family pictures

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When Wren was a couple of weeks old we tried to assemble ourselves in nicer clothes, I threw on some makeup and curled my hair, and we attempted a few family photos by just propping my camera on windowsills and dressers and setting the timer.  Typically family pictures result in some frustration and tears from a few kiddos, but this time it was relatively quick and surprisingly smooth.  I mean, it wasn’t entirely tear-free:

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But as long as Brandon randomly yelled out “snozzcumbers!” and “bellypoppers!” from  the BFG book (the kid’s favorite lately), we got some good laughs and smiles. These children all love Wren so much and all want to hold her so that helped, too.  Philippa and Noah wanted to take some photos with their “phones,” making clicking sound effects as they did.

Tired, puffy (me), and wrinkled though we were, I’m thankful we grabbed a few pictures to remember these early days with our March girl, these early days of becoming a family of six.  Already she has grown and changed so much!

meeting wren

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She seems like a peaceful soul, our little Wren, and how is it that someone only days old can look so wise?

She was born March 3.  I slept fitfully the night of March 2nd, dreaming about contractions and labor until a strong contraction woke me straight up at 3:15 am.  I realized I had been contracting through the night mildly, as I had been on and off the last couple of weeks of pregnancy, but this contraction was a powerful jolt.  I lay in bed for a while, resting and waiting, then decided to get up and move around, to see if labor would pick up or die off with a change of activity.  I think I will probably want to remember that I cleaned bathrooms at that point, at around 4 am.  The house was mostly clean and ready so I had to find something to do.  I figured a last minute clean to get it ready for my parents would be a good idea anyway (they would be staying with our kids at our house while we were in the hospital).  I folded laundry, organized, whatever I could, while breathing through contractions.

By 5 am I woke Brandon and said it was time to get moving.  I felt like it was still early to tell, but I didn’t want to wait too long.  I had such a traumatic difficult labor with Noah that I’m always ancy now to get to the hospital quickly and have help on hand rather than wait too late.  I let my parents know to head over as well, and we began to pack up the car.  As we were getting ready to go, our “getaway” car (we were leaving the van for my parents to use with car seats in it for the other kids) wouldn’t start.  I was pacing at the door in the dark, breathing and laughing a bit to myself–of course the car wouldn’t start now.  We took my mom’s car when they arrived and all was well.  We live about 10 minutes from the hospital so it was a quick drive over.  I wasn’t as far along as I had hoped I would be when I arrived, but I progressed almost to full dilation within an hour.  At this point I got the epidural, which was truly amazing.  Actually I think it was a spinal block? but I can’t remember.  All I know is that it is the craziest thing to have experienced natural child birth and then to experience the miracle of meds!  Both have been wonderful experiences.  However, after delivering Noah naturally (at 9 lb 8 oz) and having hours of hemorrhaging afterwards and all the work/meds they had to do to stop the hemorrhage without any pain meds as well as a separated pelvis, I have been too terrified to do it again.  I felt guilty about getting the epidural with Philippa but this time, I felt more at peace about it.  And this experience was, again, amazing.  I was just about in transition when I got it, so to go from that chaos to total peaceful calm was truly incredible.  The doctor kept saying things like “we’ll have a baby soon” and it all still felt totally surreal to me.  In what felt like a few minutes later, after two pushes, baby Wren was born.  There she was, another beautiful girl, so small and fresh and snuggly.

I am so thankful all went well with the birth and my recovery has been normal, which is a great relief and blessing as well!  Wren has done really well, also, and we’ve been well taken care of by family, friends, and our community.

Our stay in the hospital was pretty quiet.  No visitors except my parents.  The biggest bummer was that the kids couldn’t come see us and meet the baby.  The flu and pertussis have been so bad in our area that the hospital wasn’t allowing any visitors under age 18. My parents brought the kids by the road near our room’s window, and they jumped out and we waved and showed them the baby through the window.  So we wanted to wait to announce the baby’s name until we were home, so that they could be the first to hear and so that we could tell them in person.  It’s nice to wait a bit too and see the baby and see if the name fits.

It is the best to see the other children meet the baby for the first time and finally hold her, especially Philippa who was becoming a big “stister” for the first time.  Noah didn’t want to hold Wren right away, but quietly the next day when no one was around he asked if he could.  That first night home from the hospital is historically emotional and weird for me, and it was this time as well, and its just something I have to ride out.  Brandon always amazes me in these times, how well he takes care of me and our family when I’m feeling weak, helpless, and overwhelmed.  I’m convinced and reminded once again how much we need our community around us in times like these, and it’s always amazing to see how God orchestrates things to meet our needs.

first snow

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The “first” everything in this home is special, as we are still finding our way in these four walls.  Decorating the house for the Christmas season is new, finding new homes for old favorite decorations.

I’ve been looking forward to our first snow in this home for a long time, really since before we bought the home.  Last February we were out of our rental, living temporarily with my parents while waiting to close on this home, and we drove over one day to drive by the house on a snowy day.  The neighborhood was transformed, so quiet and pretty and white, and we couldn’t wait for the day when we’d be building snowmen in the yard and tracking footprints all over the yard in our own fresh snow.

The snow began early in the morning before the kids were up, and it just kept coming and coming, all day long.  We had a playdate at a friend’s house and had a blast playing in the snow together with them, stayed through lunch and then realized the roads were quite covered and we had better hurry home.  We slid around all the way, but made it safely.  I had the kids rest briefly but then we couldn’t bear to not be out playing in it all.  Daddy came home from work early with milk and a couple other provisions and we prepared to hunker down for the weekend.  We were prepared to lose power, as some other folks around us had, but miraculously we didn’t.  Church was canceled on Sunday but our roads were relatively clear by then, so we headed instead to our very favorite pottery place in a nearby town, where we have gone every Christmas season since before Phoebe was born.  They have an open house the second weekend of December usually, and you can get a free small pottery mug (per person) and they have hot cider, snacks and treats, live folksy music, and crafts for kids.  We often buy a little christmas ornament or something there to support them and it’s just one of the most Christmasy feeling things we look forward to doing during the season.  So festive and fun.  We try to get a picture every year in front of their cheery red door.

Otherwise, I’ve attempted to keep our December still and quiet.  Advent readings and Christmas hymns begin and end our days.  We’ve made yummy grain-free Christmas cookies (though I never got around to making icing for them) similar to these.  We decorated the tree one evening and remembered all our favorite ornaments.  I treasure the junky kid-made ornaments, especially the ones from last year that Phoebe made while in the hospital in Winston Salem waiting for her endoscopy procedure.  My, what can change in a year’s time.  Phoebe has been practicing for weeks at church to sing in the Christmas children’s choir, and she requested a solo.  They sang last Sunday and what a joy it was to see her do so well, and to see her making new friends at our new church home.

This week is busy with birthday celebrations and today will probably be our quietest day until after Christmas.  Phoebe turns 7 tomorrow and I still have a few things to do to prepare.  Mostly, I just can’t believe that teeny tiny baby girl has gotten so big, grown-up, sophisticated and smart.  Sob.  With little ones, our lives are filled with change even as we try to nail a few things down around us.

I hope your December has been cheerful and meaningful thus far, and that you are enjoying these last few days before Christmas.  If I don’t pop in here before then, Merry Christmas to you and yours!  May you find Jesus to be enough for you, the very fulness of joy, and every other good merely the overflow of His grace.

 

a (late) birthday letter

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hey baby girl.  can it really be?  you’re finally three.  i look back on those early days with you–oh, how happy they were.  you were born in laughter, and you were your strong-natured unique and spicy little self right from the start.  you were born just days before Thanksgiving and with everyone busy with family and festivities, we had a quiet few days alone together at home enjoying new you and the sleepy early days.

this past year with you has been fun and full and hard, a bit, too.  being two is hard, and maybe being three won’t be much easier.  but i see you growing and changing and learning, and i’m proud of you!  you began talking up a storm this year, and hearing more of your little thoughts and funny words for things has kept us laughing.  You call your bottom your “bawnos” and your fingers “fing-wey” or “fing-wa.”  hugs are “squishees.”  you call my yarn my “kninning” and my needles “neenles.”  i love the way you run, little arms down and flapping back and forth.  you love “moomies,” get excited about anything phoebe and noah are excited about, and you still love to be the family clown and make everyone laugh.

you can be bossy and head strong but also so sensitive, and a harsh word can easily send you into tears.  this year we worked on potty training, and it was a long, long road–with still some hard days here and there, but you’ve made great progress and how you’ve loved your new big-girl status.

you and noah are inseparable, the very best of friends.  often when i’m busy in the mornings doing school with phoebe, you two are off playing together somewhere and, boy, do you love to laugh together.  i hope your bond stays strong all of your days.

often you ask me how the baby is doing, and you seem so excited to be a big sister and not the littlest one anymore.  i think you’re going to love it and be a very good big sister.

sweet girl, you have a tender and joyful spirit.  i still love our evening sings and prayer time, just you and me.  watching you grow up is a delight.  seeing you become more interested in our morning family time in scripture, and your interest to always try and answer the questions.  to sense in you a love for God and to hear you pray is a blessing.  i pray for you continually to love Him, to walk with Him all your days, to know the joy it is to grow up in the shadow of His wings, facing all your days with Him.  He has a great plan for you life little one, and i’m thankful we get to be a part of it.

happy third birthday, philippa ruth.  i love you so ❤

mommy

 

paying attention

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I seem to be always so behind in posting updates about our little days here.  It’s been weeks since Halloween, but here are a few snapshots from that day.  We don’t make a huge fuss of the holiday, since we don’t allow the kiddos to eat anything they would pick up trick-or-treating, and because funds are tight and I don’t care to invest much in short-lived costumes.  There is so much Phoebe already misses out on, so I do try to make an effort for her to participate in as many things as I’m able.  I picked out some candies for the kids from our local health food store, things that were certified GF and also free of dyes and corn syrup, etc.  We carved pumpkins, each of them picking out their own design and helping however they wanted in the process.  Noah was batman for maybe the third year in a row?  I didn’t mind one bit.  That costume was a good buy. 🙂  Phoebe wanted to be Sacagawea, but changed her mind to being Kaya (her American girl doll) at the last minute.  I had wanted to make her a simple cute fawn costume since she is obsessed with deer/fawns, but.. the indian costume was fine, already available.  Philippa was a little kitty, one of her favorite animals to pretend to be anyway.  We let them trick-or-treat around our block, since this is the first time we’ve lived anywhere with neighbors close by to even be able to trick-or-treat.  We traded their collected candy with my previously purchased goods, and handed out candy to a few neighbors who came by. The rest of the “junk candy” leftover I gave to Brandon to share with guys at work or dump.

We’ve finished up a semester of school with our co-op, though Phoebe and I will carry on with school through part of December to try and get as much done before baby comes in February and interrupts our rhythms a bit.  The blustery and sometimes dreary November days have kept us inside sometimes, cuddling under blankets and piles of books or hand crafts.  Our days feel full to the brim with schooling, errands, house work, playdates, library and park visits, playing outside, house projects, etc.  Slowly we go, it seems.  Some days I love the simplicity, somedays the mundane gets to me.  But always, I treasure this season with these little ones growing so fast.

We are entering birthday season in the midst of holiday season, and I’m often looking at these little ones with misty eyes.  Another year, already?  How it flies by, while feeling all the while like it’s crawling along maddeningly.  Philippa turns three this week, and I’ve been busy planning and ordering her gifts, hoping everything arrives in time for her day.    These days grow so full and busy and I’m always striving for ways to slow it down and hang on to the end of the year, trying to savor it all before it finishes.  I remember Ann Voskamp’s old well-worn words, that we weigh moments down with our attention.  So I’m trying to pay close attention to this day, this moment, to really see it–to know it is fleeting.  To slow down and see: how Philippa is still two years old for two more days, the way the light moves across the room throughout the day, their laughter in the chilly air, our quiet walks over crunching leaves, the boredom and the glory all rolled somehow together into one.

an overmountain field trip

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Last week I took the children on a little homeschool day trip along with our co-op to Spruce Pine, NC where the annual Overmountain Victory Celebration is held.  What an awesome opportunity it was to explore a living history of the 1780s militia encampment, learning about the time period and the history of the Overmountain men fighting British forces.  Phoebe relished the chance to dress-up sort of Laura Ingles style (her interpretation), and she was pretty enraptured with each station, learning about fabric dying, fire starting, cooking over a fire, corn-husk doll making, how to use the lucet (knitting fork), and the general dress and culture of this time in history.  It was fun to bring to life the period of history we are studying for her, and I so appreciated all the people who gave their time and energy to make something like this happen.  We all had a really fun day and each learned a few things!  Noah and Philippa were only mildly amused, mostly enjoying rolling down the grassy hill.  Still, I love including them and planting little seeds and curiosities in their minds.

hello, September

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The weather has cooled ever so slightly, mornings are darker when the alarm goes off at six am.  I’m feeling more and more back to myself, like this old soul is waking back up after being in a weird pregnancy slump for months.  September in North Carolina can still be as hot as August some years, and I know we may still see some hot days before October.  Even still, I’m celebrating every little hint of cooler days and the happy change that comes over these hills at this time of year.  When I was my sickest with this pregnancy, many hours and hours of many days all I could do was lay down.  I couldn’t read, watch anything, knit, scroll through social media.  There was just no distraction that didn’t make me nauseous.  I didn’t realize how tightly wound up I was until I was forced to just SIT a whole lot and do nothing and be with my thoughts (depressed and grumpy as they were).  I could listen to worship music and that would help set my sights beyond my condition (which is really a very blessed condition indeed!)  Having a few months of this has slowed me down in a way I didn’t know I was needing.  I’ve slept more hours in a night because I’m not staying up till the wee hours knitting and reading.  The anxious needing-to-always-have-something-to-busy-my-mind-with feeling has ebbed.  I’m noticing quieter things, enjoying small moments of grace that I might otherwise rush past.  It’s been hard and not something I would have volunteered for (to be sick) but the forced quieting of my soul has been a gift.  God is always faithful, even when we don’t love His process.

I’ve felt bad for the children while I’ve been basically out of commission, but they have found lots of entertainment in our pretty simple bare yard. 🙂  Boredom is so often the impetus for creativity!  They’ve been busy climbing trees, scavenging in the garden for neglected vegetables that have grown far too big, and playing in the hammock.  I hear one of them yell, “hey guys, let’s go outside and fall out of the hammock!” and the rest yell, “yeaaahhh!”  That’s their game, to get in altogether and whoever is at the front catapults themselves over the edge and then they get in the back of the train again.

We checked out a book from the library called Wiggle and Waggle about two worm friends, and Phoebe has been worm hunting ever since.  She’s claimed a few worms for pets, checks on them constantly, kills a few and then finds a few more.  It grosses me out but I don’t want her to know that, it’s probably good she doesn’t mind getting her hands in the dirt even if bugs make me squeamish.

It’s probably early to have mums and pumpkins on the porch, but I needed something bright and cheery and a local friend of ours was giving away free pumpkins, so we loaded up on them.  Hopefully they last through November, but they make me happy every time I see them, so they will have brought plenty of joy, no matter how long they last.

And a couple of evenings ago I made one of my most favorite soups (recipe here, but I omit the olives and sub black beans, and also omit the quinoa because it makes me really sick.  Sometimes I add wild rice instead, sometimes I just leave it grain free and it’s just as delicious.  I also add handfuls of spinach at the end, too).  It’s one of my favorite meals, along with those super easy grain-free rolls which everyone in our house goes nuts over.  We lit candles for the first time in a long time and the kids knew momma must be feeling better.

There are pumpkins and candles and soups and cold mornings and warm slippers and leaves falling in the grass and children playing late outside and bent over school books, and all is right with the world again.  I had a checkup this morning and took the kids along and we got to see baby.  Hopefully that makes it more real for them.  Little one looked like he/she was sucking his/her thumb, and kept crossing his/her little legs so he/she looked pretty cozy in there, too.