beach days (part 2)

It seems necessary when visiting the beach to have at least one cloudy chilly beach day, and we had a lovely one on our last full day. We drove to nearby Sunset Beach on the tip of North Carolina and we loved watching the deer wandering on the dunes, and the wild stretch of the nature preserve on Bird Island. Though the kiddos began with complaints and assured us they wouldn’t want to get in the water, before long the shirts came off and they couldn’t resist running through the waves with laughter.

You also can’t visit the beach without waking early to catch the sunrise, and staying late to see it set. Brandon’s parents kept the kids for us so we could sneak out early the last morning to do just that, and so that we could stay up late for a sunset walk. It does the soul a lot of good to slow down and pay attention to the sameness and yet miraculous reality of the sun rising and setting day after day. It is sure, steady, predictable, unchanging. Yet, the scriptures say the faithfulness of our God is more sure than even this. More dependable. More to be expected. His mercy and love for us as sure as the sunrise. It is good for us to stop and take notice and to remember. After the sun was up, we explored the beach since the tide was very low. We watched the egrets and sandpipers searching for their breakfast, and we gathered bits of shells and coral to take home and add to our nature cabinet.

The ocean always does its good work on my soul when we are there, and for that I’m grateful. It was refreshing to be there, tiring as these sorts of trips are for parents of little children. It was a good sort of “tired” from trying to squeeze a lot of fun into a few scant days. We can’t wait to go again when we can, and carry all these happy memories in our hearts until then. It was a wonderful way to kick off our summer!

beach days (part 1)

A couple of weeks ago on Memorial weekend, we took a long weekend to visit Brandon’s parents at the beach a few hours away. We haven’t been to visit them in quite some time, nor have we been to the ocean for a long while. It was so good to be away, to become acquainted with the ocean again and the wonders and wildlife that coastal ecosystems have to offer. Wren doesn’t have any memories of the ocean as far as I know, and she was very excited to go to the beach! We left on Thursday after Brandon came home from work and got there quite late that evening. Friday morning we had a relaxing start and then eagerly got ready for the beach. Wren was quite apprehensive about the water and it took her a couple of days to really warm up and feel brave to go in without holding someone’s hand. But by the end she was jumping and splashing in the waves laughing hysterically. The other kids took right to the water, playing on the boogie boards all day, building in the sand, or hunting for shells. Later, Brandon’s dad treated us to a ride on his sail boat. We motored in the intracoastal waterway to watch the sunset and it was both beautiful and peaceful. Bunny had to come along in a bag, just to make sure she didn’t get wet. I’ll share more photos from the rest of our time in the next blog post, there are just too many to share all at once! Suffice it to say, our time together there was relaxing and refreshing, and it did my heart a lot of good to see these kiddos laughing, exploring, playing nonstop, and being generally spoiled rotten by their grandparents. 🙂 What a gift.

spring projects

These pictures are from the past several weeks and it is amazing how much has changed in our garden and in the natural world around us in that matter of time. The early blooms of the willow and the bradford pear have given way to green leaves. The lilac is almost ready to bloom. Daffodils, snowdrops, and crocuses are on their way out. My beautiful tulips and are mostly done. The forsythia lining the neighbors shed, just beginning to be visible in these pictures, has long since brilliantly bloomed and greened out. Now the peonies are beginning to grow, the bachelor’s buttons, mustard greens, and one little beet plant are growing rapidly in the garden. We’ve weeded and prepared the soil, and last weekend I spent the better part of Saturday shoveling compost over the garden and the other beds around our home. Coneflowers and poppies are beginning to come back, the flag iris, and the strawberries. Asparagus have already been sending up their shoots. Such a lively and vibrant time it is. Soon we will plant in the garden vegetables and herbs, but we’re waiting a few more weeks.

Meanwhile, we’ve been carrying on with school. It’s the time of year when we are all feeling really weary and ready for a hard stop. I’m grateful for the garden season which gives us a sense of freshness and an eagerness to learn outside in the growing of things. Philippa and I enjoyed working on her bird puzzle and Noah worked eagerly on his ocean anatomy puzzle. Wren actually helped a lot of with Noah’s puzzle and did surprisingly well finding pieces and putting it together. We’ve pulled out the paints a number of times on rainy days or just for fun. I try to be willing to pull out the paints whenever the kids ask, even though sometimes I don’t feel I have the energy for it. They love it and honestly create such beautiful little works of art. Next week we plan to take a week off for a late spring break and then we really only have a few more weeks until our school year should be done. The end is in sight! Not that I don’t love and cherish these times of learning together. But it is a lot of work for all of us and it’s always so good to step away for a bit.

Another project we began back in the fall but finished up earlier this spring was a small facelift in our bathroom. I’ll share some before and after photos below.

We still plan to fully gut this bathroom at some point, but in the meantime I just wanted to make a few changes to make it more our style. The janky medicine cabinet mirror/light drove me crazy and buzzed loudly whenever it was on. I didn’t love the shoddy paint job the previous owners had done. We had a bit of this dark evergreen paint left from painting our front door and so we used it in the bathroom which I really love. Brandon built the vanity from a piece of live-edge slab that he had, and I picked out the vessel sink and faucet (sink, faucet, light fixture and mirror all from Wayfair). Down the road when we do a bigger renovation of the shower and floor these pieces will still work in the space hopefully. We’re really happy with it and I’m buzzing with all that spring energy, wanting to tackle a lot of other projects around the house.

a happy Easter

Easter Sunday was extra special this year. Last year we didn’t gather with family or friends so the celebration that we felt this year was even greater. What a joy to be with other believers celebrating the risen Lord Jesus together! We joined my brother and his family at their church for an outdoor service because my niece, Athaelia, was going to be baptized. It’s just hard to beat that kind of joy, friends. It was a very sweet and memorable day!

After worship we gathered at my parent’s house for Easter lunch and the kids did a small egg hunt. My parents always do such phenomenal meals, this one was no exception. Roasted lamb with a citrusy fresh salad, roasted parsnips and potatoes. I made a gluten free carrot cake for dessert for the kids and my mom made creme brûlée. So delicious! Best of all was the reason for our gathering and the freedom to do so.

“May this shared meal, and our pleasure in it,
bear witness against the artifice and deceptions
of the prince of the darkness that would blind this world to hope.
May it strike at the root of the lie that
would drain life of meaning, and
the world of joy, and suffering of redemption.

May this our feast fall like a great hammer blow
against that brittle night,
shattering the gloom, reawakening our hearts,
stirring our imaginations, focusing our vision
on the kingdom of heaven that is to come,
on the kingdom of heave that is promised,
on the kingdom that is already,
indeed, among us,
For the resurrection of all good things
has already joyfully begun.”

(Excerpt from Every Moment Holy, A Liturgy for Feasting with Friends)

With full hearts, we headed back home where we had our own little egg hunt planned for the kids per usual. My favorite is when they sit on the ground afterward with all their loot and sort through their goodies. We snapped a quick family picture which I will treasure. The brilliant hues of new growth, the persistent reach of vibrant blooms, the smell of fresh grass and lilac on the warming breeze. It is so good to revel in these spring things.

From last Easter till now the Lord really has done a great work in my little family, and continues to bring new life to places that needed reviving. Truly,

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. (Psalm 147:3)

The Lord has done great things for us, and we are glad. (Psalm 126:3)

Happy Easter, friends. He is Risen! And no matter what else we are facing, no matter what else is true in our lives, this is true. Death is defeated, we have hope and life because of it.

rainy Palm Sunday hike

Last night the wind howled around and shook our home for most of the night, even bringing limbs cracking and crashing to the ground in the dark. March certainly didn’t go out like a lamb. The temperatures are frigid this morning. So goes spring in the mountains, the tug and pull of winter and warmth.

When spring comes the parkway opens back up and I have been craving to visit our favorite places. Spring green creeps up slowly from the valleys to the mountaintops, so it is still more brown and wintry there than where we live. On Palm Sunday, though the weather was dreary, we still attempted to go for a hike since often we can get above the clouds and rain. Not so this time. It was absolutely wild up on the ridges, wind nearly knocking our children off their feet. Though we didn’t last long, it was still refreshing to be there and get out of the house for a bit. We packed a lunch and a thermos of hot chocolate and enjoyed hanging out nonetheless, despite some grumbling and complaints.

Also, I took the opportunity to get a few photos of my recently finished Stoker Shawl. I’ve been wearing it daily since finishing it and I really, really love it. It’s incredibly huge and warm. I think it’s a fairly simple design but I appreciate the details of texture like the bobbles down the spine, the tassels, and lace edging.

three years

After watching all her siblings’ birthdays come and go this past winter, Wren has been wondering and asking regularly when it will finally be her turn. A few weeks ago as I was getting her dressed she begged, “Momma now can you make my buth-day? Because I’m bigger!” She has randomly asked me to make her “buth-day” a few times and I eventually came to understand she was talking about her cake. More than even her presents, she was excited about that cake. 🙂 The big day finally came last week. It’s hard to acknowledge that my little baby is really not a baby anymore, but a chatting, funny, mischievous three-year-old who is eager to keep up with her older brother and sisters. I sweetly reminisced on her birth, what a joyful and quiet time it was enjoying her arrival. She has brought such laughter and fun to our family these past three years in part because the older children have been old enough to really enjoy having a baby to carry around and take care of. They have enjoyed all her stages of growth and development just as Brandon and I have.

She wanted cereal for her birthday breakfast, and she was excited to see the balloon and bunny decorations. Afterwards she opened her gifts before daddy went to work. Her birthday sweater was the first thing she opened! I had stayed up until almost midnight the night prior finishing the last sleeve, weaving in ends and sewing on the two buttons. No time to block it, but she wouldn’t notice. (Now that I have blocked it, it looks better!) She wanted it on right away and has worn it most days since then. Very sweet girl to her mommy and very knit-worthy.

We gifted her a new backpack since the one she has been using isn’t very big or useful for hiking, and she’s starting to want to wear her backpack like the older kids when we go for hikes. We gave her a small journal with beeswax crayons in a little tin for her backpack travels. The best gifts are the ones they want to start using right away, and true to form she cracked open that tin and started coloring right away in her journal. We gave her The Story of the Orchestra: Carnival of Animals book because she loves this series so much. She was truly delighted! We also gave her the Our Little Adventures book set because it is beautiful, simple, and has bunnies and other forest creatures in it. She also received a new dress (called the wren dress), a sweet bunny pillow that I couldn’t resist from Target, a wooden animal/alphabet puzzle that she has enjoyed (and the other kids, too!), as well as a toy dragon (because for better or worse, all of my kids are obsessed with these dragons). Brandon’s parents gifted her with a sit-and-spin also.

My mom and the little guy she nannies (who is now a good friend to my kiddos) came over later in the morning and we made a trip out to Carl Sandburg to see the goats and go for a little walk. It was beautiful there and just starting to feel like spring, but we were bummed that the goat barn was still closed. Even still, it was a fun outing! Later, Wren finally got to have her cake. I made the same vegan carrot cake I’ve made every year for her so far (though this year I didn’t make it vegan) and it was delicious.

So it was all in all a very fun and happy day and I was sad to see it go. She is so proud to be three and bigger now, and I’m missing her little baby self but so grateful for the delight that it is to watch her grow.

Amazon links are affiliate links.

a snowy beginning

In the fall a friend told me that the acorn load was particularly heavy which suggested a harsh winter was ahead of us. Isn’t it a wonder how God would orchestrate the operations of nature to ensure that extra food stores are provided when especially needful? He looks after the birds, surely He will look after me.

And so a wonderful snowy winter it has been. If memory serves me well, last winter was crazy mild around here and my snow-loving, Rocky-Mountain-girl heart was aching for a real winter. I remember spring coming upon us suddenly and feeling a bit like we had just skipped ahead. Am I remembering correctly or was that the year prior? I’m not sure now. Last year honestly feels like a strange time warp. Personally, it was one of the hardest years of my life for reasons I can’t share here. Suffice it to say, I felt incredibly disoriented all the year through.

We explored a new-to-us area on New Years, a very beautiful and brutally cold day. The rocky bald at the top was stunning and very similar to the place where Brandon proposed to me some 16 years ago now. I surprised the kids with sparklers which was a fun treat before heading back down. Philippa got very quiet after that and I realized she was crazy cold, but was refusing to put on extra layers she had with her. I think she may have been mildly hypothermic because after bundling her and requiring her to wear Brandon’s coat, she perked back up and was herself again. These sorts of excursions into the quiet and empty spaces of nature calm and reorient my soul in ways I’ll never quite be able to articulate. I suspect if you read along here, you might know what I mean. We were made for creation, and creation was made for us. It speaks endlessly to us of our Creator and His character. He uses it as an avenue to restore our souls and commune with us.

The rest of the snowy pictures are from two separate snow days, one in January and one earlier this month. There have been a lot of other days with flurries too, and it has truly blessed my soul. My heart sometimes need to see the landscape made new and soft and bright with snow. We have enjoyed snowy walks, snowball fights, and the kids have found a special fort in the bamboo “forest” nearby that really comes to life when the bamboo is bent over with the weight of snow.

Though I never really feel hurried about winter ending, I do feel like this year may be the first time I’m getting ancy for that warming soil smell and the excitement of seeing new life sprouting up around us again. Gardening has really changed my enjoyment of the warmer months that I typically just endure. Today the children and I went for a walk at a favorite park and nature area though the temp was somewhere around 29 degrees. We don’t go walking there as often in the wintertime but it was still beautiful and hearkened to me of memories of warmer days. Still, I plan to savor whatever is left of winter that I can.

So this new year has been off to a gentle start. We have mostly been carrying on as normal with our homeschool, co-op, and music lessons, and the normalcy has been a gift. Brandon had shingles a few weeks ago and that was brutal to watch him undergo, but he rode it out with the toughness and endurance typical of him. We celebrated his birthday early February and now preparing for Wren’s birthday coming very soon. Any good ideas for a girl’s third birthday? I have a few ideas but need to get cracking on it. I hope January and February have been sweet months for you, and for all the parts that maybe haven’t been sweet, that you have known the comfort of the Spirit.

catching up on Christmas

Hello!  

I didn’t mean to be away from this space for so long.  I have continually struggled to find time and energy to post lately.  I hope you can bear with me as I try to catch up on sharing a little of our Christmas day with you.  The best surprise of Christmas was waking up to snow!  If memory serves me well, the last white Christmas we had was when we brought Phoebe home from the hospital 10 years ago.  Our Christmas morning was sweet and always a little chaotic too, as children try to contain their excitement.  As I looked back over these photos, it made me smile seeing how they enjoyed one another.  We bought a book for each child and one toy item, as well as stocking stuffers.  We focused a bit more on family gifts this year, gifting them all a slackline kit, a special bird feeder that hopefully brings the birds a bit closer to our view, a rubbery road set to add to our trains/blocks collection, and a couple of puzzles. Everything was well loved.  I gave Brandon a drone, and he gifted me a sweater’s quantity of the loveliest rusty red yarn to knit a sweater I’ve had my eye on.  It was a treat to have some time to knit Christmas afternoon after all the children trotted off to add their toys to their rooms or take them outside to play.  

The Christmas season seemed to fly by even more so this year, a year where it seemed everyone wanted to hold onto it as long as possible.  We still have a few fairy lights and bottle brush trees around our house to brighten the bleakness of winter.  We have much to be grateful for even despite the tumultuous year behind us.

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. 🙂

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!