leaves like a quilt

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Can it really be the last day of October?  I don’t want to see it go.  I have barely posted this month, besides my faithful yarn along posts, which is probably more interesting to me than to most of my readers.  Dear reader, I’m sorry!

My little corner of the world has been spinning rather wildly, and this month has been busy.  The first two weeks of it, my older brother was in town with his son, and I tried to squeeze in as much time with them as I could.  The kids and I have been outside as much as we can be.  They’ve started this new rhythm since the weather has cooled and the mosquitoes have died down, running to play outside as soon as they are done breakfast until Phoebe and I start school.  They are out most of the rest of the day if we are home.  Phoebe and Noah and I have been reading Island of the Blue Dolphins for our chapter book, which has inspired much of their play.  Coincidentally, someone gave us a tee-pee also, so Phoebe has been busy playing that she is Karana gathering abalones and watching out for the Aleuts.

I just can’t get enough of the color and the beauty of this season.  During a walk one day to our neighborhood park, Phoebe exclaimed: “the leaves are like a quilt!”  I’m so thankful for the perspective of a child!  School has been going so well with Phoebe, I really love doing it.  It is taking up a decent amount of my time and energy, thus my lack of blogging this month.   We really love Phoebe’s co-op as well, the community we are all finding there, and I’m always amazed at how much she is learning and retaining.  She has started a bit of music theory and learning to play a tin whistle, which she loves.  Brandon and I are beginning to talk about Christimas/birthday gifts for them, as their birthdays are quickly approaching.  I’m knitting each of them a sweater, which I really think I will feasibly have done in time.  We’ve talked about giving each of them a musical instrument as well for their birthdays.  Noah is dying for a drum, Phoebe has wanted a violin for some time.  But we are still undecided.

We continue to hope for more improvement in Phoebe’s health, her diet, her growth, her eating habits.  This month has been hard for me in that department.  I realize my frailty, my weariness, my weakness.  The pastor at our church yesterday was speaking about running the race (of faith) with endurance, and that part of what gives us strength for the race is the hope of Heaven.  I was thinking about how my heart hurts and gets weary over this journey with Phoebe, and realized yes, this is part of it.  This is not something that seems to be resolving easily with her, or quickly, and we wear out.  We long for an end in sight, something we can fix our eyes on and run toward.  Yet this is more ambiguous, uncertain.  Our medical team is beginning to recommend more testing.  She will go to Brenner  Children’s Hospital in Wake Forest next month to see a pediatric specialist in Celiacs.  I’m hopeful that we will have more help from there, steps we can take, things we can try, something.

We can’t trick-or-treat and don’t want to deal with having to rifle through the kids candy and pull out what isn’t gluten-free.  I’ve just planned some simple and fun activities for us here at home, and found candy and chocolate that the kids can have from a local health store.  We carved our pumpkin over the weekend and maybe will let the kids dress up and just walk around our quiet, mostly-old-folks neighborhood.

Anyway, so thats a bit of what our October was like, the best month of the year, and why I have been pretty absent in the blogosphere.  I want to not miss these days, these moments.  I want to capture it all, to write it down, to hang onto the glory of these days, each falling like golden leaves, slipping to the ground.  Now, behind us, underfoot, all stretched out like a mosaic, like a quilt.

outing to the reservoir

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Not much time today for words.  It is October and we mostly spend our days out, if we can.  These pictures are from a couple of weeks ago, the first official week of fall.  We took our school work and went on a little field trip to a nearby favorite area from my college years.  We focused on noticing, listening, looking, enjoying.  They ran and laughed and played, and I had a few moments to be quiet and reflect.  When my soul is overwhelmed it usually helps to get outside and remember a bigger world at work in a hundred million ways without my  involvement or attention.  I am so thankful for these three little ones, the bond growing between them, their hungry curiosity about the world, their freshness and innocence and unguardedness.  I learn so much from them.  These days are tired but so achingly happy.

our first camping trip

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Two weekends ago we took the kids on their very first camping trip about an hour and a half away to Smokemont Campground.  We met up with my two best girlfriends from college and their families, which seriously made it the best trip ever.  We borrowed an 8-person family tent from some other friends of ours.  I can’t believe we haven’t invested in one sooner!  We fit a queen-size air mattress in it and our rickety old pack and play for philippa, and still had plenty of room for the other kids to sleep on the floor plus keep all of our stuff inside.  The best parts were:

seeing our children (9 now altogether, with 1 on the way!) play together,  biking around and basically running a bit wild

phoebe’s first time tubing in the river

gluten-free s’mores around our campfire at night

Travis’ endless supply of french press

walking from one campsite to another to visit each other and chat

late night time with my two besties talking about life and homeschooling and all of our ailments now that we are in our 30s

sleeping with the fly off of the tent beneath an inky bowl full of stars, listening to the river + crickets

noah asking me if we could just go home or if we could get in the van and lock the doors

waking up warm and cozy, snuggling long in bed while brandon made me coffee

bacon + eggs (best part of car camping, besides air mattresses)

children with tousled heads and jammies playing in the morning light

We had no major incidents, which will probably give us a false sense of success and victory going into our next family camping trip.  It was only one night, but it felt like a restful getaway and I’m hoping we can squeeze in another trip in the fall.  I felt very inspired by my two girlfriends who have efficient setups and systems for their family camping trips.

the language of flowers

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“The earth laughs in flowers.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson

A little while ago I typed this question into google: “what is the purpose of a flower?”  Interestingly, most of the links that came up talked about the scientific purpose of a flower in the process of reproduction and pollination.  In fact, many of the articles said that the “sole purpose” of a flower is for reproduction for the plant.  Of course, on a scientific level, that is true!  But if I were to ask you what the purpose of a flower is, would that be the first thing that would come to mind?  I find that to be a rather sterile view of the world (never mind the irony).  Surely art has something of value to say to us and not science only.  I was a little surprised that nothing about the cheering effect of flowers was mentioned.  Or their smell.  How about the way they are used to make perfumes?  Or the fact that they have long been acknowledged to have medicinal and therapeutic benefits?

My little Phoebe-girl loves picking flowers and creating little bouquets and arrangements.  I asked Brandon to make her a flower press so she can begin keeping them in a more lasting way.  Maybe it’s just my quest for permanence, my longing to hold onto these fragile days that are blooming and fading so quickly.  How these kids are growing!  How I cannot seem to hold them down and keep them still and just this way for just one minute.  To keep Noah just as he is, trotting out of bed early in the morning, always playing “lion” and referring to himself as the lion (such as, “the lion wants a snack,” and “lions don’t like thunder,” etc.).  Or this game that phoebe and noah play together frequently called “boswell” where noah is the cat, boswell, and phoebe is his owner and walks him around on a “leash.”  Or how philippa is talking up a storm and constantly bowling us over with her personality, always trying to keep up with phoebe and noah, loving to read the “fock” (fox) book every night (“I love you Because You’re You”).

These days are so weary and exhausting and full and busy just with the simple work of running a household and keeping everyone fed and happy, and then all of a sudden everyone has grown again and I just want to hold everything down for a minute and keep it still so I can take it in.  But the days just keep going, time just keeps ticking away.  I suppose thats part of why I snap so many pictures, this quest to hold onto these days and not forget them.

Anyway, as for the press, Brandon made it for phoebe this past weekend and she loves it!  She felt pretty special that daddy made something just for her, and she has been busy pressing flowers.  I want to get her a little simple journal where she can glue the flowers in, but she also may make some cards with them for thank you notes and such.  It’s a simple thing, but one that I think helps her pay attention to the natural world around her, the beautiful things that God created not just for the holy work of reproduction, but also for the holy work of beauty.  I can’t wait to use the flower press as a way for Phoebe to begin a nature journal and as a way for her to catalog different plant species in the future for educational purposes.  But for now, I want her to pay attention to and simply enjoy the beauty she finds around her.

He created our souls to be moved and affected by beautiful things.  It’s why we give flowers to someone who is grieving.  It’s why we bring flowers to someone who just had a baby or who accomplished something great.  It’s why we spend a fortune on fresh blooms for a wedding, sprinkling them all around, signifying new life is beginning.  It’s why a girl gets a fresh bouquet and immediately breathes them in deep.

Beauty has a high and holy power to turn our heads and turn our hearts.  It is a beam, a shaft of light in the dark, and if we trace the beam back to the source, we see the beautiful God whose incredible mind created all of us and all of this, and we sing, Glory!

Last weekend my soul was aching to get up into the mountains, to escape the heat wave we’ve been suffering through, and also just to feel like we got away a bit from the house and our ordinary routines.  We went with my parents for a picnic on Sunday afternoon to nearby Craggy Gardens.  After dinner Noah kept begging us to go for a hike, so we meandered through one of the little hiking trails, walking slow, looking for things to wonder over, exploring and discovering, and phoebe collecting treasures, of course.  Feathers, rocks, found string, pretty leaves, flowers.  I find her little treasures all over the house, tucked in pockets, drawers, baskets.  Fancy that, how to a child, every little thing can be heavy with significance and beauty and purpose.

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(If you want to make your own flower press, some simple instructions can be found here or this is a cute one for purchase if you don’t have a handy man around.  The book I snapped pictures of is this one here, a seasonally organized simple craft book using everyday items found around the house.)

 

when you feel like it all depends on you

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There seems to be a magic to these longer June evenings, where the light stretches long and we let the kids stay up a little later just to savor it.  This is our last summer before we start schooling, and it is sobering a little.  I was reminded earlier this week that we only have 18 summers with our children.  I only have 13 left with Phoebe.  I read these words by Ann Voskamp earlier this week and brim with tears.  Soon I will be on the other side of all of these busy childrearing years.  And so I make plans and ideas to really enjoy this summer together, most of them simple.  And the laundry overflows, the bills pile, the decisions need to be made, and the headlines scream news that breaks my heart and makes me feel helpless.

And we have dinner together as we usually do, and I laugh as I look over to see Noah pushing buttons on his pretend phone.  We have a “no phones at the table” rule, we remind him with twinkling eyes.  He says he is “just checking the Bible,” already wise to the powers of persuasion.

They bathe and get in their jammies, and then beg us to go out for a walk.  We relent, and I grab my camera as we head out the door.  Phoebe carries a bucket to collect her treasures (whatever flowers, pinecones, and leaves that catch her eye).  We head down to our little neighborhood lake to check on the new baby goslings, and are happy to see momma duck and all 8 of her ducklings.  We tell the kids to sit down and be quiet so we don’t scare them away and much to our surprise, momma duck brings all her babies right up the hillside to us.  They are peeping quietly and pecking around on the road and then promptly head back to the water.  It is such a sweet moment, all the children hushed in wonder.  It is as if momma duck wanted to show off all her babies to us.  This will be our third summer in this neighborhood and the first time there has been so much wildlife at the lake.  It provides a lot of opportunities to teach and observe and then go find library books and explore topics and questions further.

And I quiet my soul and praise God for the way He provides perspective.  My soul hungers for wilderness places, even ones as tame as our little lake, because I remember, I see again.  Getting up into the high places far from the noise of machines and man, as my husband and I did recently, gives perspective.  I see the city and houses lying far below, tucked into the hillside and valleys and I wonder at God’s perspective.  How small we all are!  How tiny our little homes and streets and lights and city buildings!  In the grand wide world, smaller still.  But then to get knees down in the dirt of my own plot of ground and wonder at how much is going on here without my involvement or help or notice — fiddleheads unfurling, birds finding food and shelter, trees growing leaves again, bees pollinating, ducklings hatching.  What a vast bounty is here, teaching me of the abundance of God through the incredible diversity and variety of creation.  The species of trees and flowers that I cannot even name or identify, the rain that falls on the mountain peaks dripping through the mossy ground into springs that form streams of water cutting down the valley and crevices, nurturing it all, slowly finding its way into my kitchen sink.

God is above it all.  God looks on it all.  God sustains it all.  God does not need my help in order to accomplish it all.  This land is a loud song of His abundance.  His creativity.  His ability.  His goodness.  His control + sovereignty.

This land is a loud song of my smallness.
My dependency.
My limitations.
My frailty.
My humility.

These are good things to remember.

And maybe you need to remember, too.  Even a small walk in your neighborhood or a nearby trail with the intent of noticing the small things, the hidden things that are growing and living without a hint of your involvement, can be helpful.  It can help loose the tight bonds of worry and fear and self-sufficiency, to a joyful restful dependency on a good God.

The laundry, the gritty floors, the decisions, the finances, the needs and the headlines: it all matters, and I am responsible to be a faithful with what He gives me, busy working.  But He holds me together.  It is all falling apart, but He holds me together.  He holds you together.

Do you not know? Do you not hear?
    Has it not been told you from the beginning?
    Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth?
 It is he who sits above the circle of the earth,
    and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers;
who stretches out the heavens like a curtain,
    and spreads them like a tent to dwell in;
 who brings princes to nothing,
    and makes the rulers of the earth as emptiness.

 Scarcely are they planted, scarcely sown,
    scarcely has their stem taken root in the earth,
when he blows on them, and they wither,
    and the tempest carries them off like stubble.

 To whom then will you compare me,
    that I should be like him? says the Holy One.
 Lift up your eyes on high and see:
    who created these?
He who brings out their host by number,
    calling them all by name,
by the greatness of his might,
    and because he is strong in power
    not one is missing.

 Why do you say, O Jacob,
    and speak, O Israel,
“My way is hidden from the Lord,
    and my right is disregarded by my God”?
 Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
    his understanding is unsearchable.
 He gives power to the faint,
    and to him who has no might he increases strength.
 Even youths shall faint and be weary,
    and young men shall fall exhausted;
 but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength;
    they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
    they shall walk and not faint.
Isaiah 40:21-31

 

first gifts of summer

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The days are heating up, thunder rumbles across our skies most afternoons.  We bend and obey the weather, spending our time outside in the cool early mornings, hunkering down after lunch for naps and quiet and stormy weather.  The city markets in Asheville are opening again, and Phoebe requested that we buy a big bucket of fresh strawberries at the last one we went to.  They really were the best strawberries we’ve ever had, and she’s eaten handfuls every day.  We made these grain-free strawberry shortcakes together for dessert with whipped coconut milk.  All my kids love helping in the kitchen, and I’ve been trying to once again make more of an effort to let them help more, especially Phoebe as the oldest.  Both she and Noah are learning to handle a knife and chop things with me assisting, of course.  She’s been asking for a french braid every day pretty much, and she is asking often for me to “picture” this or that.  She really likes to put on a super cheesy grin for the camera, while I prefer catching the more candid moments.  Maybe the phase will pass.

We also made our first round of popsicles, just blending yogurt, honey, fresh strawberries, and a little bit of flaxseed.  We dropped a few blueberries and chopped chocolate chips in, too, for fun.  We bought these BPA-free molds last summer and used them almost weekly.  We pulled out our little plastic pool from the garage and filled it up for the first time the same day my parent’s neighborhood pool opened.  So, pool days are officially here and we are thankful!  It’s not terribly relaxing for me to take them to the pool but it is maybe the best way to endure the muggy heat of the summer and still have the kids outside for part of the day.

I scribbled down a bunch of family plans and goals for the summer, things I want to make and do with the kids, parts of the yard and house I would like to organize and tidy and rearrange as we start to prepare for homeschooling this fall.  I realized I don’t do very many crafts with the kids, and I’d like to have a space with craft supplies and maybe attempt a once-weekly craft time with them, at least.  We play a lot outside, read a ton, and they are often imaginative and having unstructured play time, but children just love doing crafts, having mommy’s full attention and getting to make a mess and create something beautiful at the same time.  I’m checking this book out from the library for some inspiration.  And I’m taking them to story time for preschoolers at the library, which has music and craft time.  I should probably have been doing it sooner, we went this past week and all had such a fun time.  I made this incredible granola this past week (per Alicia’s recommendation), needing a cold summer breakfast option since Brandon and I both are a bit tired of eggs and pancakes, alternatively.  I forgot how much I love having a good granola on hand, and this one is so simple and fast to make with a very small ingredient list.  I think we’ll be living off of it this summer.

Last weekend we drove up to Balsam Mountain on the Parkway to visit one of my best friends from college and her family.  They live in TN and whenever we come close by one another we do our best to sneak in a visit.  They were camping for the weekend there, and we wanted to join them but just didn’t pull things together in time so we went for the day on Saturday instead.  What a treat it is to see our kids play together, and just to be outside together by a campfire, snacking, catching up and laughing.  When Brandon and I were first married and moved out to Colorado, they moved out also to a nearby town and some of our best memories were sharing times with them there.  I told Mary in a text later how much these brief hang outs make me ache to live closer to them.  When we left, we saw an elk on the roadside, and a few wild turkeys as well.

These are the early gifts of summer.  The first fruit from the vine, the gathering with friends, campfires and pools and the hopes and dreams for these sunny warm days.  Our last summer before school begins and we transition into a new season of family life.

 

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.

 

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