finally, ten

Finally, ten years old. For a girl who can’t wait to grow up, this birthday has long been anticipated. Though I share in her joy and celebration for sure, this momma also feels the surprise and hint of sorrow that comes with realizing how quickly ten years have gone by and how quickly this firstborn of mine is changing and becoming a little lady. This girl has inspired and shaped so much of my journey as a mother, as firstborns often do. God couldn’t have given a better gift to us those ten years ago on the day before Christmas Eve in that early morning snowfall. God couldn’t have set apart a better kiddo for paving the way. She is strong, incredibly joyful, vivacious, enthusiastic, positive, resilient, determined, compassionate. She loves everyone easily and generously. She forgives quickly. She has a huge passion for learning and exploring, and her own sweet faith in God is growing and continually encourages and challenges me.

I would venture to guess there are few who enjoy a party and presents as much as Phoebe does, so her special day was much anticipated. She was excited and happy over every gift as you can see in the pictures. She received from us some horse backing riding pants and boots, her birthday sweater which I knit, a new dress for her Kaya doll, a book, a new breyer horseback rider for her collection, as well as a couple gifts from family. I especially enjoyed seeing the other children wrap up favorite stuffed animals and toys in their blankets and present them to Phoebe as gifts. We also surprised her with a riding lesson at the same stable where she participated in horse camp this past summer. Everyone enjoyed the outing to the stable and visiting with the horses, and I was reminded that one’s area of interest enriches all of our lives. Later that night we had cake and sang happy birthday and marveled over this little ray of light. What an endless source of delight to us she is.

noah is 8

This year the kids requested having their birthday gifts hidden around the house for them to find. It was really fun for all! Noah received some new carhartt bib coveralls, his knitted birthday sweater from me, the book My Side of the Mountain, and a couple awesome gifts from grandparents. We also gave him a Bruder John Deere tractor he’s had his eye on for some time. Probably the most special gifts were the handmade rifle and pistol Brandon made for him, though. He inscribed each gun with a scripture. Noah’s favorite song is Psalm 46 by Shane and Shane and without remembering that, Brandon happened to pick a portion of Psalm 46 to inscribe on the rifle. It was a sweet moment. He will treasure those guns for sure!

Noah requested that we go for a hike to see some waterfalls, and it was so good for us all to be out in nature for a bit. The waterfall pictured is High Falls at Dupont State Park. Only moments into our hike Noah fell hard and hurt his knee, and we almost turned back but he decided to try and keep going. It was peaceful, quiet, chilly and lovely in the woods. We left there and drove over to a favorite pottery place that does an open house in December where you can pick out a free cup and enjoy cider. Then back home to make the birthday boy’s dinner request: pizza. His cake this year wasn’t as exciting as I’d hoped it be, but I did manage to make some semblance of a fish on it with candy and sprinkles I happened to have on hand. I think he loved it. ūüôā

Noah, as daddy often says to you, you’re a good man. And you are! Kind and strong, tenderhearted and sweet. You care so sweetly for your sisters. Sometimes its hard to be the only boy but you carry it well. You’ve grown up a lot this year and we’re so proud of you, your hard work, diligence in school, love for reading, your excitement about nature and love for exploring. Thank you for all your eagerness to work and help, thank you for your laughter and energy, and the way you invite us to play. It is easy to celebrate you! Happy birthday, son. You are so loved. May you continue to grow in your love for God as you journey through this next year!

December festivities

Forgive me while I catch up here on all the December happenings! It feels like I haven’t had a free day at home to do so all month. Today is the day before Phoebe’s birthday and I have wrapped all gifts and plan to make her birthday dessert today so that tomorrow can be a little less stressful.

The first two weeks of December were busy with wrapping up our last bits of school before taking a nice long break. Phoebe’s choir had a Christmas concert (done safely with social distancing and masks where needed) and it was something special to hear their beautiful voices and various girls’ instruments after such a year of isolation. A few days later Noah and Phoebe had a piano recital, their first one in person after a zoom spring recital. What a good experience for them to play their pieces in front of a (small) audience! My camera was acting up and I didn’t get many photos of Noah playing sadly.

The first weekend of December I threw a very small joint birthday party for Noah and Phoebe. Not one to usually do parties, I’m so glad we did. It was very sweet for them to have three of their close friends over (that we already regularly see). Phoebe wanted to have an American doll tea party, and I wonder if this might be the last year she is into dolls? She did all of the setup, made little place cards and assigned seats, while I prepared a few little snacks for the girls to enjoy. I think it was really fun! Meanwhile, Brandon met Noah’s friends at a nearby mini golf course and they played a round of mini golf together and had cupcakes there. I was bummed to not be able to be there, but the point was to give the kids some time with their friends and there was no other way to make two parties happen this month! I’m pretty pleased with how it all went.

Meanwhile, Brandon and I have started just a small update on our tiny master bathroom. We haven’t done anything to it since buying the home three years ago and it is quite an eyesore. I will share better “before and after” pictures once we finish this first phase of updating (these are all “before”). We hope to eventually remodel the bathroom entirely, but in the meantime I had a can of paint leftover from painting our front door and I felt that it would make a big difference just to repaint the wall above the tile in bathroom, change the mirror and light fixture and vanity. It’s going slowly because theres just not much time this month for working on it, so for now our bedroom is in a bit of a state of disarray. I don’t mind so much because it is so exciting to see improvements!

It has been good to have quieter, simpler days at home, free time to do crafts or adventures and stay in our pajamas all day. I’m still hoping to make some Christmas cookies together and get to organizing some closets and our school room before our break is over. Tomorrow is Phoebe’s birthday and I still need to share photos from Noah’s birthday. Busy, busy. If I don’t post before then, I pray your Christmas season is merry and bright, rich in love, peaceful, pierced with a particular joy that comes from slowing down, savoring God’s good gifts. I pray you can gather with a loved one or two and that whomever you spend Christmas with, you enjoy the gift of each other’s presence.

the last of November

November finished with a sweet and simple Thanksgiving spent with Brandon’s parents at our home. I made all the fixings but I haven’t cooked a turkey in some years and the recipe in Danielle Walker’s Celebrations cookbook for a brined turkey did not disappoint. It was delicious if I do say so myself. ūüôā We sang “Now Thank We All Our God” as we sat down to eat, the hymn the children and I had been singing daily in the month of November. What a beautiful act of worship, to give thanks in the very midst of so much hard.

That weekend we made our annual trip to our favorite dreamy Christmas farm, just a simple quiet tract of land out in the boonies. We open our van doors and the kids tumble out and start running free in the wide fields, and all feels right with the world. The very fat, funny looking tree pictured was the one we thought we would get but ended up finding a different variety that we liked better for its huge and healthy bristles. Our children couldn’t wait to decorate it, though we didn’t get to it for a few days more. It is always the sweetest thing to unpack all the ornaments from our 14 years together. Always, so many memories and stories. This year it was Wren’s turn to hang the star. I am so grateful for this season of light to end a very dark year, reminded that in all things, in all things, the light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it. I’m looking for all the ways, and I hope you are too.

respite

Ever since we visited this beautiful, quiet lakehouse last year we’ve been anticipating and hoping to return. We saved and planned, then held plans loosely as life came with interruptions and the world faced a pandemic. So we felt especially grateful and blessed to return to this place. This time we knew what to expect, how wonderful it would be. Did I mention how quiet it is? How good it was to ease into a different sort of rhythm, early sunrise mornings on the dock, late starlit evenings there, too. The peaceful sounds of crisp leaves and lapping water. Long stretches of time together without the usual bustle of schoolwork, activities, and work vying for our attention. We savored swimming, playing, fishing, knitting (for me), canoeing, exploring, reading, resting. It was a sweet and needful time of reconnecting with God, with each other, in the beauty of creation. It felt like summer’s last hurrah, the last of the sunscreen slathered on. The water was icy cold and yet it was refreshing when the sun was blazing. One night we had wild winds and freezing temperatures, which gave us the most stunning misty sunrise on the lake the next day. I couldn’t imagine getting back in that freezing mountain lake water then but by mid-morning it was toasty warm again. Such is fall in the mountains. Noah and Philippa fished and fished, and I was so disappointed for them that they never caught anything. Brandon caught the only two fish of the trip.

Still it was a happy time together, many sweet memories made in the sweet month of October with beautiful leaves changing all around. It couldn’t have been more needed after a year like this year, and I know so many of you understand. I hope you have been able to find respite, too. When Brandon and I paddled all around the lake with the children in the canoe it seemed so strange, all of us tucked neatly into this one little boat. All this love and noise and life contained in this one little vessel, so small in the world, Brandon and I carrying us forward, directing, safe-keeping. Their easy trust and childlike dependence, such a precious gift. Brandon and I, too, looking in dependence to our Father as we make our way in this wild world, hoping to do some good for Him in it all, carried by His grace.

a bit of this and that

Fall is in full swing and I’m so grateful. It is the best time of year, the very best weather with the happiest seasons ahead of harvest, Thanksgiving, a slew of children’s birthdays (in this house) and Christmas. This year I planted a few fall plants in the garden, but the energy and sense of urgency is so different for me in the fall. I’ve hardly tended to them and I’m not sure that they’ll do much. I planted a variety of greens (arugula, spinach, mustard greens, collards), some turnips, beets, and butternut squash. I planted more Bachelor’s buttons, too. I have some bulbs I need to get in the ground, snowdrop and crocus. I’m already looking forward to seeing them come up in early spring. The zinnias are on their last leg, but I’m still cutting blooms. The marigolds are finally really producing and I’ve been collecting and drying them, Philippa helping to string them into a garland (inspired by Ginny Sheller). I’m in the mood to dye some yarn but not sure that I’ll actually get around to it these busy days.

Our old oven died this summer. Thankfully, we have a home warranty to help replace appliances but it was quite a long time before we had a working oven again. If there was ever a good time for the oven to go out, it would be in the middle of summer but still it was a huge inconvenience for a family that eats pretty much 100% from home. I’m so happy with the one we chose and can’t believe the difference after working with a very, very old oven for so long. The kids were mostly excited about the box from the oven and it brought hours of play. A win for all, I suppose. Actually, once I was able to bake cookies, bread, and pizza again they were all very happy with the new appliance, too.

Rainy October afternoons have been filled with things like painting, reading books, playing lots of chess and checkers, making forts with all the pillows. While they’re busy making messes, I’m busy trying to bring some order to our days. Did you see those nice homeschool shelves neatly tidied? I’m too tired to hunt for a “before” picture, but I promise you it’s a great improvement. I’ve also managed to finally reorganize Phoebe and Philippa’s bedroom, tidying toys on shelves that Brandon built and condensing their two dressers down into one. Sometimes you have to shop your house and look for solutions to small space organizing, and in this case I think it worked out well. The girls now have my dresser and I have Phoebe’s. I plan to sell Philippa’s along with the crib that matches it (which Wren is more than ready to move out of). Noah and Wren’s room needs some de-cluttering next.

We’ve been really enjoying having my brother and his wife and son in town for a few weeks (staying with my parents nearby). We went last week to our favorite nursery with a real pumpkin patch to get some pumpkins. I wanted some fun pink, green, and white pumpkins to decorate our front porch. Of course the tractors were a big attraction for our crew. We went to this same patch last year but there seemed to be less pumpkins to cut in the patch this time. No matter, it’s just fun to let the kids run around and explore and hunt for one good pumpkin to carve. I love walking through the nursery, so we found what we needed there, and the kids did cut their own carving pumpkin from the patch. I’m settling into the season with all the beauty, crispness, and refreshing it seems to bring. Tomorrow we leave to go out of town for a few days and I’m so looking forward to enjoying the turning leaves and some quiet respite from our home and busy routines. I love this season of being home and busy raising these four little people, I love the rhythms and even the busy full days. But time away is so rare and so needed, this year more than ever.

september orchards

It’s hard to believe I took these photos weeks ago now and have been meaning to share them here. Are our little days really so busy? But they are. Each new school year brings longer school days it seems, and more activities in the afternoons. Although I’m happy with the schedule and rhythm we have set up, it is a challenge making time to get on here and blog. Day’s end finds me exhausted as I crawl into bed, however a good and satisfied kind of tired it is.

Anyway, back to the belated photos. A few weeks ago Brandon’s parents came for the weekend to visit and we decided to take everyone to a local orchard. It was one of the first chilly days and we (happily!) pulled out our sweaters. We live in the heart of apple country with many orchards to choose from (though we wish there were more organic options). Hoping to avoid the crowds, we kept to the rows picking fruit rather than doing the other activities the orchard offers. It was a sweet time together, everyone becoming like children again hunting for apples without blemishes and filling up boxes and wagons with their finds. Walking amongst rows spiced with that particular sweet, musky scent of fallen and decomposing apple, everyone on a treasure hunt for hidden red and green baubles, one can’t help but feel rejuvenated and refreshed. We took home one small box and a few days later I washed and peeled them and made a delicious batch of applesauce, about the easiest thing you can do with fresh apples. Sweet memories were made and fall feelings began to warm our hearts . ‚̧

golden hour

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Rain is gently pattering on the metal roof on the sunroom adjacent to where I type and isn’t supposed to let up all day. ¬†One can hardly complain with the state of the west coast and how needed rain is there. ¬†Children are quietly (and not so quietly) working on the day’s schoolwork. ¬†Now they are off playing a game of hide and seek and screaming throughout the house. ¬†We are into our fifth week of school, hard to believe how quickly these first weeks have flown by. ¬†Overall it has gone very well so far, better than I expected. ¬†I began a more structured school day schedule for us last year and I’ve adapted it and solidified it more this year, and I think that’s really been essential for us. ¬†It’s good to be back in the flow. ¬†Be that as it may, there’s always a level of chaos amidst all the flurry of activity in the school room as I bounce between different children offering help. ¬†It does feel busier though with more on our plates, and even getting on the computer to share a blog post feels harder to do.

In the midst of all this constant rain, I’m looking back on the photos for this post. ¬†Labor day weekend we went for a picnic to Mt. Mitchell, which is relatively close to us and is the highest peak East of the Mississippi. ¬† I do so crave getting up high and seeing a beautiful view. ¬†We hiked the Deep Gap trailhead at Mt. Mitchell over to the first peak, Mount Craig, and enjoyed the stunning views from there. ¬†Wren would have hiked the whole way if we let her, such a little one but so strong and determined to keep up with everyone else. ¬†I think the last time I hiked to that peak was when Brandon and I went backpacking for a few days for our tenth anniversary. ¬†Then it was May: stormy, icy and with freezing wind. ¬†This time it was open, sunny, warm, and green. ¬†We were with my parents and brother’s family. ¬†After the brief hike we had our picnic dinner and watched the sunset. ¬†As you can see, the sunset and views and colors were just spectacular. ¬†Simple beauty, these old blue rolling mountains.

Then back home, back to the regular work of the week and of the season. ¬†The weather has cooled here ever so slightly, but I’m not sure the hot days are entirely behind us. ¬†I’m enjoying every bit of the cool weather that I can, however. ¬†Recently, I finished knitting a hansel hap with a kit of yarn Brandon and the kids gifted me for Mother’s Day last year. ¬†The yarn was Little Meadows yarn from Ginny Sheller + extra special and squishy. ¬†It was a relatively quick knit and so, so enjoyable. ¬†I modified the pattern just a bit, adding an extra repeat or so to make it bigger. ¬†I thought it may cause me to run out of yarn but I had plenty, and I’m so glad I did it as the size is perfect. ¬†I’ve already been reaching often for it on these early cool nearly-fall days.

Most days are just ordinary, mundane and full of the work that must be done. ¬†Then there are days where you escape to the mountain tops, picnic and spend time gathered with family. ¬†There are days when you harvest armfuls of zinnias and marvel that you grew these and then you trim them down to brighten up your September table. ¬†There are days you finish knitting a beautiful shawl with a bit of yarn you hoarded for as long as you could stand it. ¬†One foggy September morning you can finally wrap up in that cheerful woolly shawl. ¬†All so unexpected sometimes, the glory and the hardship, the peaks and the valleys, though they shouldn’t be. ¬†I’m grateful for the way the beautiful moments carry us through and feed our souls in a way, bright spots for bleaker days.

pickles, flowers, birds, and a schoolroom update

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It never fails to surprise me how quickly the summer weeks go by. ¬†It seems we barely have anything going on, this year especially, and yet somehow it feels full and busy. ¬†Then all of a sudden it’s August and we are nearly ready to begin another school year. ¬†It may have something to do with the fact that I put off a lot of bigger projects until the bigger breaks (Christmas and summer) and then suddenly I feel like I have a small window to get a lot of things done. ¬†I want to clean and tidy and reorganize all the chaos that has spilled out over the last several months, but attempting to do so with four children underfoot is challenging and feels like an exercise in futility. ¬†I realized this summer that since we will be adding another student this fall (yay, Philippa!) I need a bigger work space to gather children around and sit by them to assist. ¬†I have been cramming myself into a kiddie chair at a very small kiddie table for the last year when I’ve worked with Noah and it finally dawned on me that this wasn’t going to work any longer. ¬†Praise the Lord. ¬†Environment does make such a difference.

So with some moving around of furniture that we already had and buying a few new items to spruce up our school room, we’ve slowly been making changes over the summer. ¬†After three years of living in this house and the prior owners leaving the wood windows half painted in the schoolroom, we finally painted them and the laundry room door also. ¬†It is amazing how something so small makes such a nice difference! ¬†It just looks tidier. ¬†We were given a couple of old hutches and I decided to use one in the school room as a homeschool cabinet. ¬†I will probably paint it in the future, but I do like the original wood. ¬†We’ve been filling the glass top part of it with nature finds that we’ve been saving. ¬†The bottom part will hold puzzles, manipulatives, books, and whatever else we need to keep organized in there. ¬†Brandon put better lighting in also (can lights) because this room is the darkest in the house and that doesn’t make for a great school space. ¬†It has been fun to focus on just one room and make it suited to our needs. ¬†It’s amazing how the kids are drawn more to this space now and I think it is going to work better for us this school year. ¬†I used to spread out and do school at the kitchen table or in the living room, and we still do that for some subjects. ¬†But it has made a big difference for us to work in a dedicated space and keep all of our supplies handy. ¬†It makes it easier for me to grab what we need and helps everyone’s attention spans.

Meanwhile, the garden has been growing, growing. ¬†I’ve neglected weeding it for the past couple of weeks with the high heat, humidity, and the more pressing projects in the house sorting curriculum, planning, and reorganizing. ¬†It’s a bit wild out there now as one can only expect it to be come August. ¬†Our cucumbers continue to abound so I made a batch of refrigerator pickles using this recipe. ¬†(I didn’t use as much sugar and used more peppercorn and mustard seed.) ¬†So good and easy. ¬†We are able to share a lot of what we grow with others and that is always a joy. ¬†I’m thankful for all the flowers, enjoying watching them bloom and cutting some to bring indoors. ¬†Noah has been obsessed with drawing birds from this atlas, he has done at least twenty different drawings by now and they’re really good. ¬†He told me tonight that he wants to set up a stand tomorrow by the road and sell them.

The kids seem relatively happy but I wonder how all of these changes in our world are affecting them. ¬†Noah said at dinner tonight that he wondered when the virus would be over and all the stores could open up again. ¬†I realize we forget to tell them some of the updates happening, that many places are open again but there are still restrictions in place. ¬†Still, it doesn’t feel “normal” to them yet and it’s uncertain for all of us what normal will be from here on out. ¬†Our homeschool co-op will begin in a few weeks, it is a very small group and we are able to continue meeting. ¬†Hopefully that will restore a bit of normalcy for them, but who knows what this fall and winter season will hold?

Some “before” shots of our school room:

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In progress:

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Current iteration:

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I will share a few more photos maybe as I finish up in there. ¬†I am still organizing the shelves and my desk area. ¬†Little bits of work in little chunks of time. ¬†I hope in the next few weeks we are well prepared for a new and maybe altogether different school year. ¬†I’m beginning to feel excited about it.

 

 

 

a different Easter

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Beautiful, sunny warm Saturday was filled with productivity and work. ¬†Early morning grocery shopping, lawn care, cleaning floors and bathrooms, all the house work tended to so we could enjoy a restful Sunday. ¬†We thought about doing an egg hunt on Saturday while it was sunny out, knowing Easter Sunday was slated to be rainy, but it just didn’t feel like Easter. ¬†We finished that day with dinner outside under the budding Crepe Myrtle and with a large bonfire. ¬†I made gluten-free cinnamon rolls that evening to bake on Easter morning.

I think we all fought some sorrow on Easter due to the fact that celebrations are overshadowed somewhat by the corona virus. ¬†How we miss gathering! ¬†But our hearts fought for joy, also. ¬†We were thankful for the simple graces of family life: the warm smell of cinnamon rolls as children colored in early light. ¬†Squeals of children’s laughter and screams of delight as they dodged raindrops and hunted for eggs in the yard. ¬†Morning worship that was so very sweet with our church family via the internet. ¬†Then a restful afternoon amidst pouring rain. ¬†An Easter feast with lamb my parents had given to us, the scriptures read over us by Brandon.

We rejoice now more than ever in the hope we have in Jesus, the Savior who conquered death  and took away all need for fear.  Sending you lots of love in these sometimes dismal days, hoping you are all well, body and soul.