a different Easter

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Beautiful, sunny warm Saturday was filled with productivity and work.  Early morning grocery shopping, lawn care, cleaning floors and bathrooms, all the house work tended to so we could enjoy a restful Sunday.  We thought about doing an egg hunt on Saturday while it was sunny out, knowing Easter Sunday was slated to be rainy, but it just didn’t feel like Easter.  We finished that day with dinner outside under the budding Crepe Myrtle and with a large bonfire.  I made gluten-free cinnamon rolls that evening to bake on Easter morning.

I think we all fought some sorrow on Easter due to the fact that celebrations are overshadowed somewhat by the corona virus.  How we miss gathering!  But our hearts fought for joy, also.  We were thankful for the simple graces of family life: the warm smell of cinnamon rolls as children colored in early light.  Squeals of children’s laughter and screams of delight as they dodged raindrops and hunted for eggs in the yard.  Morning worship that was so very sweet with our church family via the internet.  Then a restful afternoon amidst pouring rain.  An Easter feast with lamb my parents had given to us, the scriptures read over us by Brandon.

We rejoice now more than ever in the hope we have in Jesus, the Savior who conquered death  and took away all need for fear.  Sending you lots of love in these sometimes dismal days, hoping you are all well, body and soul.

beside still waters

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Hello friends.  How are you all doing?  I hope you’re ok, not just in body but also in mind and soul.  We’ve been ok.  We are all healthy and for that I’m grateful.  These are challenging times for us all, and I have felt quite overwhelmed.  All of our usual extra curricular activities have been cancelled and we have been home for many days.  I’m thankful for a big yard and sunny days when they come, it lifts the heaviness and helps us not to feel so cooped up.

However, in anticipation of a “shelter-in-place” ordinance, we decided to get out on the parkway this last weekend for a proper hike.  The more popular areas were packed with cars and we decided to avoid those. We found a trail we haven’t hiked before that ended up being so beautiful and peaceful, and we really only saw a handful of other hikers.   There are few things that are as restorative as the wilderness for us.

At the beginning of the “social distancing”, my pastor shared this quote from C. S. Lewis with us and it has stuck with me throughout these past two weeks.  Lewis was writing this as they lived under threat of the atomic bomb:

“This is the first point to be made: and the first action to be taken is to pull ourselves together. If we are all going to be destroyed by an atomic bomb, let that bomb when it comes find us doing sensible and human things—praying, working, teaching, reading, listening to music, bathing the children, playing tennis, chatting to our friends over a pint and a game of darts—not huddled together like frightened sheep and thinking about bombs. They may break our bodies (a microbe can do that) but they need not dominate our minds.”

C.S. Lewis, On Living in an Atomic Age

I admit that in these last many days, it has been challenging for me to keep to the basic activities of being human.  I’ve had to be intentional in still lighting the candles at dinner, snapping photos of sweet moments and pretty things, folding the laundry, scrubbing the bathrooms, reading good stories, setting out the next day’s schoolwork in the evenings.  Sometimes these things feel so meaningless when facing such imminent health and economic threat.  Yet I have also been anchored by these same human activities; kept from endless scrolling of headlines, worrying and fretting.  The activities of being human help me to continue on being human.  And it is essential in times like these that we don’t lose our humanity.

Being outside in the sun, having moments of stillness, carrying on with normal work as much as possible, knitting, music, connecting with friends virtually, reading scripture–these are some of the anchors.

Be well, friends.  It may be quieter here on the blog, it may not be, I’m not sure.  I hope you are well, I hope you are finding the things that anchor you, too.  A song we sing often at church is this one, and it feels more appropriate now than ever before.  Sending you warm hugs, friends.

xo
Martha

 

 

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. ❤

snow day at the museum

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Last week we did a field trip with a few friends from our homeschool co-op to the Asheville Art museum.  In our co-op art segment we’ve been studying about the Impressionists and our local art museum happened to have some American impressionist art on display, so it dovetailed nicely with our studies.  I dropped Wren off with my mom for the morning knowing that it would probably not be fun for her to be quiet, listen, and not be able to touch all of the art displays.  The snow was falling heavily all day, which meant a lot of the roads were quiet as people stayed home.  It also made for a really cozy time to visit the museum.  We did an hour guided tour focused on the impressionists, then the children had an hour of studio time.  The guide taught us how to do block printing, and the kids really enjoyed designing a cityscape much like we were seeing out of the museum windows.  Each child designed a building and then made prints of it onto their paper.  They also had the option to switch buildings with someone else and it was really fun to see everyone’s various creations.  After our fun morning, the kids were eager to get out in the accumulating snow once back home, building snow men and sledding.  I’m thankful for every bit of snow we’ve had this winter!  Although it makes for a lot of muddy drippy mess at my door, it is usually short-lived and makes a new playground out of our yard.

Meanwhile, we’ve still been at it with the puzzles.  Yes, I am completely inspired by (copying?) Ginny of Small Things with the puzzle craze.  The first one pictured I mainly worked on myself as the pieces were quite small and it was very challenging.  It was really fun but I think frustrating for the kids who couldn’t really help much with it.  So I got this set of 12 mini puzzles and put each puzzle in a little bag as a fun thing to pull out for the younger children while the older two are busy with school.  Philippa and Noah have been especially into them.  I also got the 300-piece puzzle of the sea planes with the kiddos in mind and we put it together super quickly.  It is one they can do on their own which they love.  I think I’m enjoying these puzzles so much because the scenes in them are so beautiful.  I want to visit and live in each one.

a february birthday

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Brandon’s birthday fell on a Monday this year, so we planned for him to do some fun things over the weekend to celebrate.  He did a long trail run in nearby Dupont Forest for most of the day on Saturday.  Sunday he took Noah fishing on a nearby river for the day.  I was happy for him to get out and have lots of time doing the things he loves outside.  Monday we had a very full and busy day planned but I woke up that morning to a spinning world.  Every once in a while I have vertigo and it hasn’t happened in a couple of years but it hit me that Monday.  I was so bummed because not only did we have a full day of homeschool co-op and piano lessons, but it was also Brandon’s birthday.  My mom came to help for the day as I couldn’t get out of bed/sit up without everything spinning.  I didn’t think to take dramamine until a little later, and it did seem to help (though my mom picked up a “natural” kind which was just straight ginger root).  Thank goodness for moms, right?!  Anyway, in the early afternoon I managed to pull myself out of bed to try to make Brandon’s cheesecake as I knew it would have to sit for a few hours before serving.  As I began to move around the vertigo slowly lifted.  Usually it lasts for a few hours for me so this was a longer day of it, but I was just grateful it lifted.  It’s amazing what a blessing normal functioning is!

The children were so happy to see me up and able to move around and Phoebe helped to make daddy’s birthday cake.  He loves cherry pie but my kids don’t really like pie and Brandon isn’t really picky, so we made a cheesecake instead with my own cherry topping.  For the topping I basically used a bag of frozen cherries, juice from half a lemon, about a 1/2 c. of honey, 1 c. water, and a couple teaspoons of arrowroot powder as a thickener.  It was really delicious, even Phoebe liked it and she is my pickiest.

Philippa asked to decorate the table for daddy’s birthday which was very helpful as I felt still so brain-foggy.  She did a lovely job.  Brandon was truly surprised to see his hand knit sweater and I think it fits just right (though when I gave it to him I hadn’t had time to block it yet).  The “children” gave him a jigsaw which he was very happy with.  I have in mind an item or two he could make for me now that he has it. 🙂  Noah gave him a little notebook/journal he had kept with notes and drawings in it while they had been out fishing.  Phoebe gave him a little woven item.  All in all, I think he was quite spoiled this birthday which we well-deserves.

We had a little bit more snow this past weekend and so enjoyed it.  I’m grateful for any wintry weather!  I convinced Brandon to let me get a couple pictures of him in the sweater, which did take some convincing since he doesn’t love being in front of the camera.  (He’s also wearing a hat I knit for him awhile ago.)

joy in january

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And then the last of January comes, and with it our first blanket of snow for the winter.  We throw our usual morning work to the side and bundle up in layer upon layer for this special and rare occurrence in North Carolina.  When the snow comes, you might as well get out and enjoy it because by day’s end it will likely be gone.

So the first month of the year stretches long and quiet, maybe even a bit dull — but it ends in joy.

JOY… maybe my word for this new year, and not because I’m feeling it but precisely because I’m not.  Last year was shadowed over with a lot of heartache and sorrow, things I cannot share here because it involves other people, stories that haven’t finished playing out yet.  But I’ve spent too much time in that sorrow and maybe it’s time to put away the effect of other people’s brokenness and broken choices and move on into joy.  I don’t want to miss the beauty and joy that is here even now.  I have been given so much, blessed beyond measure, and I choose to see and focus on that.

Only God is able to turn our mourning into dancing.  And He is sufficiently able!

He sends the snow from His storehouse and it covers all this old familiar territory with sparkling clean white and just like that, everything is new again.  And we are dancing in the freshness of it, reminded of a great God who washes us white as snow.

“Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD; though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.”
Isaiah 1:18

 

so this is nine

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Oh, all the big feelings over this girl.  Each of my children’s birthdays are special and emotional in their own ways, but this girl is and always will be the one to do things “first.”  God is so wise in placing her as the firstborn in our family, she has paved the way beautifully for the other children in her kindness, joy, helpfulness, love, and exuberance.  To know Phoebe is to love her, there’s just no argument there.  People tell me all the time that she makes others feel special, and I think that’s just exactly right.  It isn’t hard to celebrate this girl, but for this momma who just wants to slow this whole thing down a wee bit and hang on just a little longer to these sweet days, it comes with a tinge of sadness. Phoebe has grown up so much over the past year and there’s just no stopping this girl.  She can’t wait to be all grown up.

She’s traded in her love for dress-up with a deep abiding love for horses.  It’s her dream to own one, but she’s happy  just to see them.  To touch one or ride one is pretty epic.  She has slowly been collecting Breyer’s horses and plays so sweetly with them.  She has read the entire history of horses curriculum many times over, has memorized her horse handbook, and lately has been enjoying the Horse Diaries series immensely.  We purchased a few of them for her for Christmas, but also got her A Horse for Kate for her birthday, as well as a horse calendar.  She is becoming quite addicted to reading and devours her books in a day or two.  Every week I scour the library for more books on horses for her to read.

Her birthday sweater is called the Ghost Horse sweater and she really loves it, which makes it all worthwhile (it was quite a lot of feverish knitting).  She also got a pair of roller blades and she is so into them.  Anything we can do to keep motivating our children to be outside and moving!

I made creme brûlée for her, and she requested spaghetti for dinner (though she only eats the noodles plain).  Phoebe loves a good party, so we joined with all her local aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents for a celebration.  It was really sweet to celebrate her together with them.  They gave her sweet and meaningful presents too, and she really treasures it all.  She hopes to use some of the gift money she received to take some horseback riding lessons.

Phoebe girl, I adore you with all my heart.  Happy 9th birthday!  Last year to be in the single digits.  Let’s savor it.

 

halloween fun

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The sweetest halloween.  We aren’t huge halloween people, but children do love to dress up and to go door-to-door asking for candy, so we allow it.  I never want to spend much  (or anything) on costumes but I did buy noah’s costume (second hand), which he really loved, though I had tried hard to convince him to be a lumber jack so we could have a woodland theme (with Phoebe being a wood fairy).  I knitted a little mushroom cap and neck piece for Wren and a fox bonnet for Philippa from scrap yarn.  Phoebe put her own costume together and when she was looking at pictures with me she said, “Oh I really did look beautiful.”  I thought that was so precious, and I hope she always thinks that when she sees pictures of herself.

Wren was an absolute hoot to trick-or-treat with.  Every other time I’ve put the hat on her she has pulled it off but she this time she must have gathered that it was dress-up and she totally loved it.  She wanted to run up to the houses just like the big kids and she would eagerly yell out some form of “trick-or-treat,” and happily wave “bye” and say “dee-doo” (thank you) for candy.  She loved having her own “basket” to carry and didn’t want any help.  Though heavy rains and thunderstorms were forecasted we had clear weather and it got pretty cold by the end of the evening.  We don’t keep any of the candy we gather, Brandon ends up taking it to work, and I trade it out for the kids with candy and chocolate from the health food store that is certified GF and such.  They don’t mind a bit and are good sports about it.

Now, we are into November, and what a beautiful start to the month it has been.  I hope you all had a safe, fun and happy Halloween.

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.

autumnal equinox

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Usually I rush off from the last hot days of summer and try to hurry fall’s arrival.  I’m learning though that any time we rush ahead, we lose.  We lose time.  We rush through the good as well as the bad, and we miss the beauty of this moment with all its nuance,  both the dark and the light.  So this summer’s end I’ve been forcing myself to slow and to savor these last summer days of 2019.  These days when Phoebe is 8 years old, straddling the fence of childhood and “big girl-ness,” when Noah is 6 and loves to fly through the yard on his bike, Philippa is 4 and trots along behind big brother into whatever he’s doing, and Wren is a feisty 18 months, toddling to keep up with everyone and fiery mad when she can’t.  I know next summer will have its own flavor and I don’t want to miss these days that will never come just exactly like this again.

It has been a good summer, one in which we traveled near and far, enjoyed our own mountains and the west coast mountains of California.  It was a summer of learning how to swim and intentionally trying to make progress in that area for each of the children.  It was a summer of garden triumphs and failures.  The ground is giving us the last bits of harvest, the zinnias are firing off their final blooms, the mighty sunflowers bow their heads to the gentle fade of daylight.  Wren wears her fairy dust cardigan for the first time on the chilliest morning.  Philippa stirs soup in her little outdoor kitchen.  Goldenrod and pokeberry blaze, the first leaves carpet the lawn.  Noah pretends to chop firewood, lays in the hammock and reads books to his sister.  Daddy cleans the canoe to take out for summer’s last hurrah.  I trim more little bundles of lavender to dry for the winter, and then I trim little girls’ hair and marvel at how sweet they look now with their little matching bobs.  It was a sweet one, this summer, even with its pockets of pain and heartache along the fringes.  We are missing the thunderstorms, the heaps of cucumbers and tomatoes, but we are ready to lay it to rest and welcome the crisp cozy air of fall, the beautiful new light of October, the lighting of the first hearth fire.  Alls well that ends well, as they say.