snow for a week

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Last week we had the biggest snow we’ve potentially had in many years here in North Carolina, and we personally had close to 16 inches.  It stayed on the ground for most of last week and today is the first day we’ve really seen the sun and the ground since then.  Everyone enjoyed it so much and somehow we managed to have electricity throughout the entire storm, while many of our neighbors went for days without power.  It was neat seeing the neighborhood pull together to help one another, checking in on the elderly and those without power and offering to help where needed.  We enjoyed a lot of time out in the snow and also keeping our hands busy inside with a few crafts like stringing up dried oranges for garlands both inside and out (for the birds), paper snowflakes, cookie making, painting, christmas movies, etc.  It’s been good to take a break from our usual school work to make time for these activities and just being together, but of course it isn’t perfect.  We still have a lot of bickering and momma getting frustrated with the soggy layers all over the floor and the messes everywhere I turn, but it has been good just the same.  I’m such a work in progress when it comes to patience and grace with my children, and I’m making a concerted effort to do things together this holiday season that are fun for them even if they’re a bit stressful for me.

We went to the Christmas pageant at our church, and we went to our small local mall to send off a package and walk around (i.e.: let the children run and blow off some pent up energy) and happened to visit with Santa while we were there.  I think it’s the first time any of my kids have sat on Santa’s lap and given their Christmas requests.  It was pretty cute and we had some good conversation afterwards, and I remembered so many visits to the mall with my family during Christmas time when I was growing up.

Yesterday we went into downtown Asheville for a Christmas brunch with my family that’s local, since we all help with my dad’s remodeling business in one way or another.  We usually eat out (when we do eat out together) at Posana’s restaurant because it has an entirely gluten-free kitchen and it’s one place we feel safe letting Phoebe eat.  It is a huge treat, thank you mom and dad!  It was windy and cold, but still fun to walk all around and see the Christmas decorations.  Phoebe wanted to take a picture of me (I’m wearing my Timber cardigan and Campside shawl!) and I’m thankful she did, even if I don’t love being in front of the camera.

Over the weekend we went to the annual open house at our favorite pottery place in Brevard, NC and then visited with our old neighbors there for a few hours which was such a treat.  (Elizabeth, if you’re reading, you know I’m talking about your grandparents!) 🙂

Evenings during Advent are spent gathered around our advent wreath, coloring ornaments for the Jesse tree as we read through Ann Voskamp’s Unwrapping the Greatest Gift.  Last night we lit the “joy” candle and it’s hard to believe we are just a few days away from Christmas.  Noah turns six on Thursday, Phoebe turns eight on Sunday and then Christmas is upon us.  It’s going to be a very full week ahead!

I hope you’re staying cozy and warm, enjoying these last few days of anticipation.

a background of beauty

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It’s hard to believe it is the last week of October.  This month is slipping by so quickly, this shoulder month when days flicker between feeling summery and wintry.  We play outside so much during this month and want to soak up every minute of it.  The way the light seems somehow richer, golden, playful.  The sound of the dry leaves clattering to the ground, the crisp air, pumpkins sprinkled everywhere.  I’m slowly trying to make headway on home projects, mainly getting more organized inside our home.  I’ve struggled to feel at home here, and I’m eager to hang pictures and find homes for every little thing, making sense of the space we have.  Something in me longs to make a beautiful, simple, and inviting home for my family and also anyone else who comes into our home.  It often feels overrun by the chaos of books and papers, toys and random articles of clothing that have been dispensed of.  Such is life with small children, but still we can’t give up entirely.  Children inherently love cozy–waking with tousled hair and pulling a chair up by the fire in the early morning dark.  Happily digging through the bin of winter hats and gloves and finding their old favorites once again.  Setting up little homes outside and in, building forts in with fallen limbs and creating elaborate block fortresses.  I think of these words from Edith Schaeffer:

In spite of wilting leaves after a period of time, the memory of that table is as vivid as if it had painted on canvas.  Indeed, the memory of even short-lived beauty makes it worthwhile to take time and energy to provide a background of beauty for the human relationships developing in your home.  Children growing up in an atmosphere where beauty is considered an important part of daily life cannot help being inspired to develop their own original ideas in these areas, nor can they help being prepared to live aesthetically themselves.

-The Hidden Art of Homemaking

The reality is life isn’t always beautiful, even in our own homes where we long to create a haven and a rest from the cruel and dark world.  So this work is hard, plodding, slow, marked by repentance and effort and dependence on God.

This year we’ve done some of our usual fall traditions: picking apples, visiting a farm, painting pumpkins, leaf rubbings.  What are some of your favorite fall traditions?  I’m slowly getting back into my knitting rhythms, so very happily.  I’ve cast on for Philippa’s birthday sweater (her birthday is one month from today!) with that lovely shepherd’s wool, and I have so many ideas for each of the kid’s birthdays and christmas this year.  Brandon (with the help of my dad) brought home a free play gym that they disassembled from a neighbor’s yard, and we have plans to reassemble and fix it up soon as part of the children’s christmas present.  Many projects on the go, many still to come, while we spend our days doing school, reading books, collecting and making pretty things.  The very best time of year is still to come, and I’m wanting to clear our home and hearts, preparing and making room for the happiest season of celebrating birthdays and Christmas.

odds and ends

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We did a little walk last week in our neighborhood, which is a regular occurrence for us.  I called it a nature walk, so Phoebe brought her nature journal and crayons, and we set out to look for things that were interesting, new, and to take note of what is happening in the woods around us during the month of September.  We found a massive spider web (can you see it in the picture above with the building behind it?) which she sat down to draw, while the little ones played bubbles with me, then we all headed to the nearby playground.  It was the first time it felt like one of our “fall” walks, and my heart skipped a beat.  I live for fall in the mountains of NC.  Something in my sort of wakes up, and I would say I am most inspired by fall and winter.  The mornings feel just a little bit cooler, there is the first hint of that distinctive smell, the first scuttle of leaves across the pavement.  We hear acorns constantly dropping on the metal roof of our neighbors house.  I plan to be outside pretty much every day, since the mosquitoes will finally leave us alone.

I finished knitting my first sweater for my nephew and am sending that off this week, and planning knits for each of the kids for their birthdays.  I hope to make each a sweater, but Brandon tells me I’m probably being too ambitious.

School so far has been going really well.  Phoebe seems to drag her feet in phonics, though I think it’s because the book I’m using to teach her is mostly geared toward auditory learners, and she seems to be more hands-on.  She loves math and asks to do it constantly, mostly because of the math manipulatives I think.  She is so incredibly bright and quick to memorize and I’m finding that doing school together gives us just some mother/daughter time that we both are enjoying so much.

Our ordinary days together at home are so full of learning opportunities.  We cook together, talk about odd or exciting things we see out in the world.  We observe the changing seasons, we talk about heart matters as we live alongside one another and sometimes treat each other harshly.  We read scripture and recite memory work.  After nap time a few days ago the three children wanted snack on the porch and I stood at the doorway and watched them all squished together on one side of their picnic table, seemingly oblivious to the fact that they could be more spread out.  But there they were, all squished on one bench, munching and giggling and playing.  It was a happy moment and made me so thankful for this chance to home educate and have Phoebe here with us.  The younger two would really miss her.

A few days ago Phoebe turned to me at dinner and asked, “Why don’t we ever give our food to the poor and needy?”  I was taken aback by her question, quite happily, and we talked about it for a few minutes.  She was thinking, then she bent her head and folded her hands spontaneously and prayed “Dear Lord, thank you for this lovely dinner.  And we pray for all the needs, and the poor and the hungry that you would give them food.  And we pray for all the mean and the selfish an the bullies, that you would help them and that you would take them away and that we wouldn’t have to see them again.  In Jesus’ name, amen!”  My heart was melted (even as I fought laughter over her requests for all of the “mean and selfish.”  Thank the Lord He is more merciful than we are.)  Needless to say, we are cooking a meal this week together to drop off of at a local homeless shelter.  “And a little child shall lead them,” right?  😉

I don’t have particularly spectacular things to say about all of these random odds and ends, but these are the little moments that I don’t want to forget, these are the things of “now,” this is the good stuff that I treasure.

grateful

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So it’s Friday and our week has been b u s y, tumultuous, happy, and emotional.  We look forward to our Friday ritual tonight of homemade (gluten-free) pizzas and a movie of the kid’s choosing.  We look forward to a weekend, to rest and worship.  We give thanks.

Phoebe began her homeschool co-op on Monday, and so we began our own schooling this week as well.  It has been really good and really awkward at times, too, just trying to establish some new rhythms and figure out how navigate these new waters.  There have already been moans and groans, there have been a multitude of interruptions from two little ones underfoot.  There have been potty accidents as Philippa slowly attempts potty training.  Phoebe and I are both loving it, though, and my heart is filled with thanks!  We have had time to cover a lot of material this week, but also play soccer, ride bikes, play outside, go to the pool, run our usual errands, snuggle together and read, begin a nature journal, press flowers, bake and cook.  Schoolwork is sprinkled throughout, and informal learning is emphasized as much as more formal schooling.  The younger two kids usually join us for the beginning of our morning work, doing their own little puzzles or coloring worksheets, before scattering off to play.  What a privilege and a blessing that we get to do it this way!  I don’t want to take it for granted for a second.  This is high and holy work!

Phoebe had a bad bike accident on Wednesday around lunch time, all of us cruising back home on our bikes after playing “soccer” at a nearby field.  She lost control of her bike and I watched in horror as her bike went down and she slammed her face into the pavement.  I grabbed her and saw her front teeth all bent back toward her throat, her mouth bleeding profusely, and we jumped immediately in the van and headed to urgent care.  After a thorough check and a visit to her dentist, we breathed great thanks to a faithful God who protected her from serious injury!  She will loose her front three teeth soon as a result, and she is bruised and scraped, but for the most part is already carrying on in her usual activities.

This morning she had her year check-up after receiving her diagnosis of Celiac disease last July.  She has gained three pounds in the last three months, which is HUGE for our little tiny girl.  She has gained almost 10 pounds in the past year!  Her BMI has increased, and she is in the 20th percentile for weight, which is a first!  We are full of praise once again to our God who has helped us all the way, and who continues to lead us as we seek Phoebe’s health and full recovery.

In all the muddled ordinary of life, it is easy for me to adopt a complaining or entitled heart.  It is easy, natural even, for me to miss the moments of extravagant grace hidden in these everyday moments, even the ugly ones.

“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thess. 5:18)

I don’t want to give in to what is natural, I want a supernatural life, something that can’t be explained apart from the grace of God.  I desire for Him to do this kind of work in me.  I want my children to see their mother pursuing deep roots in Jesus, to see their mother turning her heart back to praise, to see their mother making time for creativity, reflection, truth, and beauty.

Gratitude: A Prayer and Praise Coloring Journal arrived on my doorstep this week, a beautiful summons to slow down, to return to the simple yet profound act of giving thanks.  It couldn’t have been more timely, after the sort of week we’ve had, brim-full with opportunity to worry, complain, grumble, and give in to exhaustion.  I’m excited to dig into this new-to-me format of coloring, of slowing, of turning my mind and heart to thanks, of lingering over scripture and meditating on the simple and profound healing balm.  This journal is absolutely stunning, sturdy, quality pages, simple yet arresting designs, bringing scripture to life and giving it feet.  I pray that for me it is just one simple tool that helps me keep my eyes fixed on Jesus as I go through each day’s work.  Maybe it would be a helpful tool to you, too?  If so, this little journal releases in just a few days (Sept. 1).

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This post contains affiliate links.  

Thanks to Tyndale Publishers for a complimentary copy of this beautiful journal in exchange for my honest review.  All opinions expressed are my own.

spring at the farm

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A couple weekends ago, Brandon was working and I was feeling antsy to get the kiddos (and myself!) out of the house and doing something fun so that we didn’t mope around.  We headed to one of our favorite local farms in nearby Fairview.  There are a couple of farms on that stretch of road, and one of them has fields of u-pick wildflowers.  I was hoping and itching to see some fresh blooms but not much was growing yet.  We did, however, buy a couple pints of their fresh organic strawberries.  The day was a bit overcast and chilly, so the Hickory Nut Gap farm was nearly empty, which made it especially fun.  It kind of felt like it was ours for the day.  We saw the new chicks in the coop, and Philippa LOVED seeing the goats.  She calls any and every animal a “goggie” (doggie) and is the most animated when she sees a goggie.  She was trying to go up to the goats at the fence and pet them, but when one bleated she was so startled and came running back to me terrified.  They have big culvert slides for the kids, and a little picnic area by the creek.  They played in the water and we had lunch, and headed home wet, tired and happy.

Later Phoebe helped me make gluten-free strawberry oat bars.  I adapted this recipe from these applesauce oatmeal bars, but have changed it so much that basically it’s my own recipe now.  Because Phoebe is not eating oats right now in addition to being gluten free, I substituted almond meal for the oats (i’ve heard you can sub quinoa flakes too, but haven’t tried that).  For the flour I sub some kind of gluten-free flour mix.  I use about 1/4 cup of maple syrup instead of brown sugar.  And I use my own homemade strawberry jam instead of applesauce, which is from my favorite grain-free cookbook, the Grain-Free Family Table.  I think you can see the recipe for the jam scribbled above.  I l o v e these bars, they are not too sweet, the strawberries give them a hint of tartness, and they can serve as a snack or a dessert.  They were a bit crumbly, I was thinking I may add a teaspoon of grass-fed unflavored beef gelatin next time just to help them hold together a bit.  We’ll see.  Anytime I can sneak beef gelatin into my kids, I feel very accomplished. 🙂

It was a really beautiful, serene day on the farm and I so love where we live and finding free fun nearby.

 

*Affiliate links included in this post.

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.

let the children play

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“There is a little danger in these days of much educational effort that our children’s play should be crowded out, or, what is from our present point of view the same thing, should be prescribed for and arranged until there is no more freedom of choice about play than about work.  We do not say a word against the educational value of games (such as football, basketball, etc.)… But organised games are not play in the sense we have in view.  Boys and girls must have time to invent episodes, carry on adventures, live heroic lives, lay sieges and carry forts, even if the fortress be an old armchair; and in these affairs the elders must neither meddle nor make.”  -Charlotte Mason (quoted in For the Children’s Sake)

“There are many reasons why children have been reduced to a point where they don’t play with joy, initiative, and creativity.  Often so far as their personality is concerned they are wheelchair cripples, too disabled even for crutches.  Restorative actions means scheduling time, time which is not obviously “improving.”…Certain factors encourage play.  It is often easier home-based than institution-based.  There should be space, and lots of free time.  Children need to be outdoors (for hours).  They need to make noise, mess, and to have access to raw materials (old clothes for costumes, hats, tables to turn into camps, etc.).  They need privacy from intruding adults, but they need interested support in quarrels, thinking of another way around a problem, providing food, and, at the end, bringing the children tactfully back into the world where supper is ready, the camp has to be packed up, children are tired and ready for the soothing routine of evening stories.”
-Susan Schaeffer Macaulay, For the Children’s Sake

Our home days are my favorite days, “home days” meaning the days we aren’t running around doing errands, restocking our various shelves or visiting with friends.  We love all of that, too, but we always try to have some uninterrupted hours outside, too.  One rainy days, we go hunting for puddles and momma gears up mentally for a tub full of muddy, sodden boots and clothes for laundering.  There are things that matter far more than a perfectly tidy home.  I heard a quote on the radio this week that a perfectly tidy home is a sign of a life misspent.  Maybe I’m just comforting myself with those words, but it is a comfort.  Of course, I dream of a perfectly kept home, and there is a great value in a tidy and relatively neat home for providing structure, refuge, and sanity for the family.  But there are more important things at stake than a handful of stray crumbs, cheerios stuck to placemats, laundry heaped clean in a basket.  Children are growing up day by day.  They need affection, affirmation, encouragement.  They need eye contact.  They need to be unhurried.  They need spontaneity, curiosity, exploration, dirt and discovery.

And the reality is us adults need all of that, too.  Having children is a very good thing for us “grown ups.”  It is helping me to be a child again, to remember what a world full of wonder we live in.  It is bringing laughter and silliness again, where once maturity and sensibility was so prized.  It is teaching me, as C.S. Lewis wrote to his goddaughter in the dedication of his book The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, that I am “finally old enough for fairy stories again.”  And I’m so glad.

I’m only learning, though, and often regress.  I’m thankful for these words from For the Children’s Sake, and find myself reminded that children are born learners.  Its often our systems and programming that bore them to death and teach them amiss that learning is a tiresome, bothersome endeavor.  The reality is that if we take them out into the natural world, which is so full to the brim with curiosities, beauty, ugliness, creativity, function, pain, and philosophy, they are sure to find things that spark their wonder, and we can stoke the embers of that wonder into flame.  We do that by getting down with them, exclaiming with wonder over their discoveries, asking questions and prompting their thought, finding books and videos that explore the matter further.

The geese on our nearby pond are nesting, and we just happened to check out a book from the library all about geese families.  We have been checking the geese every day if we can, whether walking to the lake, or hoping on our bikes after dinner in the dusky evening to see if any goslings have hatched.  I am learning wonder again, over things so small and things that didn’t matter much to me before.  I am learning to notice again, to wonder and to find ways to see the glory of God on display in these small and simple things He has seen fit to fill the world with.

“For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world,
in the things that have been made.”

Romans 1:20