first snow

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Here in the mountains of North Carolina we gladly welcomed our first big snow of the year last night.  It’s still coming down in huge flakes as I write.  We had a cozy morning taking it slow and then took like an H O U R to bundle everyone and get outside.  This is the first snow Philippa can play in and potentially remember.  One of the best parts of raising kids is getting to see them discover the world.  SO fun.  We took her on the craziest sledding hill ever and she loved it!  As did the other kids.  Until they didn’t, and everyone was thoroughly wet and soaked and there was weeping and gnashing of teeth.  But hey, that’s par for the course.  Everyone recovered their sanity after hot chocolates and getting cozy by the fire.

This week has been a heavy week here, emotionally.  A lot of friends and loved ones going through a lot of difficult things, and my heart has literally been aching on and off this week, grief rolling over me in waves, as grief tends to do.  Tears coming unbidden at inconvenient times.  Playing in the snow this morning, seeing the world blanketed in white, seeing it look fresh and new… it is a gift to me from the Lord.  A quietness settles over our little corner of the world, broken only by children’s squeals and laughter, and we are soaking up every glorious second of it, even in the face of grief.  Maybe we just needed the reminder that storms can bring glory as well as grief, beauty in spite of the bitter.  Maybe we just needed to see that a storm can be the way God chooses to make all things new.

leaf peeping

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October is North Carolina’s best month. I grew up in these hills, and though I spent some of my favorite years in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, I always missed this the most about NC.  There is nothing like fall time here!  So, just in case you live somewhere where the leaves don’t turn, I thought I’d share it with you!

The last two Sundays we’ve been out trying to see and enjoy all the color this time of year offers us in the mountains here.  So we wandered up on the parkway one bitterly cold Sunday, along with all the other slow-driving “leaf peepers,” and ate a quick lunch in the car, hunting for color and playing with long icicles.  And we meandered about our own neighborhood the next Sunday afternoon, rooting ourselves in our own soil, seeing all the shades of yellow, green, brown, and red. Someone is finally getting into riding the strider bike and will possibly be getting his own for his birthday.

Fall, we don’t want you to end!  Stay, with all your color and warm light, your crinkling breezes and cool evenings.

apple season

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I should be packing right now for our trip to the beach (leaving in the morning!) but it’s a rainy afternoon and I just have to share these sweet pictures from last week with you before we head out of town.  (I am the worst packer–always leave it until the last minute.)

It’s hard to believe we’re in the last week of September already, and that by the time we get back home from our trip, we’ll be into October!  The weather has already turned here in the mountains of North Carolina as of this last week, officially.  We are in apple country and we are thankful to be surrounded by a ton of awesome orchards + farms!  Recently we went with some friends to a local orchard that has a great spot on the top of a mountain, with lots of play areas for kids, animals, tractor rides and of course, apples!

That man in the last picture above was giving us the low-down and handing out buckets, and I have to say he was a true artist.  He was super kind and sweet and genuinely interested in chatting with our kiddos and being helpful to our little crew of three mommas (one pregnant!) with seven little ones between us.  Things didn’t go 100% smoothly, with all of us having disaster mornings as we attempted to get out the door (at my house, the washing machine was flooding the basement and a glass fell off the counter shattering glass everywhere near my crawling baby girl), and a few melt-downs and tears from the kids.  You know, all the usual things. Not to mention, we actually couldn’t find any apples to pick off of the trees because of a late frost and children who weren’t willing to keep hunting down rows of trees.  But it was still such a fun time, Phoebe loved hunting for apples to pick, and Noah was both terrified and fascinated by the tractors making rounds of the orchard.  We plan to go back in October, get an earlier start and actually pick some apples this time!

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(I’m so bummed that my camera decided to focus on the dirt behind this cute little man because he posed so nicely and smiled so sweetly for me!)

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We had a picnic in the shade of this big pine tree and it was the perfect end to the busy morning, where my friend Kim and I could actually talk for a bit while our kids refueled and then ran off to play on the swings and playgrounds.

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We only came home with one peck of apples, using half for a yummy gluten-free crisp to share with our small group last night, and my kids actually ate it (which is a victory, if you knew them!)  We hope to put up some jars of apples for the winter, so we’ll be back!

(ps. here’s the crisp recipe I used, subbing apples for blueberries and adding about 1/3 c. of shredded unsweetened coconut flakes + a dash of cinnamon.  i’ve made this recipe ever so many times, usually with blueberries, since reading her book a few years ago and it’s delicious every time!)

Sunday adventures

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We have sort of unintentionally made a little family habit of drawing away on Sundays after worship, pulling away from our ordinary and escaping to the wild places nearby.  I love revisiting the same familiar haunts, but my husband is best energized in exploring.  So, we’ve sort of made a loose rule to get out somewhere new most Sundays.  We pack a bag of easy snacks + quick bites for lunch/dinner (think cold cuts, cheese, crackers, dried fruit, nuts, cold pasta salad, veggies + hummus) and usually skip naps and hit the road after church.  The kids love our adventures.  We don’t do it primarily for them, to be honest.  We do it because it refreshes and quiets and reenergizes us + our marriage in the best way.  We do it because we need the shift in perspective. But we definitely do it for them as well.  Children are so full of wonder, awe, and a natural ability to enjoy and to go slow.  Familiar black swallowtails, bumblebees and wild mountain blueberries become brand new again through their eyes.  We love (and sometimes hate) how they continually force us to slow our pace to keep in step with them rather than our usual habit of hurrying them to keep up with us.  It’s good for us.  Being with them reminds me almost daily of Jesus’ words:

“Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven”  (Matthew 18:3).

What is it about children that Jesus found so essential?  I wonder if it isn’t their simplicity.  Their easy joy over the simplest of wonders.  Their unhurried ways.  Their bright hopefulness and trust, their dependency without worry.  I want to be more like that.  When I watch them running and laughing I find myself thinking, they really are the best of us, the best of humanity.

These pictures are from a couple weeks ago.  We went back up to Mount Mitchell, the highest peak east of the Mississippi.  We used to be in the Mitchell area a ton during our college days (Outdoor Ed majors) and I think the last time I was up there was when my husband and I led a 21-day wilderness backpacking course together in our early years of marriage.  Pretty awesome to be back there with kiddos in tow, showing them this beautiful place so special to our hearts + story.  It was actually up on commissary where our story together really began.

Afterward we had a little picnic at a nearby overlook, staying long and soaking in the quiet and the evening light.  I think these will be some of my favorite snapshots from the summer.

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family + summer gatherings 5: these blue mountains

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While family was in town visiting, we squeezed in as many picnics as we could.  This one, up at Craggy Gardens, one of our favorite spots.  After dinner we hiked up above the picnic area to catch this view and this gorgeous sunset in the dusky light.  Truly breath-taking.  I’m super thankful for my brothers and the way they love on my kiddos.  My little ones adore them (and the Aunties, too!) and hopefully they will one day realize what a sweet gift it is to have lots of family that loves on them and spends time with them!  And I’m thankful for my parents who taught us to love the outdoors, still so hip + young and able to get out and enjoy God’s creation.