winter rhythms

More January.

Two entire weeks of regular routine: Sunday evenings printing school plans, mornings with Jameson reliably preparing breakfast while other children fall into their familiar chores, gathering for Circle Time and then breaking for independent school, lunch made reliably by William followed by read-aloud and at least an hour outside (although, confession, we may be stealing far more than an hour each day, as the snow has been perfect for sledding and who can interrupt happy children at play?), rosy cheeks back around the table to finish up books or off with a rag or two to finish a chore before Mama reliably makes dinner and we wind up another day. All to the tune of someone practicing piano, because oh my, there’s a lot of piano playing every day!

My new planner arrived only a couple days into January (sort of forgot my last one wouldn’t just keep going forever and was shocked to not find January 2019 after December’s pages ended!) Top three things, it says, and I’ve been mostly filling those out thusly:

Read (my own and out loud for fun to littlest ones)
Pray (continually, fervently, with greater tenacity)
Worship (because it’s true, I used to sing and play for hours and I am so very rusty)

Those don’t all get ticked off every day, especially the last. But it’s a new focus and before I fill up the space of winter routine days with other things, I want to remember and refresh those foundations.

Waking early every morning, and the early is the easy part. The getting out the door to walk has been much harder. Enid wakes too early too often, and just as I’m thinking, “TOO EARLY!”, I’m reminded that it’s not too early, it’s just right and my times are in His hands. She’s reminding me that babies are lessons in flexibility and serving. Putting others first.

So while my Bible study is not always followed by a brisk, cleansing walk in the January air, I know that someday it will and these days will pass too quickly.

A month of back on track eating for the Mr and me, and “low” sugar for kids. No video games. Throw in early dark and heaping snow and nursing baby and suddenly we’re deep into winter’s hibernating. Lots of thinking, lots of growing. Is that how winter is for everyone? I don’t know. But winter seems to, for us, quiet the world enough that we can hear our inner workings and the refining process happening within. We can read books and be provoked and ponder ideas the change us. Children play long enough to grow bored and selfish and so they grow, too, and I don’t mind. We are under discipline, all of us, and in the pain we know the deep, deep love of our Father.

New Yearing


Highlight of the Dunphey year!

I know that’s not really a verb, but it’s kinda what we’re still doing over here. My planner had “school!” written on January 2, and I decided to cross that right out. We’re going to start Monday because we all needed a few more days of the soul rest that vacation can bring. When my kids were younger, back to routine sounded most restful; now that they’re older, and things don’t fall apart quite as much without the constraints of routine, a few days off can actually feel like a few days off.

So we’ve been New Yearing: washing light fixtures and purging closets and spending way too long trying to get the impossible to reach spots of my shower door clean, along with hours of outdoor play and lazy mornings and staying up kinda late because you can. (Them, not me.)

And meal planning: here we go, meeting January with another Whole30 and mid-winter is just not always an easy time for that. The cookie intake was real, so real, and that first day of no sugar left me feeling more than lost. Day 5, settling in, grabbing apples and cashews left and right to keep up with that nursing baby. Even heating up a quick afternoon snack of pot roast. Who eats pot roast for a snack? Answer: a mom on whole30.

Clearing out some space: Not just in our closets (and ugh, that reminds me that I still haven’t gotten to mine. Maybe in 2020…), but also in my heart and mind. Putting my phone in airplane mode so I can take pictures and not much more, and I can already tell what a challenge that is going to be. How often I turn it on without even thinking, only to remember there’s nothing there to “catch up on,” to distract me, to pull me away temporarily from this demanding or quiet moment. Mothering is always a 24 hour task, even with just one little babe, but now those 24 hours are being pulled in 6 directions, and it’s too easy to retreat into manager mode (which can also feel like survival mode) instead of investing fully. I can’t really give 6 people everything they need — in fact, I can’t even give one person everything they need — but I want to give what I can to the people God’s asked me to serve, and these six rank pretty high on that list. Talk to them, listen to them, connect with them, pray for them — I need the help of the Holy Spirit, and so here I am, offering Him all of me.

It’s a new year, and there are some fresh starts, but really, I’m in year 13 of a very long mission (mothering). I’m not at the bottom of a mountain, rested and ready to tackle the unknown. I’m somewhere deep in the thick of the woods, out of breath, slipping down the steep rocks, a bit muddy and blistery and worn. But this new year is a chance to stop and stand still, lift my eyes, and watch the fog drift away to reveal that high peak, my destination, the goal. Fresh vision for the steep climb ahead. Time to shift my pack, retie my laces, and forge ahead.

****


Matching olive jackets


Growing boys


Nights with Mom = learning to play solitaire.


They love my hot chocolate


Such a joy.

Christmas memories

I just finished adding all of my December photos to my online album, and if I wasn’t feeling melancholy before (which I was; in fact, I was up for too long in the middle of the night agonizing over the end of another Christmas season), I am now. But I’m also smiling and feeling full.

So full.

We certainly did plenty of wonderful things — Messiah Sing-a-long, school concerts, piano performances, gingerbread house decorating, craft and cookies, evenings of movies by candlelight and books by tree light, birthday parties and Christmas parties, family shopping trip, and wrapping gifts with so much excitement — but looking through the pictures I took, mostly I am thankful for the home I get to make and share with these precious people. We did quite a bit, for sure, but more than outings and commitments, we had days at home together. We sang a Christmas hymn during Circle Time each day, and read from our Christmas book basket. I let go of more cookie-making control than ever before and cringed at the shape and consistency but who really cares?, we did it together. My meal plans were woefully behind and plenty of times I had to remember my favorite advice from Loving the Little Years (“in twenty minutes this crisis will be over–deep breath and get through”), but you can’t do everything and life is real, and who would really actually want to live some glossy magazine spread, anyway? I’m so glad that “special” doesn’t have to mean “pretend.”

And it’s Sunday morning so my contemplations are getting cut short, but suffice to say: I’m really thankful for a beautiful month of celebrating the love of God and our love for others. And it’s an incredible privilege to be at the helm of this home-making, refuge-building, culture-forming enterprise, to see my husband and children enjoying and being built up by my labors.

A week in December

Here we are, one week gone. A week of tree mornings, cookie making and eating, Christmas piano duets, concert prep and trying so hard so focus on school work when what we all want to do is make more cookies and wrap presents! Let the best time of the year begin!

But Christmas isn’t really magic. A string of lights, few candles, and Michael Buble in the background does not, in actuality, deliver us from our sin nature. Hardly. And so we find ourselves in the thick of attitudes and selfishness and Mama running on fumes and all of us in actuality needing Jesus.

And that, my friends, is what Christmas is about. It’s what the angels declared back then and the echo of that declaration still resounds: Jesus came to bring peace between us and a holy God. Through Him, we can find ourselves falling short of the glory of God and then repent, confess our sins, and enjoy fellowship with a loving Father.

So, if in the midst of trying so hard to make lovely memories you find yourself instead confronted with a mess of human nature, instead of yelling, “What’s wrong with you kids? Don’t you know this is supposed to be special??” — realize that this is it! This is why He came! We need Him and we can have Him in all His fullness. Pause. Guide hearts to prepare Him room, to usher Him in. Leave a few “magic” things undone and don’t worry about it so much. Turn, instead, to the miracle. That we, the people who walked in darkness, have seen a great light.

Amazing. It gets me every time. He saw my need — and became the answer.

*****


Christmas is here when the scent of nutmeg and butter fills the kitchen!


Plaid. Everywhere.


Tree. Such a beautiful tradition!


Concert night. 5,000 photos and we’ll settle for this one.


Still, still, still — you can hear the falling snow.

a morning’s rambling

I wish I had a picture from yesterday’s scene outside my windows — children bundled in all sorts of colors, laughing and tumbling after each other across the backyard, exploring every familiar corner because suddenly it was transformed and enchanting by our first real snow.

It is one of my favorite things to see, I’ve realized. A rainbow in the sky, peonies bursting into bloom, ocean’s swell crashing against rocks — all outdone by the joy and magic and brightness of a snowy playday. I could stand and watch forever.

I know it’s been said here in this little corner of the internet so many times, but my, how the days do fly by. I feel it in my soul as I manage this particular season of motherhood. There were so very many days when playing outdoors had to mean mittens and boots for me, too. Not so much anymore. They all run out to dress and play on their own and this year there’s a baby whose needs dictate my availability. It used to be that train tracks needed my expertise, and Candyland could only be played with my assistance. Piano practice required me to be standing nearby, and every single meal depended upon me.

That was an exhausting and demanding season that required so much prayer and Holy Spirit.

But just as I knew they would, those days flew by. There was a last time that Jameson needed me to lay near him as he drifted to sleep — and it was long, long ago. I did my best to be fully present and not wishing away any of those weary yet joy-filled days, and still

They go.

Now there are new demands with new joys to go along. There is the beginning of the craziness that is newborns + older children, a combination I’ve long marveled at and wondered at and have vague memories of my mother doing so well without missing a beat — but how?? My new favorite thing is laying in the dark nursing a baby to sleep (and drifting there myself!) and suddenly hearing tip-toe footsteps as Jameson quietly comes to let me know he’s home from whatever evening activity he had and to tell me how it was. He’s off doing his own thing more and more, but without me ever asking, he still comes to let me know how it all was. I know how that goes: there’s a security in knowing your mom knows.

*****

We are mapping out the next 45 days. Every one needs to count, as we approach the whirlwind of activity that is “the most wonderful time of the year.” I ask the kids each year what their favorite part of the Christmas season is, and while one might anticipate answers including parties and concerts and tree decorating and the like, the most consistent answer is, “I like all the cozy nights by the tree when you read stories and we’re together.” That is the most precious answer they could give, of course, and I am so blessed to know those quiet evenings have mattered so much — but oh, what a challenge as well. Those simple memories require one thing: TIME. Time at home, and not hurried and exhausted time at home, but slow and routine time at home. So like a tenacious guard I scan the calendar and count out the evenings and decide with determination that this many we will give, and the rest will be protected, given to them, my precious children who want nothing more than to hear a favorite book while gazing at a favorite ornament, surrounded by their favorite people.

And as I carefully map out school, cookie baking, outside commitments, shopping trips, prayerfully prioritizing, I am suddenly feeling like Elijah on Mount Carmel. As familiar as I may become with managing our days together, as skilled as I may get a figuring out what should fit where, there is an element to our days together that I am desperate for but cannot bring myself: the fire of the presence of God. So my prayer has been renewed with each glance at the calendar: Lord, would You visit our home. Engulf our hearts. This is meaningless without You. How silly is a stone-cold altar and untouched sacrifice. The whole point is You.

a moment

I don’t know what you picture when you think “homeschool.” I know that what I imagine isn’t what my reality ends up being most of the time. We don’t have a school room, but rather a kitchen table — as well as a couch, a piano, the floor, and other random places school occurs all day long. We don’t all sit for 2.5 hours, break for lunch and recess, and then reconvene. Sure, we eat together 3 times, and there’s our Circle Time, but otherwise it’s a lot of managing moving parts.

And so today, when I got them all situated for our weekly painting session, and even the baby was happy nearby, I had to take a picture. No talking, just paint; we all need quiet, I said. And look, all those sweet head bowed around the table. 7th grader to kindergartener working happily while music played in the background. My soul took a deep breath and I smiled.