words on the wind

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On Friday evening, Brandon took the older kids to a baseball game to see our local team play.  The tickets were complimentary and fireworks were happening after the game so of course everyone wanted to go.  I stayed home with Wren since the game would be starting at her bedtime, far too late to keep the little bird out.  (I tried to convince Brandon to take my camera and get some photos but no such luck.  Sorry!)  After everyone left she and I went out for a long walk and I savored the freedom of walking one little baby strapped snuggly in a stroller.  Able to go my pace and distance, we walked to a neighborhood close by that has a lovely, quiet little lake.  It has been unseasonably hot and dry here for a couple of weeks, but this night as we were walking the wind picked up and it was cool and blustery.  We went all around the lake and the streets up above it while the wind blew wild around us.  I felt myself unwinding in the quiet, able to think, able to listen.  It sounds odd to say, but as I thought about the people who lived in these homes and how nice it must be to live on the edge of a lake, I felt that someone there must be a writer.  I could feel the words on the wind.  I used to think of myself as a writer, writing words in journals (and poetry sometimes too) since my earliest years, writing and writing and writing.  Yet in this season of motherhood, it all feels so muddled.  Even as I type these words little ones interrupt and pull on me.  There are almost no times of day without those constant needs and interruptions except for evenings, when I feel totally fried and weary.  I don’t journal anymore, really.  My most tidy record of these days is this blog, and it is fairly intermittent lately, too.  The writing I used to do is more absent from this space.  I’ve been missing it, feeling like maybe I had it all wrong and I’m not a writer at all.  What kind of writer goes so long without really writing?  I mourn the loss, I think maybe its too late anyway.  And as I was walking along the edge of the lake, wind blowing wild through my hair, I could feel the words on the wind, flying just over my head, if only I could reach up and grab them with my fingers, but they flew by, just out of reach.  Maybe I only imagined it.

With the close of May, and the close of another school year, my mind clears a bit.  There is still the tying up of loose ends from this last year, testing to be scheduled, and the planning and researching that already must begin for our next year.  I can’t ever really turn that off, but I hope if I get some of it done early in the summer that my mind can rest. In the space in my brain that opens up after our homeschool year ends I find myself thinking about and returning to creativity.  I think I will stoke those flames a bit this summer.

June begins.  I find myself standing outside our little stand-alone garage with the peeling white paint, spraying water over bare dirt.  This side of the garage faces our neighbors home and borders our yard and theirs, and I imagine they wonder what on earth I am doing on this neglected side of our garage watering dirt.  I feel a little silly.  I defensively want to them them that I’ve planted sunflower seeds here and I can just see them waving tall in August heat, brightening up this little drab side of the building.  I’m full of hope that my daily watering will bring something beautiful out of this barren dirt.  I can see it just there, in my mind’s eye, and so I stand here and do this work though I look a fool.

I hope to show you those sunflowers one day, the fruit of toiling over scraggly dirt and neglected corners.  For now, photos of our garden.

 

spring energy

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These photos were taken a couple of weeks ago already.  My, how the days are flying by.  We have so enjoyed these spring days with cool weather and have all been outside as much as possible.  We’ve had a few short trips in the last month which is a bit uncharacteristic for us — a visit to Brandon’s parents in Myrtle Beach, SC, and an anniversary getaway to cabin in Banner Elk, NC.  In the midst of that hustle and bustle, we’ve felt that burst of spring energy (and exhaustion!) that everything seems to have this time of year.  You can nearly hear it if you listen close enough, the eagerness of shoots burrowing up from soil, the rustle of leaves sprouting out from limb.  It seems almost audible, the hurry of everything in nature to grow and produce.  I feel it, too, every spring, that sense that we are behind, that we need to hurry up and grow things.

We aim to improve and work on our small little garden spot every year.  This year, it was to put in soaker tubes for watering and to set up a rain catchment system to feed the soaker tubes.   We used an old barrel that was on our property when we moved in and it has worked really well thus far.  Also, we made more established walking paths between rows by laying landscape paper down and we are waiting on a drop off of (free) wood chips which we will cover the walking paths with in an effort to cut down on weeding.

We didn’t expand the garden area at all this year, but I did plant lavender and rosemary and a whole host of flower seed around the property.  Here’s to hoping it all comes up and does well!  Sunflowers, cosmos, bachelor buttons.  I have zinnia seeds as well but no more ground space, so I think I will plant a full raised bed of zinnias (maybe arugula too if its not too late to start it) because truly the zinnias brought me so much joy all last summer.  There are things to love about every season, to be sure, but summer is just not my favorite.  Keeping a garden and anticipating the growing of things helps me survive the summer heat, I’ve realized.

Brandon tackled a project for me updating/redoing our front door area (replacing the door and trim, painting, installing a new light fixture and house numbers) and we have quite a few other projects we hope to have time to work on this spring/summer.  Slowly, ever so slowly, plugging away on this little old home.

Also, I had Brandon take some photos of my finished Tales from the Isle of Purbeck shawl.  I finished it a little while ago but wanted to share it here with you.  I knit it with some local yarn from a nearby sheep farm I visited in the fall, so it just feels extra special.  Knitting is such a joy and comfort in these days where projects pile up and no end is in sight.  It is good for my sanity to work on small things and see them to completion.

Speaking of finishing, we are nearing the end of our third year homeschooling.  I feel so weary and I know the children do, too.  But I was reflecting this morning that I often think of summer break as just stopping and then in the fall picking up where we left off the previous year.  However I had to remind myself that no, in fact, I have successfully moved Phoebe through second grade and when we finish, she will be ready for 3rd grade.  And Noah will have completed Kindergarten.  I felt humbled and grateful to remember that — this isn’t just an endless work, though it is continuous and maybe the lines between grades are a bit fuzzier than in traditional schooling.  The years blur into one another and it all can feel a bit endless, but in fact, we are slowly plugging along and completing our work, bit by bit.

I hope you’re enjoying some of that spring energy today.  Maybe even some clover + chive tea made by chubby hands and offered to you in love.

sweaters and sunny days

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We recently had a string of sunny, incredibly warm and spring-like days.  It was in the 60s and 70s and everyone in our home wanted their skin in the glorious rich sun.  So we spent as much time as we could outside, playing, picnicking in the yard, trying to soak it up.  I love winter so much and I don’t mind the cold and gray days, but it was a gift to have a short reprieve and remember what is soon coming.  The air held that smell of warming soil and all of us began to think about planting and growing things again.  Buds are forming on the trees and some of the bulbs we planted in the fall are beginning to send up shoots.

Phoebe set to work on planting a little “garden” in a corner of the mulch of their play gym.  She transplanted various weeds and onion grass from the yard and I even overheard her singing to her little plants.  I kept walking through our little garden plot, thinking and planning.  I’m excited for those planting days that will soon be upon us, but I know how much work it adds to our plate as well.  Also, I’m just not quite done with winter yet.  I’m still hoping for a few more snows!

I finished up Phoebe’s flax sweater (with a good few modifications).  Despite my best efforts to modify the neckline and ripping it out a couple of times, it still turned out quite large.  She doesn’t mind it but I wish it wasn’t quite so boat necked.  I shaped the arms a bit more drastically than the pattern called for and also cropped the sweater.  She has been wearing it constantly in rotation with her other hand knits, and I so love that about Phoebe.  She is always so grateful for anything I make for her.  The yarn is some rustic farm yarn from our recent visit to a local sheep farm called Bovidae Farms.  The yarn is dry and toothy and very lanolin-rich.  I loved knitting with it, it’s incredibly warm and every time she wears it she smells like a little lamb.  She’s also been wearing the sweater inside out and it looks just a good worn on the wrong side!  I hadn’t blocked it before taking these pictures of her wearing it and it looks a bit better after blocking, of course.

It has been back to feeling like winter again, as it should for just a bit longer.  We have days of rain ahead of us in the forecast so we are missing that warm sun but we know it’ll be back soon.  In the meantime, we’re happy to have woolen sweaters to snuggle up in.

planting days

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The last couple of weeks have been busy prepping and planning for our vegetable garden.  We had prepared the ground and then had about a week straight of nonstop rain, as did most of the eastern US I believe, and then we thought we better get things in the ground when we had a few sunny days while we were able.  We are very amateur gardeners really, and still learning a lot as we go.  Last year we did maybe a third of the plot we prepared this year and had an over-abundance of veggies.  (We had just moved into the home and rushed to get a few things in the ground.  Then I found out I was pregnant and was so super sick I couldn’t go near the garden or smell or even look at any of the produce from it.  So weird, I know, but when I’m pregnant all vegetables and basically anything food related make me sick. 😉  SO we ended up blessing our neighbors with all of our organic produce.)  This year we wanted to expand the garden and grow some new-to-us things, branch out a bit from our usual swiss chard, zucchini, herbs, cucumber and tomatoes.  We went a bit crazy at the garden store, as we usually do, finding things we were excited to grow.  Phoebe also wanted a square of the garden for her very own and when asked she mainly wanted to grow strawberries and flowers.  Her science segment for this part of the year has been plant life so this is perfect for some hands-on learning.  We’ve done a few things together from this book and then found this cookbook from the library, which has been fun to read together and pull some lessons from and also learn about as we plan what we want to grow.  Phoebe is the pickiest eater I’ve ever known and we’ve tried many things to get her to branch out in her eating (including occupational therapy, etc).  Growing our own food is somewhat of a necessity because of the cost of feeding a family of six on a mostly grain-free diet, but also we want our picky eaters to maybe be inspired to try eating the things they’ve grown themselves (one can hope!).  Last summer when I was spending most of my days alternately gagging and laying on the couch, noah and philippa spent hours every day in our tiny garden plot picking all our ripe produce for me.  I couldn’t believe how much they loved it and took ownership of it when I was laid out.

Phoebe and I planted a few things from seed which really intimidates me because I’ve never had great success from it.  I feel like planting from seed should be intuitive and primal but somehow I really fail at it.  Maybe this will be my year?!  I’ll keep you posted.  I had seeds for carrots, dwarf kale and purple top turnips, so phoebe and I planted those, along with a few pots of herbs.  They’ve been sprouting up abundantly and that’s been so neat for the kids to see!  And me!  Every time it feels like a curiosity–this tiny seed, buried in the dark soil, this miracle of tender sprout and leaf.  Now, for transplanting things and hoping they take off well from there.

Brandon and I spent much of last Sunday getting the bulk of it in the ground, and I’ve been sowing the remaining seeds with the children during the week when we’ve had bits of time.  We’ve planted a couple varieties of cucumber, some yellow squash and zucchini, green and red bell peppers, sugar snap peas and regular peas, sweet potato, a plethora of strawberry plants, swiss chard, beets, romaine lettuce, asparagus, fennel, basil, chives, oregano, sage, cilantro, (our thyme and rosemary came back from last year), marigolds and nasturtiums for pest control, and five different varieties of tomatoes.  Phoebe planted purple coneflowers and zinnias as well as strawberries in her corner of the garden.  All of the children have been so interested in helping plant and weed.

I wasn’t raised growing vegetable gardens so I don’t have much working knowledge, but I’ve always been interested and awed and somewhat mystified by it all.  Many summers when I was growing up we would drive up as a family to my extended family in Ontario, Canada and usually would spend a few days with my grandparents on their cozy little farm before heading up to the Muskoka lakes.  As soon as we would arrive usually we would take a walk through their extensive gardens, go visit my grandpa’s beehives and workshop where he extracted the honey.  I wish I had paid more attention to it all and asked more questions and soaked up more of their knowledge.  I felt somehow daunted by it all but drawn to it.  Already today I’ve seen all our sweet potatoes tender little leaves have been chewed off and a good portion of our lettuce plants too, so I think John the Rabbit has been visiting when the children have left the yard vacant.  Onto the task of protecting and nurturing all that we’ve planted and hoping for a happy yield!  Right now it is all looking so tidy and sweet, but it’ll be a lot of work and come July it’ll be downright unruly, I know.

this cup

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Well, we are starting to feel like summer is here.  Last Friday we celebrated our last day of school for Phoebe’s kindergarten year.  I still want to continue reading and writing work with her over the summer to keep things fresh, but really, our homeschool co-op starts up again in August so we only have a few weeks (!!!) before we’re back in the swing of things again.  I think both of us need to feel like we finished before we start up again.  I need time to plan for the next year, order books and resources, make a calendar of sorts and have a plan in motion.  There’s a big homeschool book sale here this weekend so I’ll be pulling together my list in the next couple of days in preparation for that but I know I will need some time to plan out the next year as well.  Beginning “first grade” feels a bit more serious than kindergarten!  There are so many directions we could go in, and I feel that pull as a homeschooler to try to do everything and go in a hundred directions, but I know I need some time to seek the Lord and His plan for us for the next year.  There is a lot of freedom in homeschooling and so many worthy approaches that its almost overwhelming for me, someone who likes to be told the rules so that I can follow them!  Its a good challenge for me to stay small, simple, focused, and dependent on God’s leading.

Phoebe has been listening to audio books constantly on the little music player in the sunroom, coloring and having tea and flying through the Little House series.  She’s relistening to the Penderwicks book because I haven’t checked out the next one from the library yet.  Her last day of school she cried a bit, saying reading is just so hard for her.  She failed her eye exam at her recent physical and she goes to see an eye doctor next week to see if she needs glasses, which may explain why she gets super tired/frustrated when we work on reading.  She loves books and being read to, and she is starting to read everything she can around her, but she says it is her least favorite subject.  Who knows, I’m not too worried about it because she has been a book lover since she was 6 months old.  I do want to cultivate her continued love of it though and not frustrate her.

We celebrated our end-of-year with a yummy skillet chocolate chip cookie and a batch of coconut ice cream, and we all cheered as a family for the way each of us worked hard this year to make school happen.  Noah and Philippa were huge helpers to me, doing their best to stay out of the way while we did work, and a really close friendship developed between them as a result.  I plan to have more activities ready next year for them to engage in so that they can be included if they want to be.  Brandon supports me hugely, encourages me when I feel like I’m not doing enough, and helps out sometimes in the evenings with Phoebe’s work.  He and I both get excited thinking about him taking on some schooling in the future, too–teaching skills, doing field trips with the kids, or helping by reading or listening to Phoebe read books.  Homeschooling really is a family venture!

Summery things are blooming in the yard, butterfly bush and the last of the poppies, and our little garden is starting to produce.  A robin family built their nest in the tree by our porch so we’ve had fun peeking at the little blue eggs.  We have a huge rosemary bush by our mailbox so I’ve begun drying clippings from it to store up for the winter, which makes Phoebe extra happy since “it is just what Ma would do,” she says.  So we enjoy these little things, the markers of time passing, the liturgy of the ordinary, small shifts and small moments.  Life.

I’m knitting away as usual, and trying to squeeze in reading always.  I’m working on a hat for a loved one.  I have some “homeschool mom enrichment” books to read this summer, as I’m calling them.  A few things I want to refresh on as I look ahead and plan.  I have been wanting to read this book, Mere Motherhood, for a long time, and I’m excited to dig into it.  I plan to review The Well-Trained Mind again, as well as Teaching From Rest.  I hope to also read A Charlotte Mason Companion.  There are so many other good ones out there, but a few is probably all I will realistically accomplish.

It’s my birthday today and it’s been mostly a usual sort of Wednesday.  When you’re a momma with little ones underfoot, there isn’t much of a break from the daily tasks.  Spills and messes still happen, children squabble and need parenting, dishes and laundry pile, meals must still be made.  I really don’t mind, though.  I’m happy right here.  I mean, I’ll take a stack of books, a long bath, some knitting time, and a good long run on a mountain ridge any day, don’t get me wrong!  I’m learning to lean into the fray a bit more instead of just trying to survive it until the break comes.  I realized last night and this morning that I kept humming Sara Groves song This Cup.

How many hours have I spent
Watching this shining tv
Living adventure in proxy
In another person’s dream
How many miles have I traveled
Looking at far away lights
Listening for trains in the distance
In some brilliant other life?

This cup, this cup
I wanna drink it up
To be right here in the middle of it
Right here, right here
This challenging reality
Is better than fear or fantasy

So take up what we’ve been given
Welcome the edge of our days
Hemmed in by sunrise and sunset
By our youth and by our age
Thank God for our dependence
Here’s to our chasm of need
And how it binds us together
In faith and vulnerability

This cup, this cup
I wanna drink it up
To be right here in the middle of it
Right here, right here
This challenging reality
Is better than fear or fantasy

What if my whole world falls apart?
What if my life could be different?
What if I sat right here and took you in
Without the fear and loved you whole
Without the flight and didn’t try to pass

This cup, this cup
I wanna drink it up
To be right here in the middle of it
Right here, right here
This beautiful reality
Is better than fear or fantasy
Is better than fear or fantasy
Is better than fear or fantasy

We’re all hemmed in by sunrise and sunset, our days all have edges, our life is limited by bounds.  Another year passes, another year comes.  We can fight our limitations, grumble about our reality or surrender to what God has given us and say, this cup I will drink.  To be present, right here in the middle of this moment–that’s what I want.

a mother’s day garden

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Brandon has been working such long hours lately, working most Saturdays to make some extra income, which is a blessing, but we are definitely feeling the strain of it.  There isn’t a single morning that we have together to just be home with no agenda and have a slow morning.  This past Saturday, the kids and I went and picked out a few plants for a very simple, small container garden for the porch for my mother’s day gift.  Basically, greens, cucumbers, and tomatoes, and a pot of herbs.  The barest of essentials.  I really miss having the space and light at our last house to have more extensive beds.  For now, though, this is about the only spot of full sun we have in the summer.  We planted together late Saturday afternoon before Brandon pulled in from work.  Sunday morning, Mother’s Day, I was still feeling pretty icky from a nasty chest cold I had been fighting, so we decided to stay home from church.  It was the most glorious morning, a nearly perfect Mother’s day.  Brandon let me sleep in (till like 7! haha.  i kept thinking “hurry, go back to sleep!  this is your chance!” and eventually gave up), then brought me coffee and my bible/journal and knitting wip basket.  It was heaven to just stay in bed, linger over the Scripture and not have children clambering over me and asking me questions before my coffee has even brewed.  It didn’t last too terribly long before little curious feet found their way to my bed, but how can you resist snuggling with your babes on mother’s day, of all days?  Brandon made a fancy breakfast and we ate on the front porch by our little garden, with bouquets of peonies placed here and there.  We had another cup of coffee together (well, chai for him), and read, knitted, snuggled the rest of the morning.  My parents dropped by to bring a little mother’s day gift + fresh tulips and we hung out for a bit.  It was such a peaceful day, breezy, sunny and perfect weather.  It was a rare extravagance to have a morning like that after our endless morning bustle lately.  What a gift it is to be a mother to these three little ones.  It really is my favorite thing ever, and their ages right now are so fun I don’t want any of it to change.  The days are long and crazy and tiresome and I usually feel completely pushed to the end of my limits at day’s end, but somehow I still would take it over any other job.  It’s good to remember that when I feel prone to complain.