happy birthday to daddy

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His birthday always comes quietly amongst all the hubbub of the Super Bowl.  Not that we are sports people (we’re not) and we don’t watch a single other game all year long (unless olympics are on or occasionally the world cup), but he likes to watch the Super Bowl.  We went to church as usual on Sunday, and I encouraged him to go do something fun that afternoon — go fly fishing, mountain biking, running, or whatever would be refreshing to him.  He decided to take the older two kids mountain biking, while I stayed home so the younger two girls could nap.  It ended up being perfect as he ran into a few friends on the trail, including phoebe’s best friend, which made her day.  She also got to pet a horse that was at the trail head too.  They came home just before dinner and I forgot to snap a photo of them.

I made his favorite dessert, cherry pie (using this crust recipe and the filling recipe from this one) with homemade ice cream, and his favorite food ever, pizza + caesar salad for dinner.  I always use this recipe for our favorite pizza crust and topped this one with spinach, pepperoni, and local grass-fed chorizo and it was amazing.  We watched the game while eating dinner and intermittently taking care of kids, singing happy birthday + blowing out candles before wren went to bed, and opening his gifts.  I got him this book on fly fishing, always trying to stoke the flames of his passions for the sports he loves and has so little time for.  The children wrapped up paintings they had made for him, and their handmade cards were the highlight of the evening.  I also gave him money toward a tool he’s had his eye on.

I think it was simple and fun day, and we really enjoyed being home together.  It’s hitting me that he’s getting closer to turning 40 and that just seems so odd.  I still feel like we are in our 20s.  Maybe that never really changes.  We are really thankful for this guy who works very hard to take care of us and pour his love out on us.  He loves fiercely, steadily, and often quietly, and we love spoiling him when we can!

the things that ground me

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Yesterday was July 4th, Independence Day, and we had a happy day together doing simple, fun, local things.  Earlier in the week the children had picked out a dessert they wanted me to make (from this cookbook), and we had shopped for the ingredients together.  I began making the custard early in the morning, finishing in time for us to scoot to the parade in our little town.  I don’t think I’ve taken the kids to a parade before (or can’t remember?) except for the local Parade of the Tractors that we happened upon last year. 🙂  It was pretty simple and short, but still fun to do something festive together.  Daddy worked part of the day, so we missed him but made the best of it.  When we got back, the kids played in the sprinkler and cooled off while I prepped lunch.  During nap time I finished the dessert and spent some time in the breezy sunny afternoon browsing through the garden.  Later, the children went through the garden, Phoebe picking the ripe tomatoes from her plants, gathering romaine for dinner and our first cucumber (which was amazingly delicious).  The kids each helped decorate our dessert tart and after dinner/dessert we found a good spot in town to watch fireworks.  Some dear friends met up with us last minute and it was so very sweet and fun to watch our children experience the fireworks together.  My heart was full.  I was thinking about it yesterday while just living a simple yet fun day at home: these are the things that ground me when life feels hectic, busy, full.

I’ve reached this point in motherhood where I feel overwhelmed and out of breath (on a soul level) pretty much daily.  I feel like I’m spinning plates, one after the next, and dropping half of them.  The things I love, the things that feed my soul and creativity often get choked out in the “churn” of the day, though I fight to squeeze them in in smaller quantities.  I long sometimes to step back and have everything stop for a second so I can catch up.  My children need things from me that I can’t always anticipate or understand or feel able to give.  Decisions need to be made that overwhelm + cause anxiety.  I think as mothers we are constantly measuring: measuring how we are doing, if we are doing enough for our children, enough for our husbands, friends, etc.  We are evaluating and analyzing all the time, feeling guilty most of the time and certain we are probably not measuring up.  This week I’ve been asking some questions of myself that are hard, facing some decisions that have caused me to lose some sleep.  It all feels like a state of constant churning.

So I seek out the things that ground.  The scriptures.  The garden quiet, plants growing steadily and unobtrusively, swaying in the breeze, buzzing with bees and birds and life.  Knitting.  Evening tea with Brandon.  Prayer.  Singing.  Watching the family of blue birds nesting in the birdhouse in our garden again this year.  Listening for those little “chirps.”  Making food for our family.  Snapping photos.  Working with my hands.  Being in the wilderness.  Paying attention to and getting to know our own little town, seeking community in our church.

These “grounding” things aren’t always available to me, but I seek them out when I can.  They help settle me and remind me who I am and where I am on this spinning planet.  Maybe you feel like that sometimes, too.  I hope you can find a few things that help you feel your feet on the ground and remember that you are human in this place.  Limited, loved.

all together

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How can June already be over?  It was a blur of busyness and family, celebrating and feasting.  I didn’t get many photos on my birthday, but it was a happy day.  I forgot how eager the kids are on anyone’s birthday to open presents, so I was barely out of my bedroom to get coffee that morning before a gaggle of little ones with tousled hair were pulling me to the kitchen table to see their gifts.  I wanted to wait and maybe do gifts later, but they would have none of it.  Brandon had taken them for a walk the night before to a grocery store nearby (while I was out with a girlfriend for coffee) where they picked out small gifts for me and cards.  Philippa had picked some natural handmade lavender soap, noah had picked a charcoal infused loofah.  Phoebe had been working on a handmade gift for me for a little while, a small wooden bird that she added stitching to.  She had named it “Louis,” though it’s supposed to be a girl bird, and she was really quite tempted to keep it herself.  She keeps asking me where Louis is and if I’m taking care of him her.  Brandon gifted me a couple of books I had on my wishlist, as well as a set of chiaogoo interchangeable needles.  I cast on with them right away for a birthday shawl of sorts for myself with yarn I purchased with some birthday money, and it has been such a treat knitting with them!  One of my brothers treated me to a 3-month coffee subscription to Counter Culture coffee and it has been one of my favorite gifts of all time! Later that day we went over to my parents house, as my mom and I share a birthday and we try to get together on it when we can.  Mom treated me to a manicure/pedicure and then a dinner out to the only restaurant we can really go to with Phoebe (with a dedicated gluten free kitchen).  It was a fun and busy day!  I felt so very loved and spoiled and blessed and full.

The next day, family began streaming in.  My brother from Canada and his wife were surprising mom for her 60th birthday, and my other siblings and their families were all arriving in the next day or so.  Father’s day (Sunday) we gathered to celebrate mom’s 60th together, and it was truly unforgettable.  It was the first time ever that we have *all* been together.  We celebrated, ate, gave her a couple of special gifts, and ended the evening with singing together.  I think we will all look back on these recent days we had together with joy and fondness.  So much has happened in our family story, so many stories that aren’t mine to share–but when I look out across the landscape of our family, I see so much redemption that has come out of so much brokenness.  We have an enemy who has tried to dismantle, break, ruin, and destroy our family in very painful ways, and we have seen hard years together.  But here we are, still standing.  Still together, by God’s grace alone.  Still going forward in love and forgiveness and hope secure in a God who is able to hold us fast.

Ps. I actually did pretty horribly at taking photos with my camera while everyone was here.  I really only brought it to the picnic, and got a random smattering.  But here’s a special video clip that I’m thankful I captured.

june celebrations

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The middle of June is celebratory for us, my birthday as well as my mom’s being on the 14th (yes, we share a day!) and then Father’s Day just a few days later.  It feels apt for the very middle of the year, half gone by, to mark it with some feasting and cake.

My birthday fell on a Tuesday, the most ordinary day of the week, which is just fine and dandy by me.  I’ve always felt a bit like a plain and ordinary sort of girl.  I was successful, however, in finagling Brandon into celebrating my day over the course of a few days.  🙂  The Saturday prior to my Tuesday, we had a few hours without the kids to walk through a few shops downtown and grab a bite to eat at a favorite sandwich spot.  On my day, B offered to take me out to dinner, but I really feel like a breakfast out is my kind of deal, so we took the whole fam to one of our favorite local spots, the Corner Kitchen in Biltmore Village.  This is maybe one of the first times we’ve taken Phoebe to a non-gluten free restaurant, so we packed her own bowl and cereal and milk, and it was a little stressful knowing the environment wasn’t gluten-free, but I think we all felt pretty special being able to eat together as a family at a restaurant and I don’t think Phoebe even noticed that she didn’t have anything off of the menu.  That girl loves her Nature’s Path cheerios.  Brandon went off to work as usual, the day was a little hectic for me with errands, and then in the afternoon we gathered at my parent’s house to celebrate together with my mom and the rest of the family around.  My mom even ordered a special birthday cake made by a local restaurant that has a dedicated gluten-free kitchen, Posanas.  They made a decadent chocolate ganache cake for us, and it was extra special because we could all eat it together!

B wasn’t supposed to get me anything for my birthday, but he ended up surprising me at home with a couple new bath supplies that he picked out for me at Earth Fare.  He is so cute, knowing that I love lavender and tea tree, and finding a few things to surprise me with.  I think my cards from all the family this year were my favorite, I received such sweet and life-giving words from siblings and parents and Brandon.  Of course, words mean a lot to this gal.  My parents went above and beyond, spoiling me with some new all-clad cookware (!!!) as we have been using the same pots for the last 10 years, some kind of target teflon pots that have been all scrapped to smithereens, probably killing us slowly with carcinogens day by day.  I’ve been trying to switch to stainless steel and cast iron as I can afford it, so I am so excited and thankful!

Later in the week, Phoebe and I got around to making a (grain-free) lemon lavender ricotta cheesecake together from Nancy Cain’s cookbook.  We love pulling on our aprons together, she always picks the yellow one, and I the red and white one my grandma sewed for me.  We put it in the oven and went out for a walk in the neighborhood, then got distracted chatting with a neighbor and suddenly remembered our cheesecake baking away, and hurried back home.  It was a little too browned, I would say, but just delicious!  I meant to have some whipped cream to top it with, but forgot, and the kids actually loved it, which surprised me.  Usually they don’t like lemony things.

My birthday always seems to coincide with the blooming of the hostas, their regal green necks and purple crowns.  Different things blooming all year long mark the turning of the seasons for us, without our even realizing it half the time.  I feel so incredibly blessed this birthday.  I really am living my dream, mother to three precious children by the side of the man I adore.  Even in the midst of the regular challenges and trails of life, I am really content.  Or at the very least, learning contentment.  I read this scripture this morning, “You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory” (Psalm 73:24).  What peace!  What a life!  What an incredible gift.  All of my days, guided by his loving, good counsel, keeping me in the path that leads to peace and blessing, and then afterwards, He’s just going to take me right on into glory.  GLORY.  My soul can’t help but sing a hallelujah to that.  I find that the hardest seasons that I am facing are only making His presence and grace all the sweeter, instead of pulling me away from Him, and what a mercy that is!  That is certainly a work of His Spirit in me, not of my own wandering flesh.  The Psalm goes on, one of my very favorite passages of all time, one I can almost never read without crying: “Whom have I in heaven but you?  And earth has nothing I desire besides you.  My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Psalm 73:25-26).  He really is enough for us.  There really is hardship and heartache that threatens to break us, but the reality is, Jesus won for us everything we need to be content when He won salvation for us on the cross.  There is nothing that can truly shake us, nothing that can steal that peace and security and joy that He won for us.  What a priceless gift!

After all of that celebrating me, it felt quite appropriate to turn out attention to Daddy on Sunday.  We stayed home from church because Philippa had been up most of the night coughing.  There’s something very grounding and restful for us in staying home for a full day and being all together.  It was a gift.  B did work on a table he’s building in the garage, I sat near him and knitted, played guitar, sang hymns.  The kids rode bikes up and down the street with a neighbor boy they befriended, and I carted children in the bike trailer for rides.  We were outside all day until late in the evening, cooking hot dogs wrapped in a grain-free pretzel dough over the fire.  It was a nearly perfect evening, until I realized how shallowly Philippa was breathing and how raspy she sounded.  I whisked her off to the ER and didn’t get home until around 1 am.  So, there was that.  (She was laboring a bit too much to breathe, they did a breathing treatment and she’s on a round of steroids, but already improving.)  Brandon cleaned everything up, bathed the other kids and tucked them into bed, washed the dishes and kitchen, then sat out by the fire reading late into the evening waiting for me and the baby to get home.  That’s the kind of Daddy he is, even on “his” day, doing what needs to be done, serving.  We love him so much, he really is our whole world in so many ways.  Happy Father’s Day to all of you Daddy’s out there!

we have a five year old

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Her birthday is only a couple of days before Christmas.  It’s historically very difficult to plan a party around that time, being that everyone is out of town usually or busy, and Phoebe is a girl who loves a party!  When I asked her this year what she wanted to do, she said she wanted to play with her best friend, Melody.  The morning of her birthday was a work day for Brandon, so as soon as the birthday girl was up, she opened her cards and gifts (it’s hard for a 5-year-old to wait all day) so that Daddy could be there.  We gave her a sleeping bag and a new flannel nightgown, which is basically her favorite thing to sleep in ever.  She will wear dresses night and day, given the opportunity.  I also gave her the scarf she had asked me to knit for her in the yarn she had picked out, which she loved way more than I thought she would.  I had also made her a hat, since she’s been asking me for awhile.  Her cousins gave her a dress-up dress with a matching mini one for her doll, which she LOVES.  Her friend Melody came over mid-morning and gifted her a wooden bead necklace set, which they loved working on together.  Such a sweet and thoughtful gift!  After naps, we prepped for some family to come over for dinner.  She loved her cake and strawberries (which are her favorite) and opened gifts from Rainey + Grandpa (a play mobile dollhouse + some Hanna Anderson silver clog boots)!  Earlier in the month, one of her aunties gifted her and I tickets to the Nutcracker ballet, which basically made it a perfect birthday for this girl who loves to dance.

It’s hard to believe this little one is already five years old.  Her birth was one of the best days of my life and becoming a mother to her opened up a world of joy to me.  She’s had a hard year in some ways, lots of change and doctor appointments.  But she’s also matured so much this year and I am savoring the little bond that is growing between us.  The other night I was taking a bath and she came in and sat with me, feet in the tub, and just talked about life and whatever was on her heart.  She’s becoming such a little woman.

summer + family gatherings 3

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I’m still trying to make my way through photos from the last month or so, to share them here.  Lots of life being lived!  While (almost all of) the family was in town in June, we celebrated my dad’s 60th birthday together at a favorite table of ours, the Red Radish.  We snagged a few family pictures, which I think we will all treasure, as it is so hard to gather all together these days.  We feasted, remembered my dad’s life through a slideshow of pictures, listened as my dad told the story of the wide-mouthed frog to the grandkids all clambering onto his lap.  My sister sang him a beautiful song.  We lingered long and savored.  Words fail me when it comes to my parents, especially as I grow older, grow up and learn what it is like to be a parent.  All the years of work + investment, giving, sacrificing, training, hoping, praying.  I’m so thankful for my dad, the kind of hard-working, faithful, godly man of integrity that he is.  I think of these old, old words from a monk, Ugo Bassi:

“Measure thy life by loss instead of gain;
Not by the wine drunk but by the wine poured forth;
For love’s strength standeth in love’s sacrifice;
And whoso suffers most hath most to give.”

Love’s strength standeth in love’s sacrifice.  Yes, he has loved us well.  Happy 60th, Papi!