beside still waters

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Hello friends.  How are you all doing?  I hope you’re ok, not just in body but also in mind and soul.  We’ve been ok.  We are all healthy and for that I’m grateful.  These are challenging times for us all, and I have felt quite overwhelmed.  All of our usual extra curricular activities have been cancelled and we have been home for many days.  I’m thankful for a big yard and sunny days when they come, it lifts the heaviness and helps us not to feel so cooped up.

However, in anticipation of a “shelter-in-place” ordinance, we decided to get out on the parkway this last weekend for a proper hike.  The more popular areas were packed with cars and we decided to avoid those. We found a trail we haven’t hiked before that ended up being so beautiful and peaceful, and we really only saw a handful of other hikers.   There are few things that are as restorative as the wilderness for us.

At the beginning of the “social distancing”, my pastor shared this quote from C. S. Lewis with us and it has stuck with me throughout these past two weeks.  Lewis was writing this as they lived under threat of the atomic bomb:

“This is the first point to be made: and the first action to be taken is to pull ourselves together. If we are all going to be destroyed by an atomic bomb, let that bomb when it comes find us doing sensible and human things—praying, working, teaching, reading, listening to music, bathing the children, playing tennis, chatting to our friends over a pint and a game of darts—not huddled together like frightened sheep and thinking about bombs. They may break our bodies (a microbe can do that) but they need not dominate our minds.”

C.S. Lewis, On Living in an Atomic Age

I admit that in these last many days, it has been challenging for me to keep to the basic activities of being human.  I’ve had to be intentional in still lighting the candles at dinner, snapping photos of sweet moments and pretty things, folding the laundry, scrubbing the bathrooms, reading good stories, setting out the next day’s schoolwork in the evenings.  Sometimes these things feel so meaningless when facing such imminent health and economic threat.  Yet I have also been anchored by these same human activities; kept from endless scrolling of headlines, worrying and fretting.  The activities of being human help me to continue on being human.  And it is essential in times like these that we don’t lose our humanity.

Being outside in the sun, having moments of stillness, carrying on with normal work as much as possible, knitting, music, connecting with friends virtually, reading scripture–these are some of the anchors.

Be well, friends.  It may be quieter here on the blog, it may not be, I’m not sure.  I hope you are well, I hope you are finding the things that anchor you, too.  A song we sing often at church is this one, and it feels more appropriate now than ever before.  Sending you warm hugs, friends.

xo
Martha

 

 

a bunny turns 2

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Little wren-wren,

It’s hard to believe you are two.

Up early before the sun, with everyone rushing you to wake.  You are at the happy stage where you sort of understand birthdays after celebrating all of your siblings birthdays in the last few months, and yet you are easy and happy-go-lucky without any expectations.  Except that you definitely wanted us to sing happy birthday to you. 🙂   You were practicing for days ahead of time.

Everyone else couldn’t wait for you to open your gifts so they could play with them see what they were.  It is a joy to watch you so carefully open each thing and enjoy it for a few minutes without rushing onto the next gift.

We gave you a Poppy and the Orchestra book since you have loved Philippa’s Poppy/musical book so much.  You were delighted!  Bunny also wanted to give you a gift that had a bit of an ulterior motive: she bought you a basket for your bike so that you can carry her along on all of your adventures.  Boy, have you both loved this new addition to your favorite toy.

Mommy + Daddy gifted you a kitchen all your own with a few new food items, pots and pans, and a lovely little enamel pot that matches your older sister’s tin tea set.  I think you really love this, but your older siblings definitely do.  Thank you for sharing it so kindly with them.  Mommy knit you a happy yellow sweater, but it is much too big and so we will tuck it away until you are three.  I’m so glad though that when you opened it you put it right on.  Sweet girl.  Now mommy has to get busy making you something that WILL fit. 🙂  Also, you got a sweet birthday dress which you really love and looks so, so sweet on you.

After all the morning fun, we carried on with a regular old school day for the older kids (which they were quite disgruntled about) but we had a surprise visitor mid-morning, your BFF Liam (and Rainey).

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He brought you a sweet gift and stayed for a little bit to play and have a birthday lunch together.  So sweet.  Bunny was very tired at this point and had to have a nap, so you went with her.  After nap, the sun came out (it had been a very rainy morning) and bunny couldn’t wait to try out her new bike basket.  What fun!  It was just right.  Meanwhile, Mommy baked a carrot cake, the same one I made for your first birthday and I had fun making it simple and pretty.  We Facetimed with far-away family.  Then Rainey + Grandpa came over for one of your favorite dinners, spaghetti.  You were so happy to see your birthday cake and have everyone sing to you, and you clapped with glee when it was all done.

We all adore you, sweet baby Wren.  Maybe not so much a baby anymore, but still you will always be our little baby.  I am so proud of the way you are growing and learning.  You are a delight to us all, my sweet girl.  Happy birthday and always remember how much your momma and daddy adore you, how God adores you even more than that.

Love always,

Mommy

 

january mild

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What a mild winter it has been so far.  I feel a bit complain-y but I do miss a good cold/snowy cozy winter.  I hope we still have some of those days ahead.  Yesterday the warm sun felt so good and who could resist sitting out in it and basking in it in the middle of January?  Certainly not me.  I am a firm believer in taking the gifts of each day’s weather.  Still it feels unnatural to move from fall into spring.  I’m missing my old friend winter, the way she makes us crazy toward her end and ready for thawing soil, spring rain, vibrant color, and the smallest glimpses of new life.  It strikes me that maybe we just can’t fully enjoy the glories of spring without the quietude and bleakness of a long winter.

We’ve been back to our usual routines and though there’s always a rub to the mundane parts of life, there is a simplicity to it that feels healing.  Our mornings are full of books, writing, arithmetic, our afternoons full of time spent outdoors, music lessons, tutoring, or running household errands.  We had a fair bit of rain the last few days, and in the glorious sunshine that follows, I find myself wandering about the garden, starting to think about what we will grow this year.  I knit up a pair of baby bloomers for Wren.  They are knit top-down in yarn from local-to-me Bovidae Farm, with a sweet little lateral braid separating the rib and the squishy fisherman’s rib on the body.  They are simple and darling.  Wren seems to love anything I make for her, she loves dressing up and trying things on, so she is always game for new hand knits.  I snapped a few pictures of her this morning in the blustery morning air.  She was very busy tidying up her little house outside, bringing me all sorts of items the older children had left out there and throwing whatever else she didn’t want down the slide.  She is full of big feelings, this little one, one minute ecstatic and the next minute screaming her frustration.  In a little more than a month she will be two and I can hardly believe it.

ps. Wren is wearing the wiksten animal bonnet which I knit in naturally-dyed yarn, and in the earlier pictures she’s wearing her flax light sweater from her first birthday.  Yes, I’m already contemplating what her birthday sweater should be for this year. 🙂  I’m thinking about another Camilla Babe sweater in my own hand-dyed worsted eco yarn dyed with marigold.

a sweet Christmas

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Sweet Christmas.  With all our effort to minimize activity and slow the month down and savor each day, it still flew by in a flash.  It has come and gone, today being New Years Eve, and the next year crests just over the horizon.  How sweet the Christmas season is.  When the children woke up Christmas morning, they opened their stockings.  We filled them with dried fruit, a little bit of sweet treats, rainbow pencils, fun wooden animal pens from world market, a new pack of markers, a christmas ornament, naturally-dyed head scarves for the girls, bunny hair clips for wren, mood rings for Phoebe and Philippa, a new watch for Noah.  Wren got her own beeswax crayons and notebook, which she is so proud of.

Then we had breakfast and our last Advent reading from the book Unwrapping the Greatest Gift.  (I was proud and excited to have found pumpkin and carrot muffins (cupcakes?) that were all natural and from a dedicated gluten-free facility for Christmas morning at a local health food store.)  After that we opened gifts.  As much as we try to slow the morning down so we can see everything and enjoy each present being opened, the children just can’t help rushing into it all.  They had some gifts from loved ones besides the ones we had chosen for them, so that made it feel quite abundant and full.  Truly, they have no idea how blessed they are, but then the same could be said of each of us, I am sure.

Noah and Philippa got some new lego, Phoebe got a table top easeland new art supplies. The older three all got nice large sketch books with a mini set of higher quality watercolor paints (for natural journaling, I hope).  Noah received the The Ology book, Philippa got Poppy and Vivaldi, and Phoebe got some new Horse Diaries books.  Wren got 1 is One by Tasha Tudor.  I gave Brandon New Morning Mercies and maybe secretly hope I can share it with him. 🙂  Wren received a Melissa and Doug barn (she has loved Philippa’s smaller horse barn) and also a wooden tricycle which can adapt to be a balance bike.  Not that we need another bike, really, but it is nice for her to have something just her own and something she can ride right away.  Noah received from us a sweet of K-Nex and a cd player for his room, as well as a lullaby cd for he and Wren.  Phoebe and Philippa also received a new lullaby cd for their room.  All the kiddos have been loving listening to peaceful music at night to help with bad dreams or for Phoebe when she isn’t feeling well (headaches and nausea have been happening more often lately).  We gave all of the kids Bird Bingo and a new puzzle as a family gift.  We have already played Bird Bingo so much and I can’t wait to add Bug Bingo and Ocean Bingo to our games one day.

I had hoped to knit a small item for each family member.  I managed to finish socks for Philippa, a slipped stitch tam for Phoebe, and a doe cap for Wren.  Noah’s socks are half done, and I have nothing in the works for Brandon just yet, but he never really wants anything.  I do hope to knit him some socks soon.  Maybe he will be swayed to prefer hand-knit socks if he just tries a pair. 🙂

Brandon and I had agreed not to buy presents for each other this year, maybe just a couple small things for stockings.  We needed to replace our living room rug and I was wanting to do a few other small things to spruce up our living room/entry area, so that was our gift to each other.

Anyway, although it felt like it whizzed past us, Christmas day was really fun and special.  Later that day we went over to my parent’s house nearby and gathered with all the siblings who were here.  I was even able to squeeze in a solo trail run on my favorite running trail in the woods and didn’t see another soul the whole time.  It completed my Christmas to get out in the woods and quiet.  My parents always make the most amazing feasts, and it was just cozy and special to be together with family.

The next morning we all went horseback riding as a family (well, except for Brandon who needed to work.)  I had hoped to take more pictures but I was riding while holding Wren on my lap a bit precariously so I only snapped a few.  It was adventurous and fun, and Noah, Phoebe, and Wren seemed to really love it.  Philippa rode on my mom’s lap and talked the whole way and then said she hated it when were done (with a big smile on her face).

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I hope you all had a merry Christmas and may it be a blessed and happy New Year + decade!

See you in 2020!

Merry Christmas

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Merry Christmas, friends, family, and readers.  I so appreciate your following along with me here, your comments and support, encouragement and friendship.  I love sharing bits and pieces of our daily ordinary lives here with you through out the year.  Today, we are worn out after a fun, sweet and chaotic Christmas morning.  My heart is tender, thinking on the indescribable gift of God, Jesus, who made a way for us to come to Him in whatever place we may find ourselves.  We need a Savior, and He gave us our greatest need.  How will He not also along with Him freely give us all things?  What rest there is in that truth.

Wishing you all a beautiful Christmas time, that He would reveal Himself specifically to you and me both today, and bless us with His presence.

XO
Martha

December hush and December busy

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The tree was cut, a wreath was made, decorations slowly placed around the home.  Room was made for Christmas decorations, room made in our hearts, too, for meditating on the Christ-child, the Savior born to us.  There was early morning tree decorating before daddy left for work, because the children just couldn’t go another day without decorating the tree.  There were out-of-town grandparents who came to take Philippa to ride the Polar Express train, and to bring birthday/Christmas gifts for the grandchildren.  (Their grandma crocheted them each a special blanket with their favorite colors and special embellishments for each child like horses, phoebe flowers, dragons, and sail boats.)  We visited the local historic train museum with the grandparents as well and the children were fascinated with the huge train tables.  There were many practices for the Christmas pageant, then two performances, as well as choir practice and then a Christmas concert.  Then we finished up our last day of school, and this week our last round of piano practice and tutoring for Phoebe for the rest of the year.  I’m finishing the last rounds of shopping and preparing for birthdays and Christmas.  Only a few more days now until Christmas is upon us.  I’m thankful for the busy bursts of activity and the beautiful gatherings, feasting, and celebrating.  I’m thankful, too, for the quiet end of it all, the unhurried mornings staying late in our pajamas, with creative messes all around and extra cups of coffee.  I’m thankful for the daily advent readings, the singing of all the Christmas songs, the holy ache for the Savior to return and the ceaseless marveling that He came to us in the first place.  I can’t believe how quickly this month flies by now, when as a child I remember it dragging on so long.  I miss those childish days where the world was bright and new, full of wonder.  May we all recapture a bit of that this season and enjoy a restful and worshipful remainder of 2019.  Noah’s birthday is on Friday and then the holy-days are upon us soon after.  I’ll pop in here before year’s end I hope.  Sending warm wishes and love to each of you!

sick for her 5th

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My giggly, happy, bright little Philippa turned 5 last Friday.  We were supposed to have grandparents, aunts and uncles over, and Philippa’s cousin BFF was going to stay for a sleepover.  But as we approached her birthday, Wren and Philippa became so sick.  Phoebe, Noah, and myself had already had some sort of sickness for about a week and I thought we were in the clear, but everyone seemed to decline so we had to cancel the birthday festivities.  Philippa was disappointed at first but she was just happy there would still be cake and presents.  We promised her we would make up the sleepover soon.

I love the children at this stage of life, how they wake up and can’t wait to dig into their presents.  Phoebe’s getting older and she’s starting to want to save presents for later in the day to make it last longer, but Philippa is young enough to feel like she’s waited long enough for presents to open.  She’s sort of a hard one to buy for because she rarely asks for anything and happily plays along with whatever everyone else has.  In the  weeks leading up to her birthday she randomly asked Brandon to make her a sword, as well as asking for a slinky.  Brandon made her a beautiful sword and she just loved it.  He made the grip to look like dragon scales and inscribed her initials near the bottom of it.  She was truly delighted.  I knit her a sweater, which she still hasn’t worn exactly, but she’s not a huge fan of sweaters.  She was still excited to see it, and I think she’ll wear it eventually. 🙂  This was the first year Phoebe and Noah wanted to give their own gifts to Philippa which was so sweet.  Noah wrote her a book and illustrated it all, what a treasure.  It’s quite originally called, The Gingerbread Man.  Phoebe bought her a new journal from the dollar spot at Target.  Paper of any sort is always on high demand at our house.  We bought her a “toothless dragon” as that has long been on her wish list.  We took a gamble and bought her a pair of rollerblades and she isn’t super into them yet, but I think with more practice she will love them.  Last year we purchased a scooter for her for Christmas and it took her a long time to really enjoy it but now she has completely worn the tires off of it.

My mom came by on her birthday morning to drop off her gifts since they wouldn’t be coming for a party, which was a fun treat for Philippa.

As the day went on, Philippa seemed to feel worse.  When Wren got up from afternoon nap she was hot and listless, and I strapped her into the ergo so I could try to frost Philippa’s cake.  But as I held her I realized her breathing was shallow and she was wheezing, so I loaded everyone up and we hurried to the doctor for help.  I felt so bad for Philippa, but she was easy going about it.  Brandon hurried home from work to pick up the other kids from the doctor, while I waited with Wren for her to respond to breathing treatments and fever reduces or the doctor said we would be admitting her.  She finally recovered enough for the doctor to feel safe sending us home.  By the time I got back a couple of hours later, Philippa also had a raging fever.  We sang her happy birthday at 9 pm and she had a little bit of cake but certainly not with much gusto.  Within a few hours she was also wheezing and needing a breathing treatment.

All in all, it was still a fun day but its hard not to be disappointed with all of the sickness and the distraction from celebrating like we usually do.  However, it’s just life with kids.  She didn’t mind as much as I did, and in the end, we’ll always remember being all so very sick for her 5th.

 

tucking in

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The first heavy frost came last week, this week the first snow flurries and frigid temps.  We’ve finished up the last few projects outdoors.  Brandon and I (mainly Brandon) worked on laying this stone walkway from our driveway to the back porch over the course of three weeks.  Sometimes it’s silly how long it takes us to get things done, but its not for lack of trying.  It’s just life in this season with a lot to juggle and a lot of interruptions.  We really love the finished product!  It’s always exciting to make improvements (though ever so slowly for us) to our little home.

I trimmed back bushes last week and raked up as many leaves as I could one morning then spread it over the garden.  The children have been enjoying any sunny warm weather they can, though those days may be behind us now.  How quickly these warm fall days give way to frost and bleak, barren limb.

Also, Phoebe has been singing weekly with a choir called Viva Voce and lately they’ve had a couple of performances.  These photos were from her first performance in a church nearby.  I can’t tell you how proud I am to hear her sing, and she loves it so.  Our mornings are full with school work, our afternoons are mostly full now with activities and I am running around ferrying children to and fro.  It is good, busy, and I’m a bit looking forward to a long break from school work in December.

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halloween fun

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The sweetest halloween.  We aren’t huge halloween people, but children do love to dress up and to go door-to-door asking for candy, so we allow it.  I never want to spend much  (or anything) on costumes but I did buy noah’s costume (second hand), which he really loved, though I had tried hard to convince him to be a lumber jack so we could have a woodland theme (with Phoebe being a wood fairy).  I knitted a little mushroom cap and neck piece for Wren and a fox bonnet for Philippa from scrap yarn.  Phoebe put her own costume together and when she was looking at pictures with me she said, “Oh I really did look beautiful.”  I thought that was so precious, and I hope she always thinks that when she sees pictures of herself.

Wren was an absolute hoot to trick-or-treat with.  Every other time I’ve put the hat on her she has pulled it off but she this time she must have gathered that it was dress-up and she totally loved it.  She wanted to run up to the houses just like the big kids and she would eagerly yell out some form of “trick-or-treat,” and happily wave “bye” and say “dee-doo” (thank you) for candy.  She loved having her own “basket” to carry and didn’t want any help.  Though heavy rains and thunderstorms were forecasted we had clear weather and it got pretty cold by the end of the evening.  We don’t keep any of the candy we gather, Brandon ends up taking it to work, and I trade it out for the kids with candy and chocolate from the health food store that is certified GF and such.  They don’t mind a bit and are good sports about it.

Now, we are into November, and what a beautiful start to the month it has been.  I hope you all had a safe, fun and happy Halloween.

the first autumnal day

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On the first truly autumnal day of the year (last Saturday) when the rain fell off and on all day and the temps dropped low, we went out for a little drive in our town to find a pumpkin patch.  Our area is apple country and there are lots of orchards here, but almost none are organic (there’s only one that I know of and they aren’t u-pick) and they tend to be crazy busy this time of year.  We passed quite a few with lines of people curving around buildings waiting for cider doughnuts.  Hoping to find a quieter, lesser-known spot with a true pumpkin patch, we stumbled upon the perfect spot.  There were only a handful of other people there, the kids could wander through the pumpkin patch freely and the view was beautiful.  Phoebe couldn’t believe Noah was about the same height as her.  Noah found the “biggest pumpkin in the patch” so we will have a nice carving pumpkin for halloween.  Wren tried to figure out what all the excitement was about and Philippa trotted happily along with everyone else.  This spot was technically a nursery, so after picking out some pumpkins we wandered through the greenhouses. The children also had to pick out small pumpkins to paint, as they’ve done for the last number of years.  It was a sweet and simple way to spend a Saturday morning together.  We do so love this time of year!  (And if you’re local and need a good quiet spot to wander through growing things, we recommend visiting Linda’s Plants and Shrubs.)