March, in photos

I’m so glad for pictures! These months of busy but unspectacular days would be lost if it weren’t for pictures. (Lost to my memory, anyway. Not lost in their impact!)


Waiting for Daddy


Fiona’s fabulous drawings


<3


A shopping trip where I let the girls pick out birthday gifts for a friend — oh, the joy!


Sunrises


She is loving this new skill!


Learning to braid Fiona’s hair


NZ gear from the grands


Another year older = time to start some good habits.


Luther together for movie night


Cherry pie birthday traditions


My new vacuum comes completely apart for cleaning. AWESOME.


Blessing my two girls with fun new skirts from Mama’s sewing machine.


Birthday outing!


BFFs


Bubbles and babies.


Sometimes our friend Julie spoils us.


Illuminating our scriptures.

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Reading!


She loves her baby dolls.


And she loves her pretend friends.


March walks.


I just love these kids!


Outings with Cecily


Learning to bake independently


Sunshine and a blondie.


In denial about winter


What up.


The four amigos.


So sweet.

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Jameson performing for Grandparent’s Day — much of our months has been music for various things!

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Beatrice!

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William!

February, in photos

The shortest month, almost done. So much just life crammed into four short weeks. So many moments of ordinary, and every one special and meaningful. I think that’s amazing.


This little one learning to stand, and take a few steps. Making us laugh with antics, loving when all eyes are on her.


This oldest one readily helping out each and every day.


Many mornings spent at the kitchen table, with kids drawing or painting while I read out loud from our current history selection. This hour+ is NOT on the schedule I made last fall, but that’s my favorite part of deep winter months: the quiet hours of books and creativity that sort of insert themselves in a way that just fits.


Mornings that occasionally look like this. Waking early and getting out for a walk before it all begins has been harder this winter than any other season in 5 years! But I keep trying. Something is better than nothing.


This blurry pic represents a whole-family excursion to scope out a new business location. As soon as we were all buckled in, I suddenly realized we hadn’t done anything all together since Christmas. We went out for dinner and it was special. We love each other.


We read lots of books in the winter. I wish it could be more — does anyone else look over their bookshelves and think, How can we read all of these wonderful stories today?!? But a moment here and a page there. It’s regular and routine and part of our lives, and I’m glad for that.


Reading is also togetherness most of the time.


I love hearing the boys read out loud. They put their best into it (although occasionally not, and I tell them to do it all over without the race-to-the-end effect!) This book is our 2017 winter favorite. “Snow,” by Uri Shulevitz. The kids always begin the story with title and author, because saying “Uri Shulevitz” is the most fun. If you don’t have this book, and you have littles, get it! Fiona had the story memorized immediately, so captivated was she by the simple text and fun illustrations.


February is when spring endeavors begin. William has begun rehearsals twice a week for his role in the upcoming high school musical. And no, he’s not in high school yet. Phew.


This. Every morning (except the occasional day when my routine gets thrown off and I forget!) A salad for Ryan. Probably most people think of him as a free spirit, spontaneous. And he is, somewhat. But not completely. He loves, craves routine. So each morning, this.


This past week, days that reached 60* (!!!), and rain that has melted all but the biggest piles of snow. But the week before, the loveliest snowfall of the entire winter. What I have no pictures of is the kids outside. Every single day, regardless of how on or off track we are, they head outside after lunch. They laugh and play (and fight and resolve), and are friends, even the ten year old boy and three year old girl. I love it.


This baby of mine. I just love her. She naps in a little “nest” on the floor, because I’m a weird hippie or something. We have no crib. Somehow I’ve always gotten through the crib stage without one, even if it’s a bit unconventional for a few months. She’s too old to be left on my bed, of course, but wants to lay down and nurse to sleep at nap time. So we do. I love these baby days. I know, and you know: they go too fast.


One of those mornings I did get out to walk, I sacrificed exercise for fellowship. I’ve been thinking about cultivating friendship with these girls. Rapport. Fiona, especially, really loves me. Somehow it’s easy to not really notice that, or to somehow think she just loves the mom in her life, but not necessarily me. I don’t want to take for granted or assume her affection. She’s a unique person who genuinely loves me as a person.

And so much more not pictured. Thoughts, conversations, piano lessons and meals and laundry piles and chores crossed off. Friends and family we share life with all week long. Choices made that allow for regular remembrance of Who our lives belong to and how we can honor Him.

So Happy Sunday. Thanks for following along with this update of the ordinary. Have a blessed day!

william’s 8th birthday

William turned 8 on October 21st. He was so excited about turning 8. It just seemed like a big deal, he told me.

And so we fit a special cinnamon roll breakfast into our pre-CFA morning, thanks to the bakery in town, open early on Friday mornings. Three friends came home from our homeschool program and spent the [rainy and cold] afternoon with us, fighting nerf gun and light saber wars in the basement, video games, and as a desperate last resort while we awaited our pizza dinner, games hosted by yours truly. Rain + 5 boys = Mama frantically printing off Bingo cards and ideas for charades.

My boys are blessed with great friends. I think that each year, as I see the shining faces gathered around the table, hear the laughter, watch the fresh delight in playtime with friends.

And we are blessed with William — an absolute best friend to his older brother, a boy deeply admired by his younger sisters, a thoughtful son to us, and a tender, sensitive follower of the Holy Spirit.

His eyes shine when he smiles, and it touches my heart so deeply.

I am so thankful for this boy who thinks deeply, feels passionately, processes slowly, offers friendship freely. He is already growing to be a man of deep conviction with an immense capacity for compassion. He is a gift.

september 6: starting school

Yesterday, we jumped back into the full swing of things.

Something about this year has my head swirling, nervous and excited, and I’ll confess that I had a hard time sleeping in anticipation of the First Day. Would it go okay? Did I think it through enough? Would they like it? Would it go hilariously awry or be tragically disastrous? (“Hilariously awry” is a pessimist’s attempt at positivity.)

It was great.

It’s a lot of work, isn’t it? It was after dinner before I caught my breath, and then wondered how on earth I ever fit anything else into life — including basic things like returning text messages! I did, however, get to shower before evening, so I’ll count that a big win for me. Jameson was, of course, excitedly pushing through as many math lessons as possible before I finally noticed he was still awake last night and sent him to bed. William loves a checklist and excitedly crossed almost every item off (I may have some pie-in-the-sky hopes for what we can do in a day. That will get reevaluated this week as we see how our rhythms really flow best.) And Beatrice, of course. “I can’t believe this is really my first day of kindergarten!” Then last night, getting ready for bed: “I can’t believe tomorrow will be my second day of kindergarten!” I wonder how long she’ll be keeping track?

And, in true homeschooling fashion, the boys even spontaneously spent the afternoon helping my dad with a project. Rocking real life is the name of the game, joyfully looking ahead to each day with a willingness to bend and bow and weave learning into the fibers of real moments.

We got to the end of our day, and they all played basketball and frisbee with so much joy for a few minutes before bed, and I felt so soul-satisfied. It is good to work hard, with abandon, at the will of God. One can’t measure success by “soul satisfaction,” of course, but there is fruit. It is deep calling to deep, echoing, “This is right, and this is good.”

Sirens, a rare occurrence in my part of the world, woke me long ago, and so I am up meeting the day, admiring lingering stars, savoring quiet. Maybe some of you are up, too, maybe getting ready to begin school at your house. Send students off for the first time. Or maybe there are no little pupils in your life yet, or anymore. No matter the season, this day is written in His book for you: Seek His face, say yes to His will, and therein find delight and fountains of life.

hello, september

It came, in quiet and beauty. Geese calling as sun rose, cool air gladly receiving warmth. Inside, my babies slept long and hard, recovering from two days of outdoor play. I walked, admiring fields bathed in new sunlight, listening to the voice of my brother in law (as I often do when I can slip away in the morning.) It was the perfect beginning to a new month, a new season, and best of all, a new day. There was a stream of mercies, washing away the old and the wrong and the shame and the discouragement, and bringing springs of life.

And after a day of laundry and dentist’s appointments and errands and just playing outside, I ended my day in the most special of ways: this boy took me out for dinner and ice cream.

(Whole30 reintroduction does not recommend pizza and ice cream all at once. Oh well.)

He took my hand and checked for cars and led me across the street, and held the door for me and paid for the pizza all on his own. It was… precious and kind and tender and blessed me. We ate ice cream and chatted, and then he asked if I would like to just walk in the park for a bit.

Thanks to the still river, we got two sunset skies for the price of one (which, by the way, is free. God must love us.)

We sat on the swing and talked. And talked. About when I was a little girl. About D-Day. About oil pastels. About his brother and the upcoming birthday that William is, of course, equally excited about. About fraternities. About losing my Papa when he was so young. Around and around we talked, until it was growing decidedly dark.

I tucked the flower he picked for me in my hair. And we drove home. It was perfect.

August 16

“Children tie the mother’s feet.” — old Tamil proverb

I read that in Amy Carmichael’s biography — the story of a young single woman who, through no plan of her own but simply because she followed the leading of the Holy Spirit, became “mother” to hundreds of abandoned and abused Indian children. Elisabeth Elliot says, “It took rather a long time for the truth of this Tamil proverb to dawn on Amy… …that she must allow her feet to be tied for the sake of Him whose feet once were nailed.”

*****

There is a pervasive lie in the water that we all drink, and it is this: if you do everything right, you can have it all. It appealed to Eve, and it appeals to us. At least, it appeals to me. It entices me and draws me in, and subsequently wraps me in the chains of discouragement and discontent.

*****

I remember reading in “Loving the Little Years” that it’s okay to have a baby and consequently look like you had a baby. It’s okay to bear in your body the marks of sacrifice. In fact, it’s kind of weird to yield your body for the creative work of forming an entire other person (or two, or ten), and then wanting to erase all traces of that. Go back to your 20-year-old figure, as though that pre-baby body was your “true self.” Yes: steward your body, keep it in good health, realize it’s the only one you’ve got and it needs to now serve your adult children and their children, and maybe even their children — but for heaven’s sake, stop trying to erase all traces of childbearing from your tummy and thighs. Your body is a tool to use, not a museum piece to put on the shelf. You are a living sacrifice, and just may look a bit like one, too. You can’t have it all.

“One of the greatest testimonies Christian women can have in our world today is the testimony of giving your body to another.”

If you have a Mom-body, it may because you are a mom. That’s not just okay; it’s a gift from God that we don’t need to do penance for.

*****

Somehow I can feel like a truly successful mom is one who hits a home run every day in laundry, cooking, cleaning, and schooling and is involved with every other thing, too, in church and community. And beyond this unseen force that pressures me to stop being a loser and start doing something with my life, there’s of course the desire in me that every once in awhile makes me really really really want to do ALL THE THINGS. The fun things, the important things, the things that SOMEBODY has to do. There are so many things. Shouldn’t I be able to do them, too?

Because if you’re really good at being a mom, those kids will barely be a blip on the screen of your go-go-go and productivity. Right?

*****

We want to have the kids, be a good mom, and have none of that leave any impact on how we look or run our lives.

We want it all.

And yet, shouldn’t there be a mark? Shouldn’t there be an obvious impact? Shouldn’t our lives look like they are being sown into the field of our children’s lives?

It’s okay that your children “tie your feet.” It’s okay that their need for the gospel in word an deed requires every ounce of your energy and creativity. It’s okay that the fearful and wonderful design of them left your belly wrinkled and squishy — with no sign of ever returning. It’s what we were made for: to lay down our lives for these little ones.

If Jesus can stand in eternity, bearing the marks of sacrifice in His hands and feet, I think it’s probably okay to expect that our sacrifices may also leave their mark, on our bodies and time and energy.

We can’t have “it all”. But we can have ALL of the abundant life we so desire as we follow our Savior. And the best part? Chains fall, and we run freely into joy and peace — soft tummies and all.