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.
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.)
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.”
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.
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.
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.
About a year ago, a very kind neighbor of ours gave us their pop-up camper. It has since been an eyesore in our backyard for lack of a better place to store it. We’ve set it up a few times in the yard, but it took us this long to finally take it out on it’s maiden voyage. It is pretty old but they kept it in mint condition and made many happy family memories in it and they wanted us to be able to do the same now that their kids are well out of the home. Isn’t that so generous of them?
We went to a beautiful campground that is close to Cherokee, NC with my brother and sister-in-law and their daughter. It was their first time camping as a family so it was a maiden voyage for them, also, I suppose. The weather was beautiful, there were no bugs pestering us and there was a good breeze. The daytime was warm and sunny, the evenings and mornings were cool enough to be cozy. We enjoyed all the things that make camping special — strong coffee, food that tastes better cooked out in the open air, hanging out around the campfire, hiking, swimming in the river, s’mores, and good conversation. Phoebe made a sweet little friend named Holly which worked out well because she had hoped to have someone her age to play with. We also enjoyed watching the elk nearby, and I loved hearing them bugling in a field just a short drive down the road from the campground. So neat to be able to share that with the kids and see their wonder and excitement to be so close to such majestic animals! (They were really close at times, right up near the edge of the road). We also had some rowdy campground neighbors who kept us up late into the night, but we paid them back with early morning screaming babies. Good sleep is not something you can typically expect while camping, but it is truly all worth it. Coming home tired and smelling like equal parts sweat and campfire is all part of the experience and we truly loved it. It was a treat to have some extended time family, and I could really see Brandon unwind, too. The pop-up is pretty fun but I don’t mind tent camping at all either. We didn’t get to use too many of it’s fanciest features (we didn’t hook up to electricity or water) but it is fun to dream about taking it on a longer voyage one day.
(I’ll share a few more photos from camping in another post, this one seemed long enough.)