happy birthday to daddy

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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!

when it all sits a bit heavy

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It’s the first of February, the last day of the work week.  I realize I haven’t put up a regular old blog post in a couple of weeks and wanted to say a few words here.  January was quiet and simple for us, with a lot of sickness and thus we hunkered down at home.  With February comes some relief and hope that we will be out and about as normal soon.

I haven’t been taking many photos at home with my camera as I usually do, maybe feeling a bit uninspired and blue.  I’m sure it has to do with being sick and feeling incredibly worn out.  It’s taken every bit of energy just to keep school going for the children while I’ve been sick and wanting just to lie down in bed.  I’ve also been deeply saddened by things happening in the world around me that make me feel quite helpless: for one, the passing of the legislature in NY last week for full-term abortions and even post-delivery “abortions”, which hit me like a punch to the stomach.  I have felt nauseous over it whenever it comes to mind.  I honestly have no words to say other than I’m deeply grieved and I’m praying about ways to take action.

A newborn baby I was praying for passed away last week.  A woman battling cancer dances weary at the possible end of her fight and I can’t sleep, up praying for her, a woman I’ve never met but yet feel so burdened to pray for.

Also, those in the knitting community are well aware of the deeply divisive conversation/debate that has been happening regarding racism.  Though I am not anyone with a voice in the knitting industry, I’ve been reading along, at times very angry, other times anxious and always quite sad.  I have been surprised at how much it has affected me.  I think we can do better than this as a community, we can show more grace, understanding, and kindness.  Then I look around at my own children who squabble and hurt one another often throughout the day, and I understand.  If we can hardly get along with those we love the most, our very own flesh and blood, how much harder is it to get along with those who seem so different from us? How much harder to be kind to those whose beliefs we disagree with?  I find myself constantly instructing my children throughout the day to love one another, “be kind, be kind be kind,” to esteem one another more highly than the object their fighting over.  I weary from repeating it, yet the reminder is always needed.  Left to ourselves, this is humanity.  Even tightly-knit families have rifts and disagreements.  Maybe especially tightly-knit families.  We need to remember that peace with one another is to be treasured above being right, and is a goal worth sacrificing our own thrones and soapboxes for.  Does that mean we sacrifice truth and the fight for what is right and just?  Absolutely not.  But I do think we can stand for what we believe in and for a better world/more equality while treating our fellow man with dignity and respect, and not adding injury to insult.

Sometimes the brokenness of the world sits on us like lead.  It sits so heavy.  At times if I’m honest, I want to shield myself from all the hurt and ugliness, maybe even from my own complicity.  My hands are full of dishes, wiping snotty noses, throwing in the next load of laundry, pulling together the next meal, nursing the baby, teaching the next school lesson.  I am hidden away in my home raising little people — what can I possibly do?  I am reminded: I can pray.  We can pray — with the confidence that our prayers mixed with faith are able to move mountains.  Things that seems impossible, fixed, overwhelming, insurmountable — God is able to level them.  Conversely, when we feel like the very ground beneath our feet is shifting and the world around us rages, we can turn to God, our refuge + strength, a very present help in trouble who tells us not to fear even when the earth gives way and the mountains fall into the sea (Ps. 46).  He makes wars cease, He breaks the bow, shatters the spear and burns the war chariots with fire (Ps. 46:9).  We are destined for a kingdom where peace will reign.

And then the familiar and eternally comforting words of Romans 8:

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.  For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God.  For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.  For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.  And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.  For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees?  But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.  And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” (Romans 8:18-27)

He is interceding for us continually, He is working while we sleep, working in spite of and even though our weakness.  Let us take heart and trust Him to move the mountains while we sow the small seeds of hope and faith in prayer.  And if we have opportunity to take great steps, then by all means, let us take them!

How has January been for you?  Whoever you are reading along here today, I hope you know you are welcomed in this space.  Thank you for reading my rambling thoughts, however imperfect they may be.

xo

wild blueberries

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Come August, the blueberries ripen up in the cool mountain air. I had planned to officially begin our school year this week, but decided instead to get a few more things ready before jumping in.  It would be better for me to begin peacefully rather than frenetically, although there’s a measure of feeling unprepared that will likely always accompany homeschooling (for me at least).  Instead of beginning our usual school day, we took a spur-of-the-moment trip to Graveyard Fields on the Blue Ridge Parkway, where the berries are abundant this time of year.  I still called it our first day of school, and it was a happy way to begin for us all, though Noah keeps asking to begin the work of letters and numbers.

Of course, as we got going it began to drizzle and the parkway was foggy most of the drive but everyone wanted to keep going so we did.  (I had planned to bring my regular camera along but because of the rain I just used my phone, so pardon the different quality of photo.)  Wren doesn’t sleep well if we aren’t home, rarely sleeping in the car and too curious about what is going on around her if we are out and about.  She was up way past her usual morning nap time and was very fussy when we began hiking and picking.  She also doesn’t love the ergo, but we carried on.  Finally, she fell asleep in the ergo and I was able to get a little more picking accomplished.  The kids did a good job picking but of course they didn’t gather very much, phoebe spilling most of her basket of berries after stumbling at some point.  Still we came home with about a half gallon and I would love to go back just with Brandon and pick as much as we can to freeze for the winter.  There isn’t a better spot to get organic, wild fresh blueberries and best of all, they are free!  It just requires time and work. 🙂

While we all kept our eyes and ears open for bears which definitely frequent that area, we only saw a brown snake which was sizable but didn’t look venomous.  I’m guessing it was some sort of water moccasin but we steered clear of it just the same.  It was a great teaching opportunity with the kids, though.

The children requested blueberry pancakes the next morning, and we read Blueberries for Sal, one of my favorite books from childhood.  The rest of the berries I’ve tucked into the freezer for a crisp or muffins, or to have over homemade ice cream.  Phoebe kept exclaiming how she felt like Laura Ingalls, and I felt a bit like Sal’s mother trying to preserve a bit of summer’s glory for cold winter days sure to come soon.

growing up

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He’s long overdue for a “big boy” bike, my boy.  He had a little bit of birthday money that I set aside for a new bike, and Brandon looked for awhile online before settling on this one.  It was a real treat to watch him open that box and help daddy put the bike together.  When he realized it didn’t have training wheels (he’s just been riding a strider) he panicked a little bit and didn’t think he’d be able to do it.  It’s a bit big and heavy for him, so I was a little concerned, too, that it would be too hard.  Then, we had rain for days so he couldn’t take it outside to try it.  Finally, the sun came out and he tried it out on the grass.  He pretty quickly caught on to riding Phoebe’s (a bit smaller) bike without training wheels but didn’t feel comfortable with his bike.  By day two, he had it down.  He called me to come outside and see, and there he was pedaling it around with a big grin on his face.

Often this little man of mine balks at something new and I hear a lot of “I can’t”s from him before he’s really given it a try.  Our homeschool co-op starts up on Monday (in just a few days!) and as Noah thinks about school starting, he’s been panicking and saying “but I don’t know how to read or write!”  Oh, sweet boy, that’s the whole point, I say.  I keep reminding him about his bike, how he thought he couldn’t do it and that he’d HAVE to have training wheels.  And then by day two, he had it down and has been out riding it every day since.  I can’t believe this has been my last summer with this guy before he starts formal (home)schooling.  And I can’t wait to have time with him, to work with him on letters and sounds and seeing his little mind come alive with the joy of learning and realizing he can do it! He’s growing up!

no big plans

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Quite a few people have asked me over the last few months if we have any big plans for summer.  I was sitting in a dentist’s chair last week and she asked me about summer plans, and when I said no, not really, she looked truly puzzled and like she maybe felt a little sorry for me.  Any big summer plans?  Fun trips scheduled?  I had hoped to make a checklist on our kitchen chalkboard for our summer goals, but really we don’t have much on the agenda and I think that’s the point.  I feel a bit small and a bit simple but these are our big summer plans: being home, watching things grow.  Having time together.  Swimming at my parent’s neighborhood pool or in a river nearby.  Hiking, camping.  Catching fireflies.  Trying out the pop-up camper in our backyard, then taking it out on the road.  Enjoying the afternoon storms.  Watching tomatoes ripen on the vine, swiss chard push up from seed.  Reading together.  Yarn, pulling through fingers.  Quieting.  Regrouping for a new school year.  Letting there be long stretches of unplanned day, enough time for some boredom even.  Don’t such fascinating discoveries and creativities come out of a little boredom?  Also, the not-as-fun essentials of some medical appointments for the kids, learning about some changes we will have to make in our schooling with phoebe, working on house projects that are neglected during the busyness of school.

A homeschooling family of six on one income makes for tight years (financially) especially with the special dietary and medical expenses we face.  Truth is, we are happy to make the sacrifice to be together and enjoy these little years and raise our brood.  It is the main reason I homeschool: time together.  It is costly in the sense that we do have great limitations, but I do so hope and believe we can still make great memories together with our family even with our simple summer of no plans.  (Of course, don’t misunderstand me.  We are so imperfect and the proximity can often cause us to grate on one another.)

Brandon is working some Saturdays to help pay for the new AC unit we will have to soon buy, so it was a bit glum this weekend without him.  Then he called on his way home Saturday and said he wanted to put up the pop-up camper and have the kids sleep in it for the first time.  It was stormy and cool and the perfect evening to do so, and the kids had such a blast.  I opted to sleep inside with baby wren which was a bit of a treat for me, too (a quiet house!)

I read the other day that the word Sabbath literally means “to stop,” and so we try to plan some time into our weekend where we cease.  Where the work sits untended, the laundry stays in the basket and wrinkles, and we allow ourselves to just be.  To rest and to even be a little bored and agitated with the slowness of the pace and “unproductivity” of the day.  It reveals to me how much I mix my sense of accomplishment with my sense of worth, how much I need to produce in order to feel worthwhile.  The permission to rest is so wise and kind of God, and I have to tell my soul and my God over and over in those moments of tension (when I fight rest) that He is our provider and the One who carries us, not our own work and effort.  When we “sabbath,” or cease from working, we fast from reliance on our own strength + work.  We remind our soul that we are dependent on a good and faithful Provider.  We say to the world that our confidence comes from whose we are, not the work of our own hands.  Maybe summer could be sort of like the sabbath of the seasons?

Anyway, I feel a bit ramble-y and scattered but hopefully you are encouraged, as I am, to rest a bit and enjoy the slow and even boring/mundane parts of summer instead of needing it to be big and flashy and busy.  May you find in your limitations a wise and kind boundary set by your God.  I have thought often of Psalm 16:6, which in my earlier meditations of it always seemed sweet to me when my boundaries/limits were easy.  But it is a hard thing to thank God for (limits/boundaries) when they are difficult and truly limiting.  It presses us to cast our eyes beyond what is temporal to the delightful inheritance that is being kept for us.

Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup;
you make my lot secure.
The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
surely I have a delightful inheritance.
I will praise the Lord, who counsels me;
even at night my heart instructs me.
I keep my eyes always on the Lord,
With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.
Psalm 16:5-8 esv

Ps. Refrigerator pickles recipe pictured above from Allison Little on Instagram, and they are truly the best pickles I’ve ever had.

all together

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How can June already be over?  It was a blur of busyness and family, celebrating and feasting.  I didn’t get many photos on my birthday, but it was a happy day.  I forgot how eager the kids are on anyone’s birthday to open presents, so I was barely out of my bedroom to get coffee that morning before a gaggle of little ones with tousled hair were pulling me to the kitchen table to see their gifts.  I wanted to wait and maybe do gifts later, but they would have none of it.  Brandon had taken them for a walk the night before to a grocery store nearby (while I was out with a girlfriend for coffee) where they picked out small gifts for me and cards.  Philippa had picked some natural handmade lavender soap, noah had picked a charcoal infused loofah.  Phoebe had been working on a handmade gift for me for a little while, a small wooden bird that she added stitching to.  She had named it “Louis,” though it’s supposed to be a girl bird, and she was really quite tempted to keep it herself.  She keeps asking me where Louis is and if I’m taking care of him her.  Brandon gifted me a couple of books I had on my wishlist, as well as a set of chiaogoo interchangeable needles.  I cast on with them right away for a birthday shawl of sorts for myself with yarn I purchased with some birthday money, and it has been such a treat knitting with them!  One of my brothers treated me to a 3-month coffee subscription to Counter Culture coffee and it has been one of my favorite gifts of all time! Later that day we went over to my parents house, as my mom and I share a birthday and we try to get together on it when we can.  Mom treated me to a manicure/pedicure and then a dinner out to the only restaurant we can really go to with Phoebe (with a dedicated gluten free kitchen).  It was a fun and busy day!  I felt so very loved and spoiled and blessed and full.

The next day, family began streaming in.  My brother from Canada and his wife were surprising mom for her 60th birthday, and my other siblings and their families were all arriving in the next day or so.  Father’s day (Sunday) we gathered to celebrate mom’s 60th together, and it was truly unforgettable.  It was the first time ever that we have *all* been together.  We celebrated, ate, gave her a couple of special gifts, and ended the evening with singing together.  I think we will all look back on these recent days we had together with joy and fondness.  So much has happened in our family story, so many stories that aren’t mine to share–but when I look out across the landscape of our family, I see so much redemption that has come out of so much brokenness.  We have an enemy who has tried to dismantle, break, ruin, and destroy our family in very painful ways, and we have seen hard years together.  But here we are, still standing.  Still together, by God’s grace alone.  Still going forward in love and forgiveness and hope secure in a God who is able to hold us fast.

Ps. I actually did pretty horribly at taking photos with my camera while everyone was here.  I really only brought it to the picnic, and got a random smattering.  But here’s a special video clip that I’m thankful I captured.

happy may

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Fairy houses in the nook of the great big maple, sprinkling of flowers in the new grass.  Shade beginning to dapple the yard once again.  Skeins of wool snuggled next to one another in a row, projects ready and waiting for time.  Already a couple of weeks have gone by since these photos were taken, our property bursting with blooms and bright green.  I feel like if you listen closely, you can nearly hear shoots breaking through soil, leaves fluffing out on tree limbs, everything eager to live.  The weather this week has been downright hot at times.  I’m trying to wrap up our school year and make garden plans, going through the kid’s closets and organizing clothes for the warm season.  May and June are fun months, with some celebrations sprinkled in, and everything feels buzzing with busyness, plans, and activity.  I’m trying to be gentle with myself as I try to keep the plates spinning.  My mind is tired and I have a good bit of work ahead of me today, so I will leave it at that.  Just wanted to pop in and say hello, and happy May.