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.

where I’ve been…

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Surprise!  God has surprised and delighted us with another baby on the way!  I’m always very sick for the first 20 weeks of pregnancy, so if you’ve wondered where I’ve been, this should explain it.  No coffee, no knitting, no reading, no photography, just lots of laying around riding the waves of nausea.  I’m thankful to my family and especially to Brandon for carrying the load while I’ve been MIA.  I’m not feeling better quite yet so I may still be quiet for awhile, but we wanted to share our news with you.  Baby is due Feb 2018!

beginnings + endings

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It’s the shoulder-season time of year, things beginning and ending.  Schools nearing their finish, spring bursting into summer.  Pools are opening, farmers markets are filling with first fruits.

Phoebe had her ballet recital a few days ago and did so well!  We were so proud of all her hard work and focus, and truly amazed at how much she has learned this year.  I don’t know that we can afford to keep her in classes going forward, but it was a joy to see her complete a semester.  She was way too grown up in her makeup (gag, though–sort of hate seeing kids in makeup.  Luckily she hated it too and couldn’t wait to get it off) and she was enamored watching the rest of her dance company do their performances.  So fun to watch her.

We gave Phoebe a violin for her birthday in December but had to pack it up rather quickly since we were moving shortly thereafter and I had no idea how to tune it, so she hadn’t really been allowed to try it out.  I felt a bit like a horrible mom for giving her a gift and then basically putting it away for months.. so we found a little local music store and went this week to get it tuned and learn a bit how to hold it.  I’d like to start her in some lessons soon.  She is eager to learn and has been pulling it out and playing often now that she’s allowed.  I want our home to be filled with music, even though the beginning process of learning and instrument feels a bit painful.  I know older moms whose kiddos play and sing together (even my own siblings and I) and the sacrifice in the beginning (of more noise) is so worthwhile in the end!

I do some photography on the side (very little! very amateur!) for my dad and husband’s remodeling business, taking “after” pictures of their work for their website.  I was out at a client’s home in Fairview and stopped by a little self-serve farm stand nearby to pick up fresh flowers and fresh strawberries.  These berries are the best.  Everything from that farm stand is impeccable, and I’m rarely out that way so I stop there whenever I am.  Anyway, I knew we had to make a strawberry pie with those berries, and fresh homemade vanilla ice cream.  So Phoebe and I got to work on that in the afternoon, after wrapping up some school work while the other two were sleeping.  It’s fun to bake with her but also messy and sometimes I’m not up for the extra work.  Our pie was pretty good, but not quite what I was imagining.  Anyone have a good strawberry pie recipe (gluten free/paleo)?  Brandon loved it, though.

We’ve had a lot of rain this past week and the last couple of days have finally been dry and warm and sunny, so we checked on our little green growing things.  Our garden is a bed of hope for me, a reminder of so many precious truths: seeds will produce fruit, hope begins in the dark soil but eventually bursts into reality.  Great bounty comes from small endeavors in faithfulness.  We grow whatever we feed + nurture. Weeds come easy and choke out the good plants, while the good plants take more effort to grow.  Putting hands in soil, watering daily, watching and waiting–it somehow teaches me on a deeper level than just reading about seeds and soil.  Physically toiling in it preaches.  It reminds me of Jesus’ giving us the gift of the Lord’s supper: bread and wine.  Physical elements that we are meant to regularly handle, touch, taste, see, smell.  It preaches the Gospel to us in a different way, a physical way.  Every time I take the Lord’s supper, the experience of it itself preaches, brings new understanding, new enjoyment of God, deeper worship of Him.  We are busy growing things aren’t we–all these beginnings and endings, these little indicators that seasons are passing, time is moving, children are growing right before our eyes.  Time is slipping away, pushing forward whether we are ready for it or not.  We can’t hold a single day down.  We can see it and receive it and enjoy it and then it slips right out of our hands, making room for the next day, the next beginning.

I’ve been reading in Ecclesiastes for the past couple of weeks as I study through the Old Testament (using Nancy Guthrie’s Seeing Jesus in the OT series, which I highly recommend!) Anyway, I’ve been reading about toil and meaninglessness and vanity and living for the moment.  It’s been a bit depressing for me at times, because in some ways I find my cynical self agreeing with the hopelessness of the author at times.  Does any of this matter?  All this toil that seems to produce so little?  Yet we have a hope that the author didn’t yet have, the hope we find in Christ who reversed the curse when He rose from the dead and who gives value to all of our work, telling us that whatever we do for the least of these in His name will last.  It’s a mystery to me still, but yet I plod onward–learning to do small things with care and love and with eyes fixed on Jesus, finding Him and worshiping Him in all the little beginnings and endings.  It’s part of why I blog here–to see the ordinary, holy moments in my days, to mark the passing of time, to savor the things that I so easily miss, to look and hunt for beauty in the bread and in the wine.  To see that He gives everything, and everything I have is somehow a gift from Him, even the hard things.  All is grace.  He withholds no good thing from us.

projects

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A couple of weekends ago, Brandon and I took the kids to a local historic home, the Carl Sandburg House.  It is peaceful and quiet there, with easy trails to walk.  We went on a Sunday afternoon, packed a picnic lunch and spread a blanket under the shade of some great trees in the gardens.  Afterwards we went to visit the baby goats.  I had already taken the kids on a previous weekend when Brandon had been working on the flooring in our laundry room + kitchen.  (More on that in a minute.)  Brandon has talked about wanting goats for years now, so I knew he’d enjoy visiting with them.  I’m not ready to own goats right now, but maybe down the road?  I love the Nubian goats with the long ears the best, I think.  The nubian kids were the cutest running around, just like puppies. We got to see Nellie, the grandma goat of the crew, who was laying in the grass one day past her due date with multiples.  I felt sorry for her!  She looked weary.  Philippa dutifully checked all of the goats ears, noses and mouths for them. 🙂  By now, I’m sure Nellie has brought a new litter of kids into the world.  Savannah, the goat with the little hand-knitted sweater on, was just a few days old, and we all loved meeting + petting her.

It was good for us to take a day and set aside projects, enjoy a little bit of the quiet of the outdoors, and just be together.  The last few months have felt chaotic and we’re just starting to feel like we can find  a new normal again.  Phoebe’s good test results have made us feel like we can breathe a bit in terms of worrying over her.  She goes for another general check-up in six months, unless we see something that concerns us.  So for now, I’m trying to allow myself to rest in those good test results (versus worry and be fearful which is my MO) and allow myself to believe/hope that the worst is behind us.  I was talking with a friend recently whose daughter has just come out of having brain cancer–obviously a far scarier ordeal than Phoebe’s in a lot of respects.  But we both agreed and understood one another in how hard it is to hear GOOD news after hearing a lot of bad.  In order to survive you begin to stay in a continual place of bracing for the next disappointment/bad result, and it’s very hard to shut that off.  I don’t know how people walk through things like this without knowing the Lord.  I don’t know that I would have made it through without Him!  Even still, I look to Him for rest and healing and hope.  I lean on Him to carry me now into this new season with its own set of joys and challenges.

Much of our “free” time in the evenings or weekends has been taken up with little projects here and there, fixing leaky faucets, replacing broken things, finishing the flooring job, etc.  I am thankful Brandon is so good at all of these things!  The flooring we put down was to cover a section of the home that had asbestos tile in it (the laundry room was the worst, as you can see that part of it had been disturbed).  It brings me a lot more peace of mind knowing we have covered that area and I’m really happy with our flooring choice!

We borrowed a neighbor’s tiller (after I attempted to till by hand) and are preparing a small little portion of the yard for a garden.  I know, we are late!!  I was debating putting off a garden until next year, since we still aren’t even fully settled or unpacked!  It seems silly to start another time-consuming outside project when we have so much work to do inside.  However, we have so missed growing a portion of our own food the last couple of years when we were renting (and had ZERO sun in our yard).  We just couldn’t resist, and I’m glad we are going for it!  I picked up a few things from the garden center today and hopefully things will grow well, despite our late start.

 

family egg hunt

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After editing and loading all those pictures, I’m too worn out to say much!  Whew!  I’m just so thankful to have some of my loved ones nearby, to get to gather on special occasions and ordinary occasions, to work together (as we all do in one way or another), and to be there and alongside one another.  It’s not perfect and we aren’t as close as I think we all wish we were, in the busyness of this season with little ones.  But it is good.  And we are filled with thanks.  We celebrated Easter with our church family on Sunday morning, then met up at my parents house nearby before dinner, had an egg hunt (eggs filled with stickers, sidewalk chalk and bubbles, since Phoebe can’t have candy right now).  It’s fun to see the children enjoy something small and simple together, and to witness the delight on their faces while hunting for treasures.  My parents made a delicious gluten-free easter meal and I contributed some homemade strawberry basil ice cream.  How precious these little ones are, loving each other so much, growing up so fast.  And best of all, our faithful God, making a way for us to know Him and be with Him.

 

hope + a new beginning

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In the early morning dark, all sleeping in one room at the Ronald McDonald house, we woke Phoebe up to prepare for her procedure.  Brandon had already run out to get starbucks for he and I, and then we gave her the sweater that I had knit per her request (and her pick of yarn).  We also gave her the unicorn as a gift, for her bravery, discipline, and perseverance in this three month intensive part of her journey.  So, wrapped up in that knitted love and comfort, and snuggling “Rosie,” she went back into her procedure.  I was with her until she was just going to sleep, and it makes me cry every time to walk away from her and leave her there, but it was a small measure of comfort to see her snuggled up in that bright yarn and snuggling her new friend.

We have heard back about the pathology report from Phoebe’s recent endoscopy.  Her intestines are showing full healing, healthy whole villi, and little to no active celiac damage.  You guys!!!  We are FLOORED.  We are in shock, disbelief.  It feels like a miracle.  You guys have prayed us through, you have prayed for our girl and God has answered!

Now, we aren’t totally through the woods yet.  Her blood work showed still elevated levels of inflammation, which is a bit perplexing.  I’ve heard different opinions about what this can mean, and I’m still waiting on a call back from the Winston Salem doctor about having another pathologist look over her biopsy results.  So I’ve been sitting on the results for a few days waiting, but I know so many of you are waiting and asking and wanting to know the results and I didn’t want to keep you waiting.  Especially on, what we feel, is still SUCH good news!

Is it all over?  Is the worst behind us?  I don’t know.  We still have a lot of work before us in helping Phoebe grow and in encouraging her to eat more/healthfully.  We plan to do some work with a naturopath going forward.  She will have quarterly blood checks and regular weight/height checks so we can monitor progress.  We believe God has been speaking to us about this season of intense difficulty coming to an end, but my heart is so tender and fearful to hope.  It’s easier to brace for the next wave of the trial sometimes than it is to rest in HOPE and faith.  So you can pray for that for Brandon and I.  Of course, we know that we aren’t fully out of the woods yet, it is too soon, but we do hope that from here we will see our girl flourish.

To those of you who have prayed for this miracle: how can we ever thank you enough?  You have prayed life and healing over our girl and we believe we are seeing these shocking results because of your prayers!  God promises that our prayers are effective and powerful (James 5:16) and that they can make an actual difference in things like this.  God cares about healing and bringing wholeness and restoration, as we saw Jesus constantly healing all the sick ones that He came in contact with, and as we are told that this was part of His earthly mission (Luke 4:18).  It is still part of His mission: taking back the lost ground, healing the broken parts, mending the ruined world, glorifying Himself and making His power and might known in our midst.

To those of you who have donated funds so that we can afford these treatments for Phoebe and so that we can continue her medical testing, how can we ever thank you enough?  You have been a huge part of this process and this result.  You have provided relief and help in a very tangible way to our family.  You have, more importantly, just overwhelmed our hearts with encouragement, with the sense that you are behind us, for us, and with us.  We know one day we will be able to bless others financially as you have blessed us, and we eagerly look forward to returning the blessing.  We will do so in the small ways that we can now.

We will keep everyone posted as we know more about Phoebe and as we continue on this journey.  For now Phoebe’s diet will change slowly and with a different approach than anything we have tried thus far.  She is already so pleased just to have her beloved cereal, and slowly we will phase in other things, but will also phase out things we don’t believe she tolerates well.  I will still need to make most of her food from scratch and from carefully chosen sources, so there is still a bit of work ahead for me in trail + error.

As my mother-in-law gently but firmly encouraged me last night, we will rest in this healing.  That this is the beginning, a new beginning, and we are thankful to our Faithful God and to you!