Eee! I am truly surprised, we all are. We weren’t sure if we would find out baby’s gender this time around, and I kept going back and forth about it until Brandon said, “We’re just not those people who wait.” I laughed.. well, so be it. I think it’s good for us to know ahead–gives the kiddos time to wrap their minds around it–and me too! I’m super shocked. We had the 20 wk ultrasound on Tuesday, and everything looks good with the baby. That’s always the biggest relief, and so fun to watch baby waving and wiggling and kicking. We thought we’d do something more fancy for a gender reveal but Phoebe was begging me all day to open the envelope, and in reality, I don’t have much energy for fancy things lately. It seemed fitting to just let her open it after dinner Tuesday evening and share the news together intimately as a family first. So, there you have it. I’ve already cast on the first baby knit! Somehow “knowing” helps me want to knit for baby.
A couple of weeks ago we took a few days to visit Brandon’s parents in North Myrtle Beach. It was really our only family getaway for the year, and I was especially grateful for some time to be all together, for the kids to have some extended time with their daddy and for us all to have a chance to change pace and relax. Brandon’s parents are so kind and generous to host a family of five (with some challenging dietary needs, as well), and we are thankful to them!
As you can see, we soaked up the beach most of the time we were there. Both B and I feel a bit like we’re coming home when we spend time at the ocean. We will alway love living in the mountains, but need regular doses of the sunny warm ocean, too. We love a little bit of wilderness, wherever we can find it. It was especially fun to watch Philippa on this trip, as it was her first real experience with it all, and she was so enamored. Fearless, too. She loved jumping in the waves and digging in the sand. Until she didn’t, and then she just “wanted to go home.” 🙂 Mostly, she loved it. We enjoyed exploring the tidal pools and hunting for treasures, finding lots of crabs, seeing little fish, and the usual sea shells. Phoebe discovered the joy of riding waves on the boogie board, and she spent lots of time with daddy catching waves. She very rarely stops moving, that one. Noah enjoyed watching the boats from the marina. Unfortunately all of the kids were battling a bad head cold, so there was more fussiness than usual, but we all still had fun. B’s parents treated us to a trip to the aquarium and also took the kids out for put-put one night while B and I had a dinner date. It was a fun five days away, but it’s always wonderful to come back home again.
We live in the vicinity of many, many apple orchards. It’s become a fall tradition of ours to go apple picking, which is always a really sweet time. I mean, don’t get me wrong–there are plenty of whiney moments, too, from all of us. This particular Saturday a few weeks ago was a scorcher, so we were all pretty hot and tired by the end of our venture. This particular orchard had an apple gun, so we treated the kids to a round of shooting apples, but only philippa, our fearless one, really wanted to give it a shot. We let the kids each fill a basket and B and I filled one, too. We ended up with more apples than we really needed. It’s good and important for the children to connect with our food in this way, to see how it’s grown, to pick it and wash it and then eat it. To understand it comes from seed and soil and sun, to smell the squashed apples around the orchard. It really does seem to make a difference in how they/we consume food. I wish there was a good organic orchard nearby, but there isn’t. I made a large batch of applesauce which the kids all love and have been enjoying, as well as an apple pie recipe that a friend shared with me (a family recipe), which I adapted to be GF. I still have a large amount of apples in my fridge waiting to be processed and enjoyed. The children and I have so enjoyed leaning into the change of seasons here, dancing a bit on the edge of the last heat of summer and the cool crisp mornings of autumn. My roses and hydrangea are still blooming, most trees are still green, but summer is on its way out, and I am so glad.
Last week I took the children on a little homeschool day trip along with our co-op to Spruce Pine, NC where the annual Overmountain Victory Celebration is held. What an awesome opportunity it was to explore a living history of the 1780s militia encampment, learning about the time period and the history of the Overmountain men fighting British forces. Phoebe relished the chance to dress-up sort of Laura Ingles style (her interpretation), and she was pretty enraptured with each station, learning about fabric dying, fire starting, cooking over a fire, corn-husk doll making, how to use the lucet (knitting fork), and the general dress and culture of this time in history. It was fun to bring to life the period of history we are studying for her, and I so appreciated all the people who gave their time and energy to make something like this happen. We all had a really fun day and each learned a few things! Noah and Philippa were only mildly amused, mostly enjoying rolling down the grassy hill. Still, I love including them and planting little seeds and curiosities in their minds.
The weather has cooled ever so slightly, mornings are darker when the alarm goes off at six am. I’m feeling more and more back to myself, like this old soul is waking back up after being in a weird pregnancy slump for months. September in North Carolina can still be as hot as August some years, and I know we may still see some hot days before October. Even still, I’m celebrating every little hint of cooler days and the happy change that comes over these hills at this time of year. When I was my sickest with this pregnancy, many hours and hours of many days all I could do was lay down. I couldn’t read, watch anything, knit, scroll through social media. There was just no distraction that didn’t make me nauseous. I didn’t realize how tightly wound up I was until I was forced to just SIT a whole lot and do nothing and be with my thoughts (depressed and grumpy as they were). I could listen to worship music and that would help set my sights beyond my condition (which is really a very blessed condition indeed!) Having a few months of this has slowed me down in a way I didn’t know I was needing. I’ve slept more hours in a night because I’m not staying up till the wee hours knitting and reading. The anxious needing-to-always-have-something-to-busy-my-mind-with feeling has ebbed. I’m noticing quieter things, enjoying small moments of grace that I might otherwise rush past. It’s been hard and not something I would have volunteered for (to be sick) but the forced quieting of my soul has been a gift. God is always faithful, even when we don’t love His process.
I’ve felt bad for the children while I’ve been basically out of commission, but they have found lots of entertainment in our pretty simple bare yard. 🙂 Boredom is so often the impetus for creativity! They’ve been busy climbing trees, scavenging in the garden for neglected vegetables that have grown far too big, and playing in the hammock. I hear one of them yell, “hey guys, let’s go outside and fall out of the hammock!” and the rest yell, “yeaaahhh!” That’s their game, to get in altogether and whoever is at the front catapults themselves over the edge and then they get in the back of the train again.
We checked out a book from the library called Wiggle and Waggle about two worm friends, and Phoebe has been worm hunting ever since. She’s claimed a few worms for pets, checks on them constantly, kills a few and then finds a few more. It grosses me out but I don’t want her to know that, it’s probably good she doesn’t mind getting her hands in the dirt even if bugs make me squeamish.
It’s probably early to have mums and pumpkins on the porch, but I needed something bright and cheery and a local friend of ours was giving away free pumpkins, so we loaded up on them. Hopefully they last through November, but they make me happy every time I see them, so they will have brought plenty of joy, no matter how long they last.
And a couple of evenings ago I made one of my most favorite soups (recipe here, but I omit the olives and sub black beans, and also omit the quinoa because it makes me really sick. Sometimes I add wild rice instead, sometimes I just leave it grain free and it’s just as delicious. I also add handfuls of spinach at the end, too). It’s one of my favorite meals, along with those super easy grain-free rolls which everyone in our house goes nuts over. We lit candles for the first time in a long time and the kids knew momma must be feeling better.
There are pumpkins and candles and soups and cold mornings and warm slippers and leaves falling in the grass and children playing late outside and bent over school books, and all is right with the world again. I had a checkup this morning and took the kids along and we got to see baby. Hopefully that makes it more real for them. Little one looked like he/she was sucking his/her thumb, and kept crossing his/her little legs so he/she looked pretty cozy in there, too.
Surprise! God has surprised and delighted us with another baby on the way! I’m always very sick for the first 20 weeks of pregnancy, so if you’ve wondered where I’ve been, this should explain it. No coffee, no knitting, no reading, no photography, just lots of laying around riding the waves of nausea. I’m thankful to my family and especially to Brandon for carrying the load while I’ve been MIA. I’m not feeling better quite yet so I may still be quiet for awhile, but we wanted to share our news with you. Baby is due Feb 2018!
My birthday last week was a fairly ordinary “workday” for me, and also not the easiest day with the children. I found myself scrubbing toilets and floors, folding laundry, settling sibling disputes, feeding hungry mouths–all the usual work that fills my days up to the brim. Of course there is a part of me that wants to just rest and be free from all work for a day (unrealistic), but then I also don’t mind taking care of these little ones that I love so much and this home that keeps us all together. I share my birthday with my mom, so my gift to her this year was to buy a few skeins of yarn for her to choose from so that I could knit her a shawl. She picked the color I had had on my mind for her, a rustic-y soft light red called Bergamot, and helped pick out a shawl pattern. I wanted to wind up her yarn on our birthday and cast on. I realized as I began knitting it that I was knitting this exact pattern just about this time last year on a road trip to upstate New York with Brandon’s family as a commissioned shawl for a friend. How funny and coincidental to be knitting it again at the same time a year later. It’s such an enjoyable pattern–all knitting and yarn overs and no purling!
I had planned on making a yummy dinner for my birthday since Brandon would be working a normal work-day and since we never really eat out with Phoebe and her dietary needs. I wanted to make Against the Grain’s Pesto Prosciutto Chicken with a GF pasta on the side, and creme brûlée for dessert, which is my favorite. The dinner took longer than I expected and once I got it in the oven, the kids and I and Brandon decided to go for a walk while it baked. It had been raining and we had felt a bit cooped up. The kids splashed in all sorts of muddy puddles so B bathed them quickly when we got home while I finished up dinner and it was late and nerves were a bit raw by this time. My dinner didn’t look at all like the lovely cookbook’s pictures, which is always annoying, but it was still delicious. I had made a creme brûlée earlier in the afternoon and infused it with culinary lavender because I love love love lavender especially in desserts.
We lit candles and I turned on french music because somehow everything felt like a french sort of dinner, and we ate at nearly 8pm. I had some cards to open, and then B put the finishing touches on the creme brûlée, the kids sang happy birthday to me which was the best part. The fuzzy photo of me with phoebe is the only such picture I snagged on this day, but its worth including since this is me, turning 33.
I had received word in the afternoon that Brandon’s grandfather had died. He had been in the hospital after some falls and other health issues so we knew it was coming, but it still felt so soon. Sadly we weren’t very close with him, but it’s still surreal and strange to consider death on your birthday. Probably quite healthy. Really that’s what we’re all marking–here’s another year, gone. Another year comes–bringing me closer to my own end. Time is passing, time is coming. Let’s stop and celebrate and remember and pay attention.
We quickly got the kids to bed, then got cozy for a movie of my pick. We watched “Florence Foster Jenkins” which was so interesting and funny and also a little sad (based on a true story). I cried and cried at the end. I don’t want to spoil the movie for those of you who may want to see it, but I will say I commiserated with the protagonist (Meryl Streep). She loved music and in her mind she had a beautiful singing voice, but in reality her voice was terrible. She pursues singing and her husband tries desperately to protect her from the truth of her real performance. It makes you wonder: Is this reality that we know of ourselves the reality others know of us? Aren’t so many of us afraid that maybe everyone is really laughing at us and about us behind our backs? What if we are really quite terrible at the things we think we’re good at, at the things we most love?
I’m sure it was the combination of watching that movie, it being my birthday, and also processing the news of Brandon’s grandpa’s death. It made me think and wrestle a bit with life, with the things I love and spend time on, with my role as a stay-at-home mother. I sometimes wrestle with this blog. I don’t know why, it seems so silly in the light of day. I love sharing our little life here. It helps me keep track of things, our lives little record for now. I’m not sure if I’ll do it forever. It’s important to reevaluate frequently what I give myself to. I enjoy taking pictures and capturing these fleeting moments. I’m thankful to have a space to write and share with you whatever God seems to lay on my heart. I’m not trying to “make it big” or be somebody, I’m not making an income doing this. I don’t mind it being mostly small and personal and shared with those few who happen to find this place on the internet and with whomever it resonates. I leave it to God to use it as He chooses. But then sometimes I doubt myself. Are my motives wrong, self-serving? Is this a huge waste of time and a distraction? Is it too personal to share our family life so openly in such a dangerous and dark world? My blogging has brought occasional criticism, but mostly I feel it from my own inner critic. Brandon is relentless in support of it, which is always so odd to me because he is so anti social-media-anything. Anyway, for whatever reason this is where my mind went after watching that movie. Wrestling with the silliness of my spending time photographing, knitting, writing words, creating. Who has time for all of this when you have little ones and when the world is full of pain and need? Am I spending my life on what really matters? Are my little endeavors to bring beauty and joy and even occasionally to write words–are these small endeavors mattering?
I crawled into bed and picked up my book and opened to these words. (The author was sharing about finding a little resale boutique in her neighborhood, a beautiful little gem and yet she went in and found herself to be the only customer. She imagined being the store owner, the way the woman had attractively laid out her wares, rearranging and bravely taking a risk to run this little business that wasn’t really garnering that much attention. She wondered if the woman got discouraged on the days when there was no business. What makes her think things will work out? Why does she return to it day after day?):
“She returns to what she loves to do, because she loves it and she can’t not do it. She goes back to the joy of pursuing her passion. Because its not likely that anyone is coming in and exclaiming, ‘I’m so glad you’re here! I’ve been waiting for you to sell secondhand clothes in this space all of my life!’ It’s not likely that anyone is affirming her passion or holding her hand through those moments of sheer panic. I’m also pretty certain people aren’t stampeding to her door to say thank you or to make spirit tunnels for her to run through at the end of the day after she’s vacuumed the floor and locked up for the thousandth time.
This is what I’m getting at: joy isn’t in the response of others based on what we do. Joy is in doing what God created us to do and has given us to do. Joy is in pursuing with faith and abandon the passions God has laid in our hearts, and doing them in his honor. We serve for the smile on his face.
And joy begets joy. When we serve God with joy, we in a round-about way encourage others to serve God with joy. Artists appreciate another’s art, joy is derived from another’s joy, and passion feeds off and grows from another’s passion.
So whatever you’re doing–homeschooling, event planning, cake baking, medical research, substitute teaching, diaper changing, coaching, putting words out into the world, or yes, running a small boutique–do it with joy as unto the Lord. Don’t look for appreciation from others or a spirit tunnel at the end of the day as an indicator of whether or not you’re on the right track. Look to God, who created you to be a creator that flings tangerine passion and joy into the world. He is smiling as you do what you do for him.
There is no mold, no one right way of showing Jesus, for where the Spirit is, there is freedom. He has made us each different, combining us all to make a collage, a collage that when you step back and look you suddenly see: it’s Jesus!
Different strokes for reaching different folks.
You there, with your unique talents, passions, and gifts.
Go in freedom.
Tell them about Jesus with your life.
Do it with grace and tangerine joy.”
-Christine Hoover, From Good to Grace
Isn’t that so sweet of God, to speak right to what I was struggling with at the long end of the day? He affirmed me, affirmed His love for me, affirmed my freedom in Him, affirmed His smile over me. What more could you ask for on a birthday? I hope you are encouraged, too, dear reader. Whatever you do, do it for Him, do it as unto Him, do it with joy and gusto and don’t worry about the response or affirmation or notice of others. Take risks. Live boldly. Be brave. Be a pioneer. Follow where He leads. When we get our eyes off of Him we get into all sorts of trouble, don’t we? It’s His good-pleasure over us that we’re after, it’s His approval alone that matters.
At the end of the Florence Foster Jenkins movie, after criticism about her singing voice, Florence on her deathbed said: “They can say I can’t sing, but no one can say I didn’t sing.”
So, sing, friend. You go on singing, and I will too. His ear is tuned to hear our voice.