Jameson is 13.

As birthdays go, this one was pretty up there on the enjoyable chart. First, I hardly have to think of a thing: Jameson has plans made well ahead of time, and I just have to text the people he tells me to text, buy the food he asks me to buy, and supply the nerf ammo he asks for — and he makes the party happen. Second, his plans are growing more and more thoughtful, simpler, more fellowship-centered. Third, his friend circle is amazing. He could pick any two from the group of friends he has, and I would marvel at the kindness and happiness and thoughtfulness of their character. It is one of the things that strikes me every year as an incredible blessing in our lives.

And, as birthdays go, this was a pretty big one. I felt a bit raw and emotional that morning, getting food ready for after church and quietly trying to process how we got here already, so soon, too fast. That baby whose arrival signaled the biggest change of my life, the toddler who I doted over and spent every moment with, the six year old whose sparkle and creativity kept me on my toes and made me love him all over again — how could that all be over, gone, already?

But in the early moments of the morning, as these thoughts swirled in my heart and mind, a tall and lanky boy, whose smile has more charm than mischief these days and whose body is growing thick with muscle, came into the kitchen and draped his arm around my neck. “Happy birthday, J,” and he leaned against me for a hug, quietly. We’ve loved each other his whole life, you know. Sometimes I can feel him trying to wrap his mind around all of the emotion, too.

Thirteen. Making grand strides and sometimes epic stumbles toward adulthood, and we are ever so proud and blessed and in awe of this person with whom we share our lives.

(Sorry for the amount of photos. It really was a lovely day.)

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?

beatrice + becoming a mother

We celebrated with a brunch birthday party, since the church had an all-site service and picnic planned for the afternoon and evening. I could tell she wasn’t sure if that would be quite okay, but I promised it would be special.

We set the table the day before, and she carefully made place cards and chose napkins from my stash. I did my best to add some feminine and fancy, and I could tell the girls were all starting to feel that this was something special.

She woke up early, just as I was about to head into the dew-damp garden to cut flowers for the house. She happily joined, and we chatted as I gathered. She loves this kind, oh, and that one. Could we please have some gooseneck? And two kinds of hydrangea! She loves flowers and wants to help me every time I pull on my gardening gloves. She asks all the names and watches for beetles and exclaims over new buds and little baby plants, just like me.

I pulled out a new tomato red dress for her to wear on this, her birthday. Her eyes glowed, and a few minutes later she came running to find me, wearing the new dress, exclaiming at how twirly it is. I laughed as she twirled and twirled. I told her she could wear any necklace, as the neckline is unadorned, and she came back with pearls. Just like me.

She opened her gifts and exclaimed over them all — and had them almost all opened and tried out by day’s end. Ryan asked her what her favorite gift was, and I heard from the other room when she answered, “The cross-stitch kit from you and Mama.” Because she is desperate to learn to sew. She watches and hovers any time I pull out a project. I try to explain as I go. Give her little things to make. She just loves the quiet creativity of it all, just like me.

This all surprises me, somehow. I know I am her mother, their mother. I gave birth to them, I have nurtured and fed them, I keep them clothed and clean and teach them to read. I know they love to have me near and they tell me I’m the best mother in the world, but somehow I still feel not quite like a real mother. You know, not real like my mother. Maybe they don’t know I’m still just fumbling through, watching my sisters and friends, calling my mom, reading a book, praying desperately for help and wisdom?

And so somehow as yesterday unfolded, and I saw this little girl whose arms and legs are lengthening into older girl, whose heart is always in her eyes and whose words are so frank and uninhibited by insecurity or pretense, this precious girl who is such a gem and a gift to my life — when I saw her so honestly loving all that I love and imitating who I am, I was undone. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, my mother always said (when I was protesting about another little sister who was copying me!) For good or for bad, I seldom consider there is much about me special enough or worthy enough of imitation, and yet, here she is. My little friend in the garden, a string of pearls to match mine (“someday I’ll have real ones like you, Mama!”), eagerness to not just learn cross stitch but to sit with me and be taught by me.

It made me pause and remember: that’s how I looked at my Mama. She was my standard of elegance and fashion. Her hobbies were enthralling to me. What she knew I wanted to learn, because I couldn’t imagine anyone better to learn from. And now, somehow, someone looks at me that way.

I am a real mother. Nurturing was hard coded into me when God formed my life, and mother became my name because a baby was born, not because I felt I had earned it or grown into it. What kind of a mother will I be? These clear blue eyes, full of love and adoration, call me to once again evaluate my heart. They require me to look around at the six people who look to me for comfort and nurturing, training and discipline, teaching and empowering, and to see them as a worthy investment of my life — the best of my life. I think of the moments in the garden, or getting ready to go out, or finishing up a sewing project when those six people were treated as an interruption to my goals. How very wrong and backwards. How clear it all is when I see a little girl who wants me to use all of those things to grow her and train her and shape her. Yes. That’s the goal, always, in it all.

Oh, these children. How precious they are, and how I long to be the sanctified and wholehearted disciple that they need as they are shaped for their destinies.

blessed by Beatrice

Reminiscing this morning, as my oldest little girl turns eight years old. I don’t know exactly where all of those years went, but skimming through photos and old blog posts, I am overwhelmed by how many wonderful moments I have been able to share and even provide for her. God is so very good.

A little trip down memory lane for you, if you’d like: the post I wrote celebrating her first birthday.

(And her very first birth day, too, is here.)

*****

Dear Beatrice Elaine,

You are one.

Today, under a canopy of brightest blue punctuated by clouds of white, you stood on your own in the middle of the sea of grass that is your yard. You smiled, laughed, at your proud accomplishment, giddy with the sense of how big the world was around you. You are leaving babyhood behind.

On your first birthday, you already had mastered quite a string of accomplishments: standing alone, two wobbly steps in succession, a mouthful of teeth including 2 (almost 4!) molars to celebrate your momentous day, 5 weeks of eating anything I cared to share from the table, and climbing out of the basket in which you sleep. Your brothers, by the way, never felt any need to even try such a thing. But you are not quite like them, are you? Daddy and I are always looking at each other and saying, “Did the boys do all this quite so young? No, I don’t think they did!” You, in your very quiet way, are taking life by the horns. There is strength and determination in you.


A table of small, feminine things: my favorite.

You’re my little girl. Just by your tiny presence, wrapped in a pink blanket, you interrupted life as we had known it and demanded that we make room for a girl. Perhaps it was simply that fact, but you were the first baby to seem so much like a person right from birth. We hesitated with naming you too quickly, because you somehow seemed like, well, like you already had a name, and we were just trying to articulate it. We were delighted to welcome you as our resident princess, and to make room for all you would become. Family shapes us as individuals, and you brought a whole new nuance to the family we were.

You also brought whole new ideas about baby. I was flabbergasted to realize that you would, left on your own, simply drift to sleep for hours on end. You would let anyone in the world hold you. You would sit with me quite happily and just watch life. If life got busier when we went from two children to three, it was only because your brothers got busier: you were only ever happy and quiet. Taking care of you was like playing house. “Are you for real?”, I’d whisper to you, as you fell asleep with a smile, woke up with a smile, laid on the floor staring at the ceiling fan with a smile, ride in the car for hours with a smile… I looked forward to each evening, when I’d put the boys to bed and then just stare at you for an hour or more. You were beautiful, and you quieted my heart. A gift.


The boys’ gifts and cards, created and arranged all on their own. Such excitement!

The boys love you immensely, and have from the beginning. They still talk to you in sing-song baby tones, and fall over themselves trying to help get your bib, your highchair, your barrette — anything to take care of you. They oooh and ahhh over your pretty dresses and sweet shoes, and making you laugh is one of their greatest delights. You are very generous with your laughs, of course. You’re the first of our one-year olds to be so celebrated by their siblings: the boys had already made you cards and tied ribbons on their very favorite stuffed animals by the time you woke up yesterday, and you were greeted with an overwhelming chorus of Happy Birthdays — uttered along with plenty of jumping, dancing, hugging and kissing. I love watching you three smile at each other.

You’re Daddy’s girl, and you will do anything to get his attention when he walks in the room. Fake laughs, fake cries, silly faces, crawling over his laptop — anything. He can get more giggles from you than anyone else can, and when he scoops you up and takes you on an errand, your smile says that you feel like the most special girl in the world.

Oh, how I love you! My heart aches, wanting to go back and do this past year just one more time. Every single moment with you has been a delight. Now we’re moving towards Little Girl years, and while I’ll cherish memories of brand new you, I’m so excited to learn more about you and teach you more about Jesus. You were born just as the first traces of pink were lighting the sky, vanquishing the darkness of night. And you, Bringer of Light, will continue to do just that as you walk through life. You will bring laughter, strength, joy, and determination — but most of all, you will bring light to those who walk in darkness. And I’m excited to see that.

I feel so blessed and honored to have you to care for.

I love you forever,

Mama


I’m afraid I didn’t do well at getting many pictures, but here she is, surrounded by excited siblings and cousins.

school days!

While summer days are enjoyed — gardens watered, kiddie pools filled, camps attended, grill fired up repeatedly — my mind is already far ahead, somewhere in September, dreaming about new books and new pencils and new routines. Snippets of time have been stolen to toss old markers and used workbooks, choose and collect books for a new year, write out lesson plans and ponder new chore schedules, and generally prepare myself for a new exciting year of learning.

And I am excited! Want to see which books we’ll use? (Is there anything homeschool moms enjoy more than a show and tell? Please feel free to share yours in return!)

Math will be Teaching Textbooks for the boys and Bob Jones for the girls. Beatrice is old enough to begin TT, but I think the workbook format for one more year will better suit her (easily distracted) personality.

Handwriting will be Getty-Dubay for Fiona (as I’ve used with the others), and something new for the older three. I want them all to learn cursive well, so despite the protests from the boys who see handwriting practice as a bit of a pain, I am sticking to my guns. (Also, their handwriting clearly needs practice!)

Some of our Language Arts will be covered with these books: Explode the Code for Fiona, who is still chipping away at basic reading skills; Bob Jones English for Beatrice, who would do creative writing all day and will love nouns and verbs as much as I did; and a surprise find (cleaning out the school cupboard can be awesome!) that will come in useful with the boys as we diagram sentences to review things they’ve already learned, as well as some poetry study and writing skills that we’ll incorporate into other subjects.

For science, my younger three students will continue nature study — observation, research, and recording their finds — aided by new books that I just love! Jameson will strike out on his own, doing Apologia’s Physical Science.

But of course, in my world, all of those things take a back seat to the real exciting stuff: history!! This is where we end up doing most of our literature, our writing assignments, our geography and social studies, our philosophy and ethics and poetry and art. This year we will tackle World War Two, and I am beyond excited. I’m also overwhelmed (so much to learn, so many direction we could go), sober (just an afternoon of preparation had me feeling so unbelievably sad), and expectant (“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it” — these are important things to study and be warned by.) I have too many novels and biographies and resources and movies and songs collected, but I am starting to create a plan. To break things up, every six weeks or so we will pause and zero in on one of the major countries of interest (Germany, France, Britain, Russia, and Japan), and study its geography, learn a few words in its language, read a folk story, and make some food!

Of course I always dream so much and then there’s the reality of dentist appointments and toddlers crying and dinner needing to be made and that pesky thing about 24 hours and only 24 hours in each day.

But we’ll aim for the stars and hit the moon, right?

For now, I’m enjoying afternoons outside, reading my (you guessed it, WWII) novel.