busy’s sake is worth it. Say YES to what truly matters.

(And most years, by the way, scheduling in berry picking is exactly the kind of “busyness” I just don’t do. …in case anyone sees strawberries and feels that awful uptick in your blood pressure as you think, “Oh no, I didn’t fit in berry picking!”)

*****