beach days (part 1)

A couple of weeks ago on Memorial weekend, we took a long weekend to visit Brandon’s parents at the beach a few hours away. We haven’t been to visit them in quite some time, nor have we been to the ocean for a long while. It was so good to be away, to become acquainted with the ocean again and the wonders and wildlife that coastal ecosystems have to offer. Wren doesn’t have any memories of the ocean as far as I know, and she was very excited to go to the beach! We left on Thursday after Brandon came home from work and got there quite late that evening. Friday morning we had a relaxing start and then eagerly got ready for the beach. Wren was quite apprehensive about the water and it took her a couple of days to really warm up and feel brave to go in without holding someone’s hand. But by the end she was jumping and splashing in the waves laughing hysterically. The other kids took right to the water, playing on the boogie boards all day, building in the sand, or hunting for shells. Later, Brandon’s dad treated us to a ride on his sail boat. We motored in the intracoastal waterway to watch the sunset and it was both beautiful and peaceful. Bunny had to come along in a bag, just to make sure she didn’t get wet. I’ll share more photos from the rest of our time in the next blog post, there are just too many to share all at once! Suffice it to say, our time together there was relaxing and refreshing, and it did my heart a lot of good to see these kiddos laughing, exploring, playing nonstop, and being generally spoiled rotten by their grandparents. ūüôā What a gift.

a happy Easter

Easter Sunday was extra special this year. Last year we didn’t gather with family or friends so the celebration that we felt this year was even greater. What a joy to be with other believers celebrating the risen Lord Jesus together! We joined my brother and his family at their church for an outdoor service because my niece, Athaelia, was going to be baptized. It’s just hard to beat that kind of joy, friends. It was a very sweet and memorable day!

After worship we gathered at my parent’s house for Easter lunch and the kids did a small egg hunt. My parents always do such phenomenal meals, this one was no exception. Roasted lamb with a citrusy fresh salad, roasted parsnips and potatoes. I made a gluten free carrot cake for dessert for the kids and my mom made creme br√Ľl√©e. So delicious! Best of all was the reason for our gathering and the freedom to do so.

“May this shared meal, and our pleasure in it,
bear witness against the artifice and deceptions
of the prince of the darkness that would blind this world to hope.
May it strike at the root of the lie that
would drain life of meaning, and
the world of joy, and suffering of redemption.

May this our feast fall like a great hammer blow
against that brittle night,
shattering the gloom, reawakening our hearts,
stirring our imaginations, focusing our vision
on the kingdom of heaven that is to come,
on the kingdom of heave that is promised,
on the kingdom that is already,
indeed, among us,
For the resurrection of all good things
has already joyfully begun.”

(Excerpt from Every Moment Holy, A Liturgy for Feasting with Friends)

With full hearts, we headed back home where we had our own little egg hunt planned for the kids per usual. My favorite is when they sit on the ground afterward with all their loot and sort through their goodies. We snapped a quick family picture which I will treasure. The brilliant hues of new growth, the persistent reach of vibrant blooms, the smell of fresh grass and lilac on the warming breeze. It is so good to revel in these spring things.

From last Easter till now the Lord really has done a great work in my little family, and continues to bring new life to places that needed reviving. Truly,

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. (Psalm 147:3)

The Lord has done great things for us, and we are glad. (Psalm 126:3)

Happy Easter, friends. He is Risen! And no matter what else we are facing, no matter what else is true in our lives, this is true. Death is defeated, we have hope and life because of it.

three years

After watching all her siblings’ birthdays come and go this past winter, Wren has been wondering and asking regularly when it will finally be her turn. A few weeks ago as I was getting her dressed she begged, “Momma now can you make my buth-day? Because I’m bigger!” She has randomly asked me to make her “buth-day” a few times and I eventually came to understand she was talking about her cake. More than even her presents, she was excited about that cake. ūüôā The big day finally came last week. It’s hard to acknowledge that my little baby is really not a baby anymore, but a chatting, funny, mischievous three-year-old who is eager to keep up with her older brother and sisters. I sweetly reminisced on her birth, what a joyful and quiet time it was enjoying her arrival. She has brought such laughter and fun to our family these past three years in part because the older children have been old enough to really enjoy having a baby to carry around and take care of. They have enjoyed all her stages of growth and development just as Brandon and I have.

She wanted cereal for her birthday breakfast, and she was excited to see the balloon and bunny decorations. Afterwards she opened her gifts before daddy went to work. Her birthday sweater was the first thing she opened! I had stayed up until almost midnight the night prior finishing the last sleeve, weaving in ends and sewing on the two buttons. No time to block it, but she wouldn’t notice. (Now that I have blocked it, it looks better!) She wanted it on right away and has worn it most days since then. Very sweet girl to her mommy and very knit-worthy.

We gifted her a new backpack since the one she has been using isn’t very big or useful for hiking, and she’s starting to want to wear her backpack like the older kids when we go for hikes. We gave her a small journal with beeswax crayons in a little tin for her backpack travels. The best gifts are the ones they want to start using right away, and true to form she cracked open that tin and started coloring right away in her journal. We gave her The Story of the Orchestra: Carnival of Animals book because she loves this series so much. She was truly delighted! We also gave her the Our Little Adventures book set because it is beautiful, simple, and has bunnies and other forest creatures in it. She also received a new dress (called the wren dress), a sweet bunny pillow that I couldn’t resist from Target, a wooden animal/alphabet puzzle that she has enjoyed (and the other kids, too!), as well as a toy dragon (because for better or worse, all of my kids are obsessed with these dragons). Brandon’s parents gifted her with a sit-and-spin also.

My mom and the little guy she nannies (who is now a good friend to my kiddos) came over later in the morning and we made a trip out to Carl Sandburg to see the goats and go for a little walk. It was beautiful there and just starting to feel like spring, but we were bummed that the goat barn was still closed. Even still, it was a fun outing! Later, Wren finally got to have her cake. I made the same vegan carrot cake I’ve made every year for her so far (though this year I didn’t make it vegan) and it was delicious.

So it was all in all a very fun and happy day and I was sad to see it go. She is so proud to be three and bigger now, and I’m missing her little baby self but so grateful for the delight that it is to watch her grow.

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finally, ten

Finally, ten years old. For a girl who can’t wait to grow up, this birthday has long been anticipated. Though I share in her joy and celebration for sure, this momma also feels the surprise and hint of sorrow that comes with realizing how quickly ten years have gone by and how quickly this firstborn of mine is changing and becoming a little lady. This girl has inspired and shaped so much of my journey as a mother, as firstborns often do. God couldn’t have given a better gift to us those ten years ago on the day before Christmas Eve in that early morning snowfall. God couldn’t have set apart a better kiddo for paving the way. She is strong, incredibly joyful, vivacious, enthusiastic, positive, resilient, determined, compassionate. She loves everyone easily and generously. She forgives quickly. She has a huge passion for learning and exploring, and her own sweet faith in God is growing and continually encourages and challenges me.

I would venture to guess there are few who enjoy a party and presents as much as Phoebe does, so her special day was much anticipated. She was excited and happy over every gift as you can see in the pictures. She received from us some horse backing riding pants and boots, her birthday sweater which I knit, a new dress for her Kaya doll, a book, a new breyer horseback rider for her collection, as well as a couple gifts from family. I especially enjoyed seeing the other children wrap up favorite stuffed animals and toys in their blankets and present them to Phoebe as gifts. We also surprised her with a riding lesson at the same stable where she participated in horse camp this past summer. Everyone enjoyed the outing to the stable and visiting with the horses, and I was reminded that one’s area of interest enriches all of our lives. Later that night we had cake and sang happy birthday and marveled over this little ray of light. What an endless source of delight to us she is.

the last of November

November finished with a sweet and simple Thanksgiving spent with Brandon’s parents at our home. I made all the fixings but I haven’t cooked a turkey in some years and the recipe in Danielle Walker’s Celebrations cookbook for a brined turkey did not disappoint. It was delicious if I do say so myself. ūüôā We sang “Now Thank We All Our God” as we sat down to eat, the hymn the children and I had been singing daily in the month of November. What a beautiful act of worship, to give thanks in the very midst of so much hard.

That weekend we made our annual trip to our favorite dreamy Christmas farm, just a simple quiet tract of land out in the boonies. We open our van doors and the kids tumble out and start running free in the wide fields, and all feels right with the world. The very fat, funny looking tree pictured was the one we thought we would get but ended up finding a different variety that we liked better for its huge and healthy bristles. Our children couldn’t wait to decorate it, though we didn’t get to it for a few days more. It is always the sweetest thing to unpack all the ornaments from our 14 years together. Always, so many memories and stories. This year it was Wren’s turn to hang the star. I am so grateful for this season of light to end a very dark year, reminded that in all things, in all things, the light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it. I’m looking for all the ways, and I hope you are too.

a bit of this and that

Fall is in full swing and I’m so grateful. It is the best time of year, the very best weather with the happiest seasons ahead of harvest, Thanksgiving, a slew of children’s birthdays (in this house) and Christmas. This year I planted a few fall plants in the garden, but the energy and sense of urgency is so different for me in the fall. I’ve hardly tended to them and I’m not sure that they’ll do much. I planted a variety of greens (arugula, spinach, mustard greens, collards), some turnips, beets, and butternut squash. I planted more Bachelor’s buttons, too. I have some bulbs I need to get in the ground, snowdrop and crocus. I’m already looking forward to seeing them come up in early spring. The zinnias are on their last leg, but I’m still cutting blooms. The marigolds are finally really producing and I’ve been collecting and drying them, Philippa helping to string them into a garland (inspired by Ginny Sheller). I’m in the mood to dye some yarn but not sure that I’ll actually get around to it these busy days.

Our old oven died this summer. Thankfully, we have a home warranty to help replace appliances but it was quite a long time before we had a working oven again. If there was ever a good time for the oven to go out, it would be in the middle of summer but still it was a huge inconvenience for a family that eats pretty much 100% from home. I’m so happy with the one we chose and can’t believe the difference after working with a very, very old oven for so long. The kids were mostly excited about the box from the oven and it brought hours of play. A win for all, I suppose. Actually, once I was able to bake cookies, bread, and pizza again they were all very happy with the new appliance, too.

Rainy October afternoons have been filled with things like painting, reading books, playing lots of chess and checkers, making forts with all the pillows. While they’re busy making messes, I’m busy trying to bring some order to our days. Did you see those nice homeschool shelves neatly tidied? I’m too tired to hunt for a “before” picture, but I promise you it’s a great improvement. I’ve also managed to finally reorganize Phoebe and Philippa’s bedroom, tidying toys on shelves that Brandon built and condensing their two dressers down into one. Sometimes you have to shop your house and look for solutions to small space organizing, and in this case I think it worked out well. The girls now have my dresser and I have Phoebe’s. I plan to sell Philippa’s along with the crib that matches it (which Wren is more than ready to move out of). Noah and Wren’s room needs some de-cluttering next.

We’ve been really enjoying having my brother and his wife and son in town for a few weeks (staying with my parents nearby). We went last week to our favorite nursery with a real pumpkin patch to get some pumpkins. I wanted some fun pink, green, and white pumpkins to decorate our front porch. Of course the tractors were a big attraction for our crew. We went to this same patch last year but there seemed to be less pumpkins to cut in the patch this time. No matter, it’s just fun to let the kids run around and explore and hunt for one good pumpkin to carve. I love walking through the nursery, so we found what we needed there, and the kids did cut their own carving pumpkin from the patch. I’m settling into the season with all the beauty, crispness, and refreshing it seems to bring. Tomorrow we leave to go out of town for a few days and I’m so looking forward to enjoying the turning leaves and some quiet respite from our home and busy routines. I love this season of being home and busy raising these four little people, I love the rhythms and even the busy full days. But time away is so rare and so needed, this year more than ever.

september orchards

It’s hard to believe I took these photos weeks ago now and have been meaning to share them here. Are our little days really so busy? But they are. Each new school year brings longer school days it seems, and more activities in the afternoons. Although I’m happy with the schedule and rhythm we have set up, it is a challenge making time to get on here and blog. Day’s end finds me exhausted as I crawl into bed, however a good and satisfied kind of tired it is.

Anyway, back to the belated photos. A few weeks ago Brandon’s parents came for the weekend to visit and we decided to take everyone to a local orchard. It was one of the first chilly days and we (happily!) pulled out our sweaters. We live in the heart of apple country with many orchards to choose from (though we wish there were more organic options). Hoping to avoid the crowds, we kept to the rows picking fruit rather than doing the other activities the orchard offers. It was a sweet time together, everyone becoming like children again hunting for apples without blemishes and filling up boxes and wagons with their finds. Walking amongst rows spiced with that particular sweet, musky scent of fallen and decomposing apple, everyone on a treasure hunt for hidden red and green baubles, one can’t help but feel rejuvenated and refreshed. We took home one small box and a few days later I washed and peeled them and made a delicious batch of applesauce, about the easiest thing you can do with fresh apples. Sweet memories were made and fall feelings began to warm our hearts . ‚̧

golden hour

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Rain is gently pattering on the metal roof on the sunroom adjacent to where I type and isn’t supposed to let up all day. ¬†One can hardly complain with the state of the west coast and how needed rain is there. ¬†Children are quietly (and not so quietly) working on the day’s schoolwork. ¬†Now they are off playing a game of hide and seek and screaming throughout the house. ¬†We are into our fifth week of school, hard to believe how quickly these first weeks have flown by. ¬†Overall it has gone very well so far, better than I expected. ¬†I began a more structured school day schedule for us last year and I’ve adapted it and solidified it more this year, and I think that’s really been essential for us. ¬†It’s good to be back in the flow. ¬†Be that as it may, there’s always a level of chaos amidst all the flurry of activity in the school room as I bounce between different children offering help. ¬†It does feel busier though with more on our plates, and even getting on the computer to share a blog post feels harder to do.

In the midst of all this constant rain, I’m looking back on the photos for this post. ¬†Labor day weekend we went for a picnic to Mt. Mitchell, which is relatively close to us and is the highest peak East of the Mississippi. ¬† I do so crave getting up high and seeing a beautiful view. ¬†We hiked the Deep Gap trailhead at Mt. Mitchell over to the first peak, Mount Craig, and enjoyed the stunning views from there. ¬†Wren would have hiked the whole way if we let her, such a little one but so strong and determined to keep up with everyone else. ¬†I think the last time I hiked to that peak was when Brandon and I went backpacking for a few days for our tenth anniversary. ¬†Then it was May: stormy, icy and with freezing wind. ¬†This time it was open, sunny, warm, and green. ¬†We were with my parents and brother’s family. ¬†After the brief hike we had our picnic dinner and watched the sunset. ¬†As you can see, the sunset and views and colors were just spectacular. ¬†Simple beauty, these old blue rolling mountains.

Then back home, back to the regular work of the week and of the season. ¬†The weather has cooled here ever so slightly, but I’m not sure the hot days are entirely behind us. ¬†I’m enjoying every bit of the cool weather that I can, however. ¬†Recently, I finished knitting a hansel hap with a kit of yarn Brandon and the kids gifted me for Mother’s Day last year. ¬†The yarn was Little Meadows yarn from Ginny Sheller + extra special and squishy. ¬†It was a relatively quick knit and so, so enjoyable. ¬†I modified the pattern just a bit, adding an extra repeat or so to make it bigger. ¬†I thought it may cause me to run out of yarn but I had plenty, and I’m so glad I did it as the size is perfect. ¬†I’ve already been reaching often for it on these early cool nearly-fall days.

Most days are just ordinary, mundane and full of the work that must be done. ¬†Then there are days where you escape to the mountain tops, picnic and spend time gathered with family. ¬†There are days when you harvest armfuls of zinnias and marvel that you grew these and then you trim them down to brighten up your September table. ¬†There are days you finish knitting a beautiful shawl with a bit of yarn you hoarded for as long as you could stand it. ¬†One foggy September morning you can finally wrap up in that cheerful woolly shawl. ¬†All so unexpected sometimes, the glory and the hardship, the peaks and the valleys, though they shouldn’t be. ¬†I’m grateful for the way the beautiful moments carry us through and feed our souls in a way, bright spots for bleaker days.

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‚ÄĒpraying, working, teaching, reading, listening to music, bathing the children, playing tennis, chatting to our friends over a pint and a game of darts‚ÄĒnot 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