touring the grounds

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I have an annual pass to the Biltmore Estate that expires soon, so last weekend we planned to go for a Sunday afternoon visit.  I had a couple of vouchers for free tickets as well, so Brandon was able to get in for free as well as my dad (my mom has a pass, also).  Originally we thought we would do a quick tour of the house with the kids, but now all the tours are scheduled and we hadn’t planned much in advance so we decided just to enjoy the grounds instead.  I’m so glad we did.  There is just so much space and trails that we haven’t really explored much, and it was soul-filling to be out in the beautiful weather.  We stopped in at a cafe on the grounds to get some water and coffee, and seeing the swarms and crowds of people made me realize being outside on the grounds was probably better anyway considering all the sickness spreading lately.  I grew up in Asheville and have seen the house interior many times, and the children have visited before also.  I did request however that we make a stop to the gardens and greenhouse, and it was so lovely.  I could have spent a lot more time in there, but little ones were ready to move on.  We did end our trip with a visit to the stables and barn because of course Phoebe insisted we do just that.  It was just a beautiful and nice day together and with my parents.  I hope you enjoyed this little virtual tour as well. ❤

a sweet Christmas

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Sweet Christmas.  With all our effort to minimize activity and slow the month down and savor each day, it still flew by in a flash.  It has come and gone, today being New Years Eve, and the next year crests just over the horizon.  How sweet the Christmas season is.  When the children woke up Christmas morning, they opened their stockings.  We filled them with dried fruit, a little bit of sweet treats, rainbow pencils, fun wooden animal pens from world market, a new pack of markers, a christmas ornament, naturally-dyed head scarves for the girls, bunny hair clips for wren, mood rings for Phoebe and Philippa, a new watch for Noah.  Wren got her own beeswax crayons and notebook, which she is so proud of.

Then we had breakfast and our last Advent reading from the book Unwrapping the Greatest Gift.  (I was proud and excited to have found pumpkin and carrot muffins (cupcakes?) that were all natural and from a dedicated gluten-free facility for Christmas morning at a local health food store.)  After that we opened gifts.  As much as we try to slow the morning down so we can see everything and enjoy each present being opened, the children just can’t help rushing into it all.  They had some gifts from loved ones besides the ones we had chosen for them, so that made it feel quite abundant and full.  Truly, they have no idea how blessed they are, but then the same could be said of each of us, I am sure.

Noah and Philippa got some new lego, Phoebe got a table top easeland new art supplies. The older three all got nice large sketch books with a mini set of higher quality watercolor paints (for natural journaling, I hope).  Noah received the The Ology book, Philippa got Poppy and Vivaldi, and Phoebe got some new Horse Diaries books.  Wren got 1 is One by Tasha Tudor.  I gave Brandon New Morning Mercies and maybe secretly hope I can share it with him. 🙂  Wren received a Melissa and Doug barn (she has loved Philippa’s smaller horse barn) and also a wooden tricycle which can adapt to be a balance bike.  Not that we need another bike, really, but it is nice for her to have something just her own and something she can ride right away.  Noah received from us a sweet of K-Nex and a cd player for his room, as well as a lullaby cd for he and Wren.  Phoebe and Philippa also received a new lullaby cd for their room.  All the kiddos have been loving listening to peaceful music at night to help with bad dreams or for Phoebe when she isn’t feeling well (headaches and nausea have been happening more often lately).  We gave all of the kids Bird Bingo and a new puzzle as a family gift.  We have already played Bird Bingo so much and I can’t wait to add Bug Bingo and Ocean Bingo to our games one day.

I had hoped to knit a small item for each family member.  I managed to finish socks for Philippa, a slipped stitch tam for Phoebe, and a doe cap for Wren.  Noah’s socks are half done, and I have nothing in the works for Brandon just yet, but he never really wants anything.  I do hope to knit him some socks soon.  Maybe he will be swayed to prefer hand-knit socks if he just tries a pair. 🙂

Brandon and I had agreed not to buy presents for each other this year, maybe just a couple small things for stockings.  We needed to replace our living room rug and I was wanting to do a few other small things to spruce up our living room/entry area, so that was our gift to each other.

Anyway, although it felt like it whizzed past us, Christmas day was really fun and special.  Later that day we went over to my parent’s house nearby and gathered with all the siblings who were here.  I was even able to squeeze in a solo trail run on my favorite running trail in the woods and didn’t see another soul the whole time.  It completed my Christmas to get out in the woods and quiet.  My parents always make the most amazing feasts, and it was just cozy and special to be together with family.

The next morning we all went horseback riding as a family (well, except for Brandon who needed to work.)  I had hoped to take more pictures but I was riding while holding Wren on my lap a bit precariously so I only snapped a few.  It was adventurous and fun, and Noah, Phoebe, and Wren seemed to really love it.  Philippa rode on my mom’s lap and talked the whole way and then said she hated it when were done (with a big smile on her face).

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I hope you all had a merry Christmas and may it be a blessed and happy New Year + decade!

See you in 2020!

in the company of trees

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“Popular attention has been caught by a concept from Japan and China called Shinrin-yoku, or ‘forest bathing’.  It is a common practice that began in the early 1980s, involving spending time in a wood or forest to ‘bathe’ in the atmosphere for the benefit of mind and body….In recent years follow-up research aimed at understanding the Shinrin-yoku phenomenon has shown that walking in a green space has a direct positive effect on several systems in our bodies.  Blood pressures decrease, levels of the stress hormone cortisol drop, anxiety is alleviated and pulse rates diminish in subjects who have spent time in nature and particularly among trees.”

A Wild Remedy: How Nature Mends Us

I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;

A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;

A tree that may in Summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;

Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.

Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.

– Joyce Kilmer

Since college I’ve wanted to visit Joyce Kilmer memorial forest and when we realized Lake Santeetlah was right next to it we knew we had to go for a hike there.  We weren’t disappointed.  It truly is difficult to capture the largeness of these mighty giants and it was amazing to walk amongst them and be dwarfed beneath their canopy.  I can only imagine how beautiful it would be to go visit again when the leaves are changing.  Truly, there is something restorative about walking in a forest, bending low to notice the smallest of creatures, the tiny microcosms juxtaposed by the mighty trees beside them.

California (pt 1): farmer’s market + half moon bay

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We had an unforgettable, extravagant week last week, quite out of our usual ordinary if you couldn’t tell from the photos!  Brandon and my dad were doing some remodeling work for the week at my Aunt and Uncle’s house in the Bay area in California.  My parents generously offered for us to all come along, and we couldn’t pass it up!  It was quite an adventure for us and required a good bit of planning on my part to be sure Phoebe would have what she needed (food-wise) for the long day of travel and the time away.  Being that we don’t usually do this sort of thing, I was a bit overwhelmed but it was such a good experience.  I’m hopeful that it communicated to Phoebe that she doesn’t have to be limited by her (celiac) disease.

It was so much fun and such an incredible treat for all of us!  To see the children experience the thrill of taking off and landing on an airplane alone was neat.

We flew out the day after my birthday, and on my birthday Philippa suddenly had a high-ish fever, so on top of last minute packing and prep I had to squeeze her in to the doctor to make sure it wasn’t something that would inhibit travel.  Thankfully, she woke up fever-free the next day.

The first day there was a Sunday (Father’s Day), and the only day we had planned to take off together (with my parents, too) to do some sight-seeing.  First we went to the local farmer’s market to get our fruits and veggies for the week.  So fun to explore a local farmer’s market any old place, but especially in California!  Afterwards, we drove to Half Moon Bay and happened to see horses along the way and then again on the beach.  Phoebe was in heaven and also very jealous that she wasn’t on horseback herself.  The beach was windy and cool, but very pleasant.  We walked around a bit, had a bite of sushi for lunch while watching a couple of seals in the marina.  Everyone felt a little groggy and off due to the time change, but they all did remarkably well!  I was blown away by the wild eucalyptus and massive nasturtium all along the roadside, as well as the beautiful garden at my aunt and uncle’s home, complete with avocado, lemon and fig trees!  It’s so incredible to explore a different part of the country.

a horse girl’s dreams come true

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I never want to forget the way she smiled.  How full and happy her heart was on April 23rd, the day she had been counting down toward for weeks in advance.  My mom offered to treat Phoebe to a horseback ride on the Biltmore Estate nearby, and of course an adult had to go with her so I also got in on the treat!  (I haven’t been on a horse since college I do believe, and it felt really good.)  It was one of the sweetest days of Phoebe’s life, so she says, and I was grateful to be able to snap a few photos to remember it by.  I hope to get a few printed for her bedroom. I was on a huge white horse named Pepper.  She rode a horse named Scout, and she still thinks and talks about him regularly.  She hopes he is well and wants to own a horse just like him when she’s grown up.  It makes a momma’s heart very full and grateful to see their child fulfill a long-held dream, and I am ever so grateful to my parents for their kindness and generosity in gifting us this unforgettable experience.  We are truly blessed beyond words to have parents who love on us and our children so well!  Thank you thank you thank you, mom. ❤

fresh mountain air

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Ps. Wren is wearing a sweater knit and gifted to me by Natural Earth Farm.  They make beautiful things and she has similar baby sweaters in her shop right now for such an affordable price, if you’re interested!  She gifted me some of her hand cream too and it is the nicest I have maybe ever used.  Also, wren’s hat was gifted to me by Ruby.  Knitters are such generous folk. 🙂

 

signs of life

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Last Friday as well as today we’ve gone for little hikes because both days have been unseasonably warm, sunny, and beautiful.  Actually the last few days this week have been so spring-like and warm, it’s hard to believe it’s mid-February.  Part of me is enjoying it, because who can resist being outside on days like this?  Part of me is a bit sad.. it feels too early, and I still wanted a few more blustery winter days.  Maybe we’ll still have some.  I know everyone seems to love spring the most, and it is irresistible with its bright colors, blooms, sounds and abundance, but I still love dreary winter most of all.  I guess I was assuming this baby would be born in the midst of cold days and nights and somehow it feels wrong for everything to be so warm already.

Anyway, the children are loving it and have been outside as much as they are able during the day.  I’ve noticed the days slowly stretching longer and longer, and what a good effect it has on all of us to have a little more light to enjoy.

Last Friday we went for a short, easy hike at a place nearby called Jump Off Rock.  It was truly beautiful and a great picnic spot, so I was glad I had packed our lunch.  Afterwards the kids stretched out with bare toes in the sun and then climbed around the rocks, finding a little passageway/cave through them.

Our weeks have felt really busy lately, even though I can’t say we have a ton of “activities” going on, per say.  Weekly OB and chiropractor appointments for me, as well as trying to get in our weekly grocery trips (I usually go to at least 3 different stores), homeschool co-op, library trips, other random errands, and school work/house work seem to fill up our days to the full.  I’ve been nesting like crazy, too–working on finalizing things in Noah/baby’s room, like having Brandon make and hang those shelves for me (which I haven’t finished organizing quite yet), organizing boxes of stuff in the school room, etc.  You know, the important things.  Meanwhile, the car seat is still not installed in the car and I don’t have a hospital bag ready or anything like that.  We are delivering at a different hospital than we have with all the other children, and we still haven’t done a hospital visit.  I think we vaguely know where to go.  I’m still trying to knit a few items before baby comes, too.  I feel like my brain is all over the place and I only have 10 days left before due date.  Nothing much is happening yet and I feel mostly normal, just increasingly tired and big.  Something must have changed because now everywhere I go people look and smile and somehow know I’m due any day.  Lots of “ready to pop” comments from strangers.

I am trying to get as much school work done with Phoebe as I can before baby comes and throws a wrench in things.  I’m not sure exactly what we’ll be able to accomplish or how much time we’ll need to take off before I can get back in the rhythm with her, so I’m trying to diligently get in a good solid 4-5 days a week while I can.  She and I seem to have hit a hard spot with math, which has historically been her favorite subject, but as it gets harder she has been “dreading” it, she tells me.  We’ve started doing it first thing in the morning versus the copywork/language arts we normally focus on first thing, but it doesn’t seem to be making much difference.  Maybe having Brandon teach her and fill in a bit while I’m recovering with new baby will be refreshing for all of us?  Reading with her, history, science, art–these are all a breeze and enjoyable for both of us.  Hoping she and I can still spend a good bit of time snuggled up reading while new little baby girl sleeps.

Today we went to a local historic home, the Carl Sandberg home, which we have really enjoyed visiting in the spring/summer months for picnics and to see new baby goats.  With all the flu going around rampant in our area, I’ve been trying to avoid public places so our hikes and walks have been more in the woods and less at parks/playgrounds.  Our hike today was just lovely, and I told the children to be looking for signs of new life.  They saw a pilated woodpecker, new little buds forming, and heard lots of birds singing.  The first set of twin kid goats are due in about a month, so we’ll be back soon to see and play with them.  We’ve been seeing daffodils and crocuses pushing up through the soil on our neighborhood walks, too.  Just before I snapped that picture of the three of them holding hands, Noah had asked Phoebe, who had come back to me to tell me something, to keep having a little conversation with him, and they ran off holding hands.  A sweet little moment.  They spend a lot of time together and there is always a lot of friction between them because of it, but they really adore each other too.  Its always encouraging for me to see the good moments happen.  Don’t worry, the hike ended with its fair share of whining and weariness, and we squeezed in a library visit afterwards, which was probably pushing it being everyone was already “starving.”  But we survived and recovered this afternoon with naps + quiet time spent with fresh library books.