tucking in

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The first heavy frost came last week, this week the first snow flurries and frigid temps.  We’ve finished up the last few projects outdoors.  Brandon and I (mainly Brandon) worked on laying this stone walkway from our driveway to the back porch over the course of three weeks.  Sometimes it’s silly how long it takes us to get things done, but its not for lack of trying.  It’s just life in this season with a lot to juggle and a lot of interruptions.  We really love the finished product!  It’s always exciting to make improvements (though ever so slowly for us) to our little home.

I trimmed back bushes last week and raked up as many leaves as I could one morning then spread it over the garden.  The children have been enjoying any sunny warm weather they can, though those days may be behind us now.  How quickly these warm fall days give way to frost and bleak, barren limb.

Also, Phoebe has been singing weekly with a choir called Viva Voce and lately they’ve had a couple of performances.  These photos were from her first performance in a church nearby.  I can’t tell you how proud I am to hear her sing, and she loves it so.  Our mornings are full with school work, our afternoons are mostly full now with activities and I am running around ferrying children to and fro.  It is good, busy, and I’m a bit looking forward to a long break from school work in December.

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the first autumnal day

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On the first truly autumnal day of the year (last Saturday) when the rain fell off and on all day and the temps dropped low, we went out for a little drive in our town to find a pumpkin patch.  Our area is apple country and there are lots of orchards here, but almost none are organic (there’s only one that I know of and they aren’t u-pick) and they tend to be crazy busy this time of year.  We passed quite a few with lines of people curving around buildings waiting for cider doughnuts.  Hoping to find a quieter, lesser-known spot with a true pumpkin patch, we stumbled upon the perfect spot.  There were only a handful of other people there, the kids could wander through the pumpkin patch freely and the view was beautiful.  Phoebe couldn’t believe Noah was about the same height as her.  Noah found the “biggest pumpkin in the patch” so we will have a nice carving pumpkin for halloween.  Wren tried to figure out what all the excitement was about and Philippa trotted happily along with everyone else.  This spot was technically a nursery, so after picking out some pumpkins we wandered through the greenhouses. The children also had to pick out small pumpkins to paint, as they’ve done for the last number of years.  It was a sweet and simple way to spend a Saturday morning together.  We do so love this time of year!  (And if you’re local and need a good quiet spot to wander through growing things, we recommend visiting Linda’s Plants and Shrubs.)

graybeard + this year’s fall color

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I shared a few posts back about damaging my camera and needing to replace it.  Well, I did!  It wasn’t a major upgrade at all, but the camera is a slightly newer model than what I had and I am still trying to figure things out on it.  It was so wonderful to be able to get out last weekend for a day trip to nearby Montreat, NC where my husband and I went to college, met and married.  These trails used to be our daily bread, our common language, and now we are so rarely in these woods!  It was ministry to us both.  It’s therapeutic to get away from home and our usual work for a bit, particularly to get outside together.  We hiked for a little ways, looking for a good spot in the river to stop and let the kids play.  I think our kids are pretty decent hikers considering their age; Philippa does well keeping up with the older two, though she can often tire out far sooner than the rest of us.  As much as we’d like to go farther, we have to be content with shorter hikes and more stops and curiosity.  After playing in the water for a bit the sun dropped below the mountains and the temperatures grew cooler quickly.  We headed back to the trailhead and the picnic area just below it for a cozy warm fire and dinner.  It was a treat for me to play around with my camera throughout the day, and I was thankful for the opportunity to capture a bit of this year’s fall color, and these simple sweet moments together with children who are growing lankier every time I turn around.  Fall, the turning of seasons again, and these days slipping by so quickly.

first day of fall

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Last Saturday was the first day of fall, my favorite season officially arriving at last.  I had hoped to make the day an autumnal celebration, but as is so often the case things went differently than planned.  Philippa wasn’t feeling well, I had only gotten a few hours of sleep, and Brandon was working so the thought of pulling much together was exhausting.  Still, I was thankful I had a few things ready beforehand so we could still make it special.  The children hung a leaf banner for me on the mantle and I pulled out little baby pumpkins for them to paint, which we’ve done for a few years now.  I had hoped to plant some flower bulbs around our property but couldn’t muster the energy.

For me, the coming of fall is much anticipated, bringing all its beautiful colors, crisp air, and coziness.  I don’t mind winter and the cold short days one bit, in fact I crave it, but I know many people dread the long season of cold and dark.  It will be my first time planting bulbs this year, and it struck me a bit poetic, planting for spring now just before winter.  Planning and anticipating the season that will come because of the work of the season I’m in now.  These flowers need to overwinter in the soil.

I had woken up that Saturday morning with so little sleep behind me and another long day ahead, and I was fighting discouragement.  When I’m in that place, I should know better than to give much credit to my thoughts, but I was feeling overwhelmed by all I’m trying to juggle lately, I was feeling discouraged about this blog space.  I feel like I have less and less time to write, which is why I primarily began blogging (a space to share everything God teaches me along the way, a place to pay attention to His presence in my ordinary days).  I feel like my purpose in blogging gets muddled, and who really reads along anyway?  For so much work and effort squeezed into such little pockets of time, is it really worthwhile?  There is so much on the table, and so little I can feasibly give myself to.  Yet that very morning, God sent along some particular encouragement to keep going even if I can’t see where it is all headed.

You see, we do important work in our winters.  There are some things in us that simply MUST overwinter before the fruit is born.  We can’t rush the story.  We can’t see now where our faithfulness in this present season will take us.  We need to stop worrying about our destinations so much, and instead trust the process that will lead us there.  Be faithful here, plan for spring, hope for blooms, but carry on into winter.

This past Saturday was a much better day.  With the children, I planted a couple varieties of tulips, allium, and daffodils, along with some clematis plants a friend had given to us.  We will be eager to see them in spring, and will think often of those little bulbs all snug in the frozen soil throughout the winter.

“Gardens are born in winter.  Not only in fireside dreams, but also in the messy work of tending small pots on sunny windowsills.  And in the harsh work of planting early seeds in cold soil…

I long to see the glory of God in this place, to taste it even, but for everything there is a season.  These are still planting days.  These are the early days of small beginnings.  Days to sow, quite often in tears, hoping, believing, that we may one day reap in joy.”

-Christie Purifoy

Also, the maple pumpkin custard I made for dessert to celebrate the autumn equinox recipe was found here and it was easy and a big hit with everyone!

a background of beauty

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It’s hard to believe it is the last week of October.  This month is slipping by so quickly, this shoulder month when days flicker between feeling summery and wintry.  We play outside so much during this month and want to soak up every minute of it.  The way the light seems somehow richer, golden, playful.  The sound of the dry leaves clattering to the ground, the crisp air, pumpkins sprinkled everywhere.  I’m slowly trying to make headway on home projects, mainly getting more organized inside our home.  I’ve struggled to feel at home here, and I’m eager to hang pictures and find homes for every little thing, making sense of the space we have.  Something in me longs to make a beautiful, simple, and inviting home for my family and also anyone else who comes into our home.  It often feels overrun by the chaos of books and papers, toys and random articles of clothing that have been dispensed of.  Such is life with small children, but still we can’t give up entirely.  Children inherently love cozy–waking with tousled hair and pulling a chair up by the fire in the early morning dark.  Happily digging through the bin of winter hats and gloves and finding their old favorites once again.  Setting up little homes outside and in, building forts in with fallen limbs and creating elaborate block fortresses.  I think of these words from Edith Schaeffer:

In spite of wilting leaves after a period of time, the memory of that table is as vivid as if it had painted on canvas.  Indeed, the memory of even short-lived beauty makes it worthwhile to take time and energy to provide a background of beauty for the human relationships developing in your home.  Children growing up in an atmosphere where beauty is considered an important part of daily life cannot help being inspired to develop their own original ideas in these areas, nor can they help being prepared to live aesthetically themselves.

-The Hidden Art of Homemaking

The reality is life isn’t always beautiful, even in our own homes where we long to create a haven and a rest from the cruel and dark world.  So this work is hard, plodding, slow, marked by repentance and effort and dependence on God.

This year we’ve done some of our usual fall traditions: picking apples, visiting a farm, painting pumpkins, leaf rubbings.  What are some of your favorite fall traditions?  I’m slowly getting back into my knitting rhythms, so very happily.  I’ve cast on for Philippa’s birthday sweater (her birthday is one month from today!) with that lovely shepherd’s wool, and I have so many ideas for each of the kid’s birthdays and christmas this year.  Brandon (with the help of my dad) brought home a free play gym that they disassembled from a neighbor’s yard, and we have plans to reassemble and fix it up soon as part of the children’s christmas present.  Many projects on the go, many still to come, while we spend our days doing school, reading books, collecting and making pretty things.  The very best time of year is still to come, and I’m wanting to clear our home and hearts, preparing and making room for the happiest season of celebrating birthdays and Christmas.

hello, September

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The weather has cooled ever so slightly, mornings are darker when the alarm goes off at six am.  I’m feeling more and more back to myself, like this old soul is waking back up after being in a weird pregnancy slump for months.  September in North Carolina can still be as hot as August some years, and I know we may still see some hot days before October.  Even still, I’m celebrating every little hint of cooler days and the happy change that comes over these hills at this time of year.  When I was my sickest with this pregnancy, many hours and hours of many days all I could do was lay down.  I couldn’t read, watch anything, knit, scroll through social media.  There was just no distraction that didn’t make me nauseous.  I didn’t realize how tightly wound up I was until I was forced to just SIT a whole lot and do nothing and be with my thoughts (depressed and grumpy as they were).  I could listen to worship music and that would help set my sights beyond my condition (which is really a very blessed condition indeed!)  Having a few months of this has slowed me down in a way I didn’t know I was needing.  I’ve slept more hours in a night because I’m not staying up till the wee hours knitting and reading.  The anxious needing-to-always-have-something-to-busy-my-mind-with feeling has ebbed.  I’m noticing quieter things, enjoying small moments of grace that I might otherwise rush past.  It’s been hard and not something I would have volunteered for (to be sick) but the forced quieting of my soul has been a gift.  God is always faithful, even when we don’t love His process.

I’ve felt bad for the children while I’ve been basically out of commission, but they have found lots of entertainment in our pretty simple bare yard. 🙂  Boredom is so often the impetus for creativity!  They’ve been busy climbing trees, scavenging in the garden for neglected vegetables that have grown far too big, and playing in the hammock.  I hear one of them yell, “hey guys, let’s go outside and fall out of the hammock!” and the rest yell, “yeaaahhh!”  That’s their game, to get in altogether and whoever is at the front catapults themselves over the edge and then they get in the back of the train again.

We checked out a book from the library called Wiggle and Waggle about two worm friends, and Phoebe has been worm hunting ever since.  She’s claimed a few worms for pets, checks on them constantly, kills a few and then finds a few more.  It grosses me out but I don’t want her to know that, it’s probably good she doesn’t mind getting her hands in the dirt even if bugs make me squeamish.

It’s probably early to have mums and pumpkins on the porch, but I needed something bright and cheery and a local friend of ours was giving away free pumpkins, so we loaded up on them.  Hopefully they last through November, but they make me happy every time I see them, so they will have brought plenty of joy, no matter how long they last.

And a couple of evenings ago I made one of my most favorite soups (recipe here, but I omit the olives and sub black beans, and also omit the quinoa because it makes me really sick.  Sometimes I add wild rice instead, sometimes I just leave it grain free and it’s just as delicious.  I also add handfuls of spinach at the end, too).  It’s one of my favorite meals, along with those super easy grain-free rolls which everyone in our house goes nuts over.  We lit candles for the first time in a long time and the kids knew momma must be feeling better.

There are pumpkins and candles and soups and cold mornings and warm slippers and leaves falling in the grass and children playing late outside and bent over school books, and all is right with the world again.  I had a checkup this morning and took the kids along and we got to see baby.  Hopefully that makes it more real for them.  Little one looked like he/she was sucking his/her thumb, and kept crossing his/her little legs so he/she looked pretty cozy in there, too.

leaves like a quilt

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Can it really be the last day of October?  I don’t want to see it go.  I have barely posted this month, besides my faithful yarn along posts, which is probably more interesting to me than to most of my readers.  Dear reader, I’m sorry!

My little corner of the world has been spinning rather wildly, and this month has been busy.  The first two weeks of it, my older brother was in town with his son, and I tried to squeeze in as much time with them as I could.  The kids and I have been outside as much as we can be.  They’ve started this new rhythm since the weather has cooled and the mosquitoes have died down, running to play outside as soon as they are done breakfast until Phoebe and I start school.  They are out most of the rest of the day if we are home.  Phoebe and Noah and I have been reading Island of the Blue Dolphins for our chapter book, which has inspired much of their play.  Coincidentally, someone gave us a tee-pee also, so Phoebe has been busy playing that she is Karana gathering abalones and watching out for the Aleuts.

I just can’t get enough of the color and the beauty of this season.  During a walk one day to our neighborhood park, Phoebe exclaimed: “the leaves are like a quilt!”  I’m so thankful for the perspective of a child!  School has been going so well with Phoebe, I really love doing it.  It is taking up a decent amount of my time and energy, thus my lack of blogging this month.   We really love Phoebe’s co-op as well, the community we are all finding there, and I’m always amazed at how much she is learning and retaining.  She has started a bit of music theory and learning to play a tin whistle, which she loves.  Brandon and I are beginning to talk about Christimas/birthday gifts for them, as their birthdays are quickly approaching.  I’m knitting each of them a sweater, which I really think I will feasibly have done in time.  We’ve talked about giving each of them a musical instrument as well for their birthdays.  Noah is dying for a drum, Phoebe has wanted a violin for some time.  But we are still undecided.

We continue to hope for more improvement in Phoebe’s health, her diet, her growth, her eating habits.  This month has been hard for me in that department.  I realize my frailty, my weariness, my weakness.  The pastor at our church yesterday was speaking about running the race (of faith) with endurance, and that part of what gives us strength for the race is the hope of Heaven.  I was thinking about how my heart hurts and gets weary over this journey with Phoebe, and realized yes, this is part of it.  This is not something that seems to be resolving easily with her, or quickly, and we wear out.  We long for an end in sight, something we can fix our eyes on and run toward.  Yet this is more ambiguous, uncertain.  Our medical team is beginning to recommend more testing.  She will go to Brenner  Children’s Hospital in Wake Forest next month to see a pediatric specialist in Celiacs.  I’m hopeful that we will have more help from there, steps we can take, things we can try, something.

We can’t trick-or-treat and don’t want to deal with having to rifle through the kids candy and pull out what isn’t gluten-free.  I’ve just planned some simple and fun activities for us here at home, and found candy and chocolate that the kids can have from a local health store.  We carved our pumpkin over the weekend and maybe will let the kids dress up and just walk around our quiet, mostly-old-folks neighborhood.

Anyway, so thats a bit of what our October was like, the best month of the year, and why I have been pretty absent in the blogosphere.  I want to not miss these days, these moments.  I want to capture it all, to write it down, to hang onto the glory of these days, each falling like golden leaves, slipping to the ground.  Now, behind us, underfoot, all stretched out like a mosaic, like a quilt.

apple pie tree

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Every fall we make a trip to a local apple orchard.  It was busier this year than ever before, a hustle of bustle, so maybe next year we will hunt for someplace more obscure.  The introvert in me was a bit bewildered.  I barely pulled myself together to get out the door that morning, having had a night of insomnia and only a few hours sleep.  But my sweet nephew E was in town, and I wanted to take him and my kids to do something fun, so we pulled ourselves together.  No pretty outfits and not much fanfare, but I did manage to grab a library book we had called “Apple Pie Tree” and coloring sheets/crayons.  Why not squeeze in a bit of school (said every homeschooling mom ever)?

The kids hunted for apples, we sat in a quiet place between rows of trees after picking  a few and learned about the parts of an apple.  We looked around for a few more apples, only picking enough for the children to be able to carry.  I have no hopes of canning up applesauce as I have done in years past.  We explored the orchard, visiting the ducks and sheep and goats, the peacocks and playgrounds.  Rainey treated them to a tractor hayride, which was the delight of all.  Then we spread out our blanket again and had a picnic before heading home.  I read to them from our apple tree book, and as always, little munchers are rapt listeners.  After we were home and children were resting/napping, I peeled and cored and sliced and made a gluten-free apple pie using the recipe from the back of the library book.  Simple ingredients and a heavenly smell.

You can read about our visit to the apple orchard with friends last year here.

outing to the reservoir

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Not much time today for words.  It is October and we mostly spend our days out, if we can.  These pictures are from a couple of weeks ago, the first official week of fall.  We took our school work and went on a little field trip to a nearby favorite area from my college years.  We focused on noticing, listening, looking, enjoying.  They ran and laughed and played, and I had a few moments to be quiet and reflect.  When my soul is overwhelmed it usually helps to get outside and remember a bigger world at work in a hundred million ways without my  involvement or attention.  I am so thankful for these three little ones, the bond growing between them, their hungry curiosity about the world, their freshness and innocence and unguardedness.  I learn so much from them.  These days are tired but so achingly happy.

odds and ends

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We did a little walk last week in our neighborhood, which is a regular occurrence for us.  I called it a nature walk, so Phoebe brought her nature journal and crayons, and we set out to look for things that were interesting, new, and to take note of what is happening in the woods around us during the month of September.  We found a massive spider web (can you see it in the picture above with the building behind it?) which she sat down to draw, while the little ones played bubbles with me, then we all headed to the nearby playground.  It was the first time it felt like one of our “fall” walks, and my heart skipped a beat.  I live for fall in the mountains of NC.  Something in my sort of wakes up, and I would say I am most inspired by fall and winter.  The mornings feel just a little bit cooler, there is the first hint of that distinctive smell, the first scuttle of leaves across the pavement.  We hear acorns constantly dropping on the metal roof of our neighbors house.  I plan to be outside pretty much every day, since the mosquitoes will finally leave us alone.

I finished knitting my first sweater for my nephew and am sending that off this week, and planning knits for each of the kids for their birthdays.  I hope to make each a sweater, but Brandon tells me I’m probably being too ambitious.

School so far has been going really well.  Phoebe seems to drag her feet in phonics, though I think it’s because the book I’m using to teach her is mostly geared toward auditory learners, and she seems to be more hands-on.  She loves math and asks to do it constantly, mostly because of the math manipulatives I think.  She is so incredibly bright and quick to memorize and I’m finding that doing school together gives us just some mother/daughter time that we both are enjoying so much.

Our ordinary days together at home are so full of learning opportunities.  We cook together, talk about odd or exciting things we see out in the world.  We observe the changing seasons, we talk about heart matters as we live alongside one another and sometimes treat each other harshly.  We read scripture and recite memory work.  After nap time a few days ago the three children wanted snack on the porch and I stood at the doorway and watched them all squished together on one side of their picnic table, seemingly oblivious to the fact that they could be more spread out.  But there they were, all squished on one bench, munching and giggling and playing.  It was a happy moment and made me so thankful for this chance to home educate and have Phoebe here with us.  The younger two would really miss her.

A few days ago Phoebe turned to me at dinner and asked, “Why don’t we ever give our food to the poor and needy?”  I was taken aback by her question, quite happily, and we talked about it for a few minutes.  She was thinking, then she bent her head and folded her hands spontaneously and prayed “Dear Lord, thank you for this lovely dinner.  And we pray for all the needs, and the poor and the hungry that you would give them food.  And we pray for all the mean and the selfish an the bullies, that you would help them and that you would take them away and that we wouldn’t have to see them again.  In Jesus’ name, amen!”  My heart was melted (even as I fought laughter over her requests for all of the “mean and selfish.”  Thank the Lord He is more merciful than we are.)  Needless to say, we are cooking a meal this week together to drop off of at a local homeless shelter.  “And a little child shall lead them,” right?  😉

I don’t have particularly spectacular things to say about all of these random odds and ends, but these are the little moments that I don’t want to forget, these are the things of “now,” this is the good stuff that I treasure.