California (pt 2): to the Golden Gate and beyond

DSC_0137DSC_0142DSC_0144 (1)DSC_0146DSC_0147DSC_0148DSC_0140DSC_0153DSC_0157DSC_0159DSC_0162DSC_0168DSC_0172DSC_0173DSC_0174DSC_0186DSC_0192DSC_0198DSC_0201DSC_0203DSC_0208DSC_0213DSC_0222DSC_0226DSC_0234DSC_0236DSC_0239DSC_0240DSC_0243DSC_0250DSC_0257DSC_0258DSC_0261DSC_0264DSC_0276DSC_0282DSC_0283DSC_0285DSC_0287DSC_0278DSC_0297DSC_0305DSC_0307DSC_0309DSC_0314DSC_0317DSC_0324DSC_0330DSC_0332DSC_0335DSC_0345DSC_0348DSC_0350DSC_0354DSC_0363DSC_0368DSC_0372DSC_0373DSC_0377DSC_03790DSC_0374

Most of the week we spent nearby the house where we were staying (my aunt and uncle’s beautiful home).  We would head out for walks and short adventures in the mornings, then spend the rest of the day by the pool.  Meanwhile I had been hoping to get to explore a bit more, driving on Rte 1, seeing the Golden Gate Bridge, and visiting the nearby yarn store A Verb For Keeping Warm.  Brandon and my dad worked some extra evening hours so that we could spend Friday out on those adventures before we flew out Saturday morning.

No trip would be complete without a forced “down day,” and Thursday was that day for us.  Phoebe and Noah both woke up with high fevers.  For the first time ever, neither of them got out of bed for an entire day.  They slept and laid in their sleeping bags listening to audio books, managing to listen to 1 1/2 books from the Narnia series.  They must have felt super awful and neither of them really ate.  Noah’s fever broke Thursday evening, Phoebe’s lasted until Friday morning.  Thankfully they were well enough for us to do our day of adventuring.  We drove again to Half Moon Bay to hit Rte. 1, then drove to the Golden Gate Bridge, marveling all along the way at the beautiful weather and beaches.  Driving across the bridge was unforgettable and we all thoroughly enjoyed taking it in.  Then we drove to Muir Woods, but hadn’t reserved parking ahead of time so we had a picnic lunch and then just hiked around above Muir Woods area.  It was still so beautiful, and the trail was covered in huge bushes of wild dill and eucalyptus!  Wren slept during the hike.

Then back in the car to drive through Sausalito to Oakland, CA where the yarn store was.  Brandon happened to find a parking spot right in front of the store, so Phoebe and I hopped out to explore.  I had some birthday spending money and was able to splurge on some really nice yarn.  I cannot wait to knit with it but I’m also hoarding it a bit because it is so, so lovely.  Experiencing AVFKW was well-worth the drive.  As I said in my last yarn along post, it was full of inspiration and beauty, the staff were very helpful and welcoming.  I could have spent an hour or two in there, but because everyone was waiting in the car I went through it as quickly as I could.  Then we drove back to the house for our last evening there.

Seeing the sights and sharing the west coast with our children was a big highlight, but spending time with my California family was also a real treat.  We don’t get to see each other very often and it was good to catch up and reconnect.  The children absolutely loved being doted on by their great auntie and great uncle.  We felt very spoiled to have had such a fun week together in all that west coast beauty.  ❤  Now, back to ordinary life here in the Appalachians! 🙂

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

DSC_0012DSC_0014DSC_0017DSC_0018DSC_0020DSC_0021DSC_0023DSC_0025DSC_0029DSC_0030DSC_0033DSC_0041DSC_0043DSC_0054DSC_0052DSC_0055DSC_0060DSC_0063DSC_0065DSC_0067 (1)DSC_0068DSC_0070DSC_0073DSC_0091DSC_0074DSC_0075DSC_0078DSC_0081DSC_0083DSC_0089DSC_0094DSC_0096DSC_0099DSC_0108DSC_0110DSC_0111DSC_0113DSC_0116DSC_0118DSC_0120DSC_0124DSC_0126DSC_0128DSC_0129DSC_0131DSC_0132

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 summer rhythm

DSC_0033DSC_0036DSC_0041DSC_0045DSC_0046DSC_0003DSC_0005 (1)DSC_0005DSC_0048DSC_0050DSC_0054DSC_0009DSC_0012DSC_0013DSC_0002DSC_0022DSC_0025DSC_00280DSC_0027

We have finished up another year of school and it feels so good to do so!  Last week was our first full week off.  I found myself both happy with the wide open free schedule and also feeling a bit odd/paralyzed without our usual rhythms to ground the day.  I mean, there are some structures that remain in place, of course, like quiet times after lunch, morning and evening devotional time and such.  Last summer I remember hoping to do a lot of reading and hiking in the summer, yet finding that it got sort of choked out as we weren’t super intentional about it.  So I came up with a little loose and easy summer plan, because that’s about all I can handle.  Something very simple, flexible, and attainable, with the goal of providing space and motivation to do those summer things we don’t want to miss out on.  (If you follow me on instagram you’ve seen me sharing a snippet of our daily rhythm in my stories for the last week.)

It all just sort of came to me the other day, so I wrote down the few major things I want to accomplish each week with the kiddos, the things I hope to emphasize this summer.  I’m trying it out and the children are loving it so far.  The part of me that likes to just have the freedom to do whatever we feel like each day is revolting just a tiny bit, but at the same time, I know we can toss the schedule out of the window when we need to.  (Like this week, when we are busy prepping and packing for a sort of big trip coming up this weekend.)

Anyway, I thought it would be fun to share my little idea/venture here with you in case anyone else would be helped by it, or spurred on to try your own little summer rhythm.  On weekday mornings we have been having “morning time” after breakfast, where we do some bible reading, singing, and catechism questions.  I’ve put together little simple binders for each of the children to compile the hymns we are learning (one a month), and anything else we are memorizing or using during this time.  After morning time is over, we are implementing our “morning focus,” each day centered around one theme.  After lunch it is quiet time for the older kids and nap time for the younger two, and the rest of the afternoon is generally free play time, because I firmly believe children need hours of open play/free time daily without the management of their every minute by an adult.

Sunday: worship + rest

This is pretty self-explanatory, but this day is devoted to worshipping with our church family and spending the rest of the day resting.  Rest could look like getting outside for a hike, or it could look like being lazy at home.  Whatever is needed.  For me, it usually means leaving the laundry unfolded and trying to minimize my time in the kitchen, while giving myself permission to take extra time to knit, read, nap, or get outside.

Monday: tend to home

Mondays are days my mind is usually busy with catching up on housework, bills, and such, after taking a rest day on Sunday.  I’d like to pull the kids into helping more with house work/chores and help us all to remember that tending to our home helps to ground us and gives us a nice place to come home to after our fun outings.  Part of life is setting aside a little bit of time to care for what has been entrusted to us, and I think making this our morning goal on Monday helps me feel more free mentally to do other activities during the week.

Tuesday: read

During this time, we just loaf around and enjoy either independent reading time with some music playing, or I will read to the children.

Wednesday: create

Making time for art, hand crafts, baking — these are things that so easily get choked out of our week during the school year because schoolwork and household chores take longer than expected.  Setting aside a morning devoted to the theme of MAKING something together is really freeing for me, to feel like we have time and room to do so.  The kids absolutely love when I pull out paints, or invite them to bake cookies with me.  I plan to do a fun little “knitting class,” embroidery, writing haiku, or woodworking project with them, too.  (I have really enjoyed using this book as a help for seasonal craft ideas to do together that are simple, like leaf pressing, rolling candles, etc.)  Also, just letting them tell me how they’d like to be creative.  I think it’s important to stir up all of our creative juices over the summer!

Thursday: serve

During this day we look for ways to serve one another and hopefully also serve our neighbors or community in some way.  This one requires a bit more forethought and planning for me potentially, and pushes us all a bit out of our comfort zone.  Last week we took cookies to a neighbor, recently we did a neighborhood road clean-up, and we’ll see what other little ways we can find to serve those around us and reach outside of our home a bit.  Maybe we’ll deliver vegetables and flowers from our garden to neighbors, take a meal to someone in need, or offer to help a neighbor with a yard work project.

Friday: explore + play

I for sure want to make hiking, river splashing, or pool time a weekly event at minimum this summer, so this day is for those sorts of adventures.  Of course, if the weather is better for a hike on a day other than Friday we can just switch things around.

Saturday: connect

We often do house projects, yard work, grocery shopping and errands on Saturday, but I’m hoping we can remember that Saturdays are a really good day to connect all together since Daddy is home for the day usually.  So our aim is to do something that day to connect even in the midst of the work we also need to accomplish, whether its play a game together, picnic, walk, ride bikes, hike, visit the farmers market, etc.

So, we are trying it out and doing it without a lot of pressure or guilt.  I’m hoping it helps give us room to squeeze in all the fun things we want to do this summer.  It has been helpful so far!  Do share any fun ideas you may have or ways you’re trying to be intentional this summer to enjoy time together and make time for the things that matter to your family.  And if you’re thinking of trying out something similar, let me know how it goes!

eastertide

DSC_0167DSC_0173DSC_0179DSC_0180DSC_0183DSC_0189DSC_0191DSC_0195DSC_0200DSC_0204DSC_0206DSC_0205DSC_0211DSC_0214DSC_0215DSC_0222DSC_0234DSC_0238DSC_0240DSC_0242DSC_0244DSC_0246DSC_0248DSC_0251DSC_0257DSC_0259DSC_0262DSC_0270DSC_0274DSC_0275DSC_0281DSC_0288DSC_0292DSC_0003DSC_0005DSC_0009DSC_0024DSC_0026DSC_0030DSC_0031DSC_0041DSC_0046DSC_0050DSC_0051DSC_0054DSC_0055DSC_0058DSC_00620

If there’s anything Easter teaches us, it’s this: there can be sorrow and still there can be joy.  There can be life borne from death.  What a victory!  In fact, the greatest joy I have tasted came out of death.  First, His death.  Then the resurrection.  If there’s anything Easter teaches us, it’s that we can be adrift on the waves of pain and loss while also rejoicing in that unshakeable Hope.  There is a future coming for us that will far surpass our imagination.  Indeed, there is a weight of glory.  I was struck by these words on Easter:

“It still feels like Saturday to me – the loss of a best friend’s youngest son this year, Rachel still in a coma, the Sri Lankan bombings this morning, other sadnesses of this year, and the weight of the world’s longing still feels as present in our sanctuaries as the fulfillment of those longings. Maybe even more so. I’ve cried off and on all morning, unable to rouse my usual celebrations or rituals… As we sang a hymn together at the end, I was struck by the line, ‘Break the bread of new creation where the world is still in pain.’ In the brooding longings of our Saturday world, we feed each other, we pray, we remind each other of all that is beautiful, true, and good; we feast, we ‘drink the wine of resurrection, not as a servant but a friend.’ Perhaps that is what Easter can be today for us, too – bread and wine, hope and each other, even when the world is still in pain.” (Sarah Bessey)

There were bombings in Sri Lanka and the loud headlines.  There was my own broken heart.  There was the unexpectedly cold Easter weather, the children with coughs and runny noses.  There was a broken family held together and holding together in the midst of it by this Savior who takes the failures and the doubters, the deniers and the deserters, and restores them.  Resurrects them.  Sometimes I can hardly believe its true.

This Easter we surprised the children with little Easter baskets in the morning with a new naturally-dyed hair bow for each of the girls, a new hat for Noah, a small simple journal and some new coloring supplies for each.  We worshiped together with our church family, came home for a very cold Easter egg hunt, naps, and then dinner and another Easter egg hunt at my parents house nearby with my brother and his family.  I hope I didn’t bore you with my millions of photos of a bonneted baby looking a bit like mother hubbard shuffling around in her linen dress.  Every first is so fun with a baby.

I hope it was a blessed Easter for you, and that you were able to catch a glimpse of the Risen one and the glory once again that awaits us, too.

wren is one

DSC_0029DSC_0035DSC_0037DSC_0047DSC_0065DSC_0054DSC_0075DSC_0080DSC_0088DSC_0091DSC_0101DSC_0120DSC_0127DSC_0142DSC_0150DSC_0197DSC_0199DSC_0236DSC_0245DSC_0250DSC_0259DSC_0287DSC_0307DSC_0312DSC_0321DSC_0324DSC_0327DSC_0332DSC_0333DSC_0337DSC_0349DSC_0359DSC_0360DSC_0361DSC_0363DSC_0369DSC_0371DSC_0373DSC_0377DSC_0379DSC_0386DSC_0401DSC_0396DSC_0419DSC_0426DSC_0408DSC_0434DSC_0439DSC_0447DSC_0449DSC_0452DSC_0464DSC_0471DSC_0477DSC_0482DSC_0485DSC_0487DSC_0489DSC_0492DSC_0493DSC_0502DSC_0531DSC_0540

Our wren wren.  How can it be?  This year with you has been so sweet.  Also, spicy.  As you grow you are learning to exert yourself, learning what you like and what you don’t.  One thing you became very attached to early on in your life was your bunny, a gift from a family friend.  Nothing comforts you like bunny.  So we thought your first birthday should be a bunny themed day.  We can’t believe you are one and we’ve said so a million times.  You are a joy to us all, everybody’s baby, and you make us all laugh with your silly faces, grumpy eyebrows, bunny love, toddling walk, and excitement for life.  Happy first birthday, sweet little very.

A little bit about her day:

Friends (and my mom) came over the day before her birthday (Saturday) for a cookout, bonfire and play time.  We didn’t make it about her day persay, but we did have carrot cake in her honor and a couple of gifts.  On her birthday, it was just us.  After church I wanted to take photos of our girl in her special birthday dress + crown, just as she is now — walking, exploring, loving being outside, chasing our kitty Rose, and keeping up with her siblings.  It was good that we did because shortly thereafter it began to rain and pour for the rest of the day.  When she woke up from her nap and saw her presents by the fireplace, she picked them up and started right in on them, knowing just what to do.  Each of the children helped her open a gift.  She opened her birthday sweater that I knit for her and she immediately bit it, as she does whenever something is soft and snuggly.  She held onto it and didn’t protest a bit when I put it on her.  It’s so sweet because whenever she saw me working on it she would grab the yarn (and generally she is very into my yarn anyway).  We got her a bunny book and her cousin-twin Silas sent her the sweetest book about a bird named wren which made me tear up to read.  Its perfect.  We also bought her a pair of boiled wool overalls which will be so nice for her to wear on all her adventures outside, with the reinforced knees and bottom.  They are very big on her but they will fit her throughout next winter as well!  My mom bought her her first baby doll (wren can’t say her “b’s” yet so she calls it her “day-dee” instead of baby).  Her big gift from us was a little piano of her very own.  She is obsessed with our piano but can’t reach it or play it unless someone helps her up and then sits and makes sure she doesn’t fall off the bench, so this little piano is just her size.  She has loved it so much, which is always a delight.

For her cake, I made a vegan + gluten free carrot cake which was literally maybe the best carrot cake I’ve ever had, and I topped it with new little bunnies in honor of her bunny day. 🙂  She has never had anything like cake before and she’s our first child to absolutely dig in and love her first birthday cake.  It was a very special first birthday, just perfect in so many ways.  And I tried not to cry and be sad about her growing so big so fast, or the fact that it might be the last first birthday we celebrate, and instead just enjoy all that is now and all that will come.

 

 

happy birthday to daddy

DSC_0025DSC_0030DSC_0033DSC_0036DSC_0037DSC_0038DSC_0052DSC_0053DSC_0050DSC_0055DSC_0059DSC_0131DSC_0132DSC_0134DSC_0138DSC_0006DSC_0061DSC_0062DSC_0067DSC_0071DSC_0084

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!

an imperfect, happy Christmas

DSC_0190DSC_0193DSC_0195DSC_0196DSC_0197DSC_0202DSC_0215DSC_0219DSC_0223DSC_0228DSC_0232DSC_0236DSC_0245DSC_0251DSC_0253DSC_0256DSC_0258DSC_0261DSC_0270DSC_0276DSC_0282DSC_0295DSC_0302DSC_0304DSC_0309DSC_0311DSC_0312DSC_0327DSC_0329DSC_0330DSC_0333DSC_03380DSC_0342DSC_0350DSC_0353DSC_0360DSC_0369DSC_0370DSC_0372DSC_0377DSC_0378DSC_0385DSC_0387DSC_0391DSC_0402DSC_0406DSC_0410DSC_0417DSC_0418

“My discomfort with the gifts was a result of the circumstances that rendered me impotent to deal with buying them.  By the very nature of things, there was a limit to the time that could be expended in acquiring them and an even greater limit to the money that could be spent.  While the season’s moralizers will always claim that the amount spent is not important (“It’s the thought that counts”), intelligence and simple observation militate strongly against that position.  The thought behind a standard boy’s bike and the feel of a ten-speed racer under that same boy are very, very unequal to a fourteen year old.  In 1984, they were also very unequal to my checkbook.

That year, the inequalities and loss of time were multiplied by children, children-in-law, grandchildren, grandmothers, and godparents.  The real issue, however, was that children need to experience the security and the largess of having those this-world things that help them fit easily into the patterns and flow of their own lives, both social and domestic, private and public.  For fourteen year olds in a farming village, that meant ten-speed racers…

Gifting is a way to demonstrate love.  It requires that we study another so intensely as to perceive his or her unspoken desires and meet them.  It means to startle with the unexpected, the perfectly chosen.  For our children we had always seen it as a way to form a thankful and satisfied adult, to create a readiness for generosity, the early habits of appreciation, and a sense of blessedness.”

I read these words by Phyllis Tickle in her short book of stories from her farm called What the Land Already Knows early in the month of December.  A small little book, yet multiple times in the dark night while I would be reading it, tears would prick my eyes.  Yes, to feel overwhelmed with the December things–the gift buying, the desire to bless our children and hope to provide them with hearts that understand what it feels like to both receive and give generously.  The desire to spend our affections richly on the One to whom the seasons is all about, Jesus, the babe in the manger.  The tug and pull of gatherings, pageants, birthdays, meals, Advent readings, the gift buying and wrapping (which largely falls on me and it can bring such weariness even though it is a joy).  The questioning of ourselves–are we spending ourselves (both our time and money) well in this season?  Are we giving our children too much?  Too little?

Her words brought freedom and the reminder of what it’s like to be a child–to hope for an item and to receive it.  To anticipate the good gifts of Christmas morning, to work through the ungratefulness and dissatisfaction in our hearts that can sometimes follow.  Her words helped me as a mother to wrestle my own guilt and frustrations with myself down–we are finite, limited.  We have so many pressures in these years with little ones and so few resources.  We cannot hope to dance through this season perfectly, we will mostly limp through it held up by the gracious and loving arms of the babe who came to save us.

This Christmas morning began with a child who wet the bed and then a screaming baby woken up too early.  I had slept quite poorly and had a hard time being in a good mood until well into the afternoon, unfortunately.  I apologized multiple times to everyone and was mostly very grateful that Brandon was unusually chipper and unaffected by my grouchiness.  Three different loved ones gave me products intended to help puffy, tired eyes this year and I do so hope these products do the job! 🙂

We had filled the children’s stockings with dried fruits from nuts.com, chocolates, a stainless steel cup, pencils, a couple of small toys, as well as a pair of knitting needles.  Yes, everyone got needles because all three older children are asking now for knitting needles and yarn. 🙂  Phoebe wanted her first pair of circular needles, which I had told her she would receive if she stuck with a knitted project and finished it.  (She has mostly done that).  Wren received some new rubber bath toys, her first glass sippy cup, new spoons, a rainbow stacker and a ball.  Each child got a book, one smaller item they wanted, and then one larger item.  Grandparents had sent along new pajamas, dried mangoes, books and such, plus one larger gift: a trampoline!  Both Brandon and I had gifts from secret santas (my family drew names for Christmas) and we both got each other a few things when in previous years we haven’t simply because of inability.  He bought me a beautiful pendant necklace (theres just something so romantic and lovely about a man giving jewelry to his girl).  He treated me to way too many bath salts, lotions, candles, as well as a new ball winder which feels heavenly to use.  I treated him to some new tools and carhartt overalls, a new belt and hat.  He spent the remainder of the day putting together Phoebes bike and the trampoline and we had a simple dinner of veggies/hummus, cheese and sandwich meat with a little bit of sushi (my favorite!) from our favorite local spot.

After baths and reading together the children treated us to a surprise performance of the nativity while they requested I play “Silent Night” on the piano.  It was so precious and sweet and it blessed me so — yes, when it’s all said and done and they’ve been inundated with far more than they really need by way of material items, they do understand what this season is all about.  We’ve been remembering the waiting for the Savior and what it’s like to hang in the long dark waiting for His coming and then to celebrate His arrival, Immanuel, God with us.  How we need Him!  What a miracle it is, God wrapped in such small, frail human flesh–given to us.

It was a Merry Christmas filled with the usual interruptions, bad attitudes, apologies, forgiveness, snuggles, joy and laughter that typically fill a family’s day.  All this holy wrapped up and tucked into all this ordinary.  I hope it was a Merry Christmas for you too, dear reader.  May these days leading up to the New Year be filled with sweet reflections, peace, and joy!

ps. I’ll pop back in here soon with photos from both Noah’s and Phoebe’s birthdays. ❤