summer fun

All the little moments, their childish messes and the general disarray of our home with busy little people constantly at play. These are things I don’t want to forget. Seasons will come and go and the phases they are currently in fade quietly into the next. I was putting wren to bed today and remembered how when she was first learning to talk she would wake up in the mornings and say first thing, “Goo’ morning mom!” in the voice she uses when she’s trying to sound big. I loved it so much that when I put her to bed at night I would always say, “And don’t forget to say ‘good morning mom’ when you wake up.” Before I could even finish saying it she would say “I not forget!” so fast and then I would tickle her. Then she began to tease me and say “I forget,” knowing she would be tickled. I still remind her when I put her to bed and she still says it every morning when she wakes up but now her little voice is different and she doesn’t say “I not forget” anymore and I so wish I had recorded it sometime on camera so that I can not forget. Now she will just say as fast as she can “Forget” and “sbasket” (which is how she says “basket”) just to get tickled as I’m putting her to bed. I love the little years. Hard as they have been at times they have brought so much joy and I don’t want them to end!

Phoebe did drama camp this summer. We were grateful it was offered! She had a great week and played the part of an evil knight in the play. She did a great job! I always admire the ease with which she is on stage performing in front of others. Noah and Philippa did a week of basketball camp (Crossfire Ministries). They were a little overwhelmed at the beginning and balked at going after the first day, but they learned a ton and had a really special week together. It sparked in both of a them a new love for the sport and they have been practicing their drills at home.

In other summer news, my sister and her children visited for about 2 1/2 weeks from British Columbia, Canada. It was a really fun time together reconnecting after three years of not seeing one another and a lot of changes and challenges in our families during that time. It was really precious to be with my niece and nephews, have a lot of pool time and play at my parents house together. We had a picnic one weekend and met my brother and his family there to meet their brand new adopted daughter, Eliana Joy. She was born two months premature and is so tiny in these photos. We loved getting to see her and hold her finally! And we look forward to doing so again soon. (I can’t share photos of her face yet until all things are final.) More summer fun to share in the next couple of posts, I’m trying to catch up after so much busyness and very little time to blog about it all.

I hope you are well and enjoying the final bits of summer!

fires and fireflies

Early July and humid summer nights when darkness comes slowly,
bringing the flicker of the firefly.
All across our yard we see them dance,
little girls in white gowns dancing after them.
Four little children each with their own jar,
squealing delight as they capture this gentle fire in their own glass lanterns.
The first fire of the summer in our new fire ring,
the first evening chasing fireflies.
All this light brightening up the dark, cheering hearts
and bringing quiet peace and joy.
And these precious, simple summer evenings
at home together while they are ten, eight, six, and three,
moments that blaze bright and then flicker away.

summer is for

Summer is for breathing, for catchup up, for catching all the spinning plates that seem to have fallen in the busy crush of the year.

Summer is for stepping back, of evaluating, re-examining, re-connecting. Summer is for celebrating, for sucking the marrow out of the bones.

Summer is for abundant strawberries made into an old favorite dessert, Strawberry Oat bars. Summer is the time for my birthday and we celebrated by spending a day in the woods and river in nearby Montreat, NC, staying for a picnic afterwards. Brandon built me a beautiful cedar box for my birthday to store my hand knit socks. I love it! Summer is for washing and tucking away everyone’s hand knits and cleaning closets + pantries.

Summer is for taking stock of the past school year, ruminating on what worked and didn’t work well, adjusting and beginning to dream about the new school year ahead. It is important for me to step back and refresh my soul in the space.

Meanwhile, as the pressure of school and extracurricular activities lifts, tasks, projects, and plans surface that have been lying dormant. There is mental room and energy to tackle that closet that has been bursting at the seams with scattered shoes and coats.

I knit slippers for my dad that needed to be fixed (the original pattern turned out way too large and floppy) years ago. Here I am finally picking them up and mending them in hopes of having them ready for Father’s Day (success!).

I scribble down jobs around the house on paper for chore charts I printed off and laminated last fall. Now maybe I can implement this simple chore system and have the kids practicing a new routine well before school picks up in the fall and our busy days begin again. Hopefully by then what is now new will be routine.

Sometimes, oftentimes, perfection is the enemy of good, or good enough at least. I want it all to be running smoothly and organized. But projects nearly always take longer than I anticipate, and if I can just slow down and let be what is, not giving up entirely because it isn’t all achievable, and instead welcome slow and steady progress, then slow and steady progress can be made.

I paint the corner of wall in our kitchen that has been a light icky shade of green since we moved in. It takes a full day in between other demands to get this section painted, the trim and the door still need to be painted. Another day I work on painting the new peg rail and pegs, and finally it’s ready for Brandon to hang. Every little step takes time, and every little step brings more pleasure than I expected.

Brandon works on clearing a space for a fire pit so we can dismantle the junky cinderblock fire pit that has been in the middle of our yard since we moved in. We still need to work on the fire pit in the center but it is already such a huge improvement!

Slowly this little old house is coming to be what we imagined and what feels like more of an expression of who we are.

And in the process of all the life happening in the midst–all the “interruptions” to our plans–we are learning to slow down. To see this moment. It’ll never come again. Tomorrow I will be older than I am today. So will my children. A year passes in days. Today is the end of June, the sweet and gentle beginning of summer.

beach days (part 2)

It seems necessary when visiting the beach to have at least one cloudy chilly beach day, and we had a lovely one on our last full day. We drove to nearby Sunset Beach on the tip of North Carolina and we loved watching the deer wandering on the dunes, and the wild stretch of the nature preserve on Bird Island. Though the kiddos began with complaints and assured us they wouldn’t want to get in the water, before long the shirts came off and they couldn’t resist running through the waves with laughter.

You also can’t visit the beach without waking early to catch the sunrise, and staying late to see it set. Brandon’s parents kept the kids for us so we could sneak out early the last morning to do just that, and so that we could stay up late for a sunset walk. It does the soul a lot of good to slow down and pay attention to the sameness and yet miraculous reality of the sun rising and setting day after day. It is sure, steady, predictable, unchanging. Yet, the scriptures say the faithfulness of our God is more sure than even this. More dependable. More to be expected. His mercy and love for us as sure as the sunrise. It is good for us to stop and take notice and to remember. After the sun was up, we explored the beach since the tide was very low. We watched the egrets and sandpipers searching for their breakfast, and we gathered bits of shells and coral to take home and add to our nature cabinet.

The ocean always does its good work on my soul when we are there, and for that I’m grateful. It was refreshing to be there, tiring as these sorts of trips are for parents of little children. It was a good sort of “tired” from trying to squeeze a lot of fun into a few scant days. We can’t wait to go again when we can, and carry all these happy memories in our hearts until then. It was a wonderful way to kick off our summer!

beach days (part 1)

A couple of weeks ago on Memorial weekend, we took a long weekend to visit Brandon’s parents at the beach a few hours away. We haven’t been to visit them in quite some time, nor have we been to the ocean for a long while. It was so good to be away, to become acquainted with the ocean again and the wonders and wildlife that coastal ecosystems have to offer. Wren doesn’t have any memories of the ocean as far as I know, and she was very excited to go to the beach! We left on Thursday after Brandon came home from work and got there quite late that evening. Friday morning we had a relaxing start and then eagerly got ready for the beach. Wren was quite apprehensive about the water and it took her a couple of days to really warm up and feel brave to go in without holding someone’s hand. But by the end she was jumping and splashing in the waves laughing hysterically. The other kids took right to the water, playing on the boogie boards all day, building in the sand, or hunting for shells. Later, Brandon’s dad treated us to a ride on his sail boat. We motored in the intracoastal waterway to watch the sunset and it was both beautiful and peaceful. Bunny had to come along in a bag, just to make sure she didn’t get wet. I’ll share more photos from the rest of our time in the next blog post, there are just too many to share all at once! Suffice it to say, our time together there was relaxing and refreshing, and it did my heart a lot of good to see these kiddos laughing, exploring, playing nonstop, and being generally spoiled rotten by their grandparents. ūüôā What a gift.

pickles, flowers, birds, and a schoolroom update

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It never fails to surprise me how quickly the summer weeks go by. ¬†It seems we barely have anything going on, this year especially, and yet somehow it feels full and busy. ¬†Then all of a sudden it’s August and we are nearly ready to begin another school year. ¬†It may have something to do with the fact that I put off a lot of bigger projects until the bigger breaks (Christmas and summer) and then suddenly I feel like I have a small window to get a lot of things done. ¬†I want to clean and tidy and reorganize all the chaos that has spilled out over the last several months, but attempting to do so with four children underfoot is challenging and feels like an exercise in futility. ¬†I realized this summer that since we will be adding another student this fall (yay, Philippa!) I need a bigger work space to gather children around and sit by them to assist. ¬†I have been cramming myself into a kiddie chair at a very small kiddie table for the last year when I’ve worked with Noah and it finally dawned on me that this wasn’t going to work any longer. ¬†Praise the Lord. ¬†Environment does make such a difference.

So with some moving around of furniture that we already had and buying a few new items to spruce up our school room, we’ve slowly been making changes over the summer. ¬†After three years of living in this house and the prior owners leaving the wood windows half painted in the schoolroom, we finally painted them and the laundry room door also. ¬†It is amazing how something so small makes such a nice difference! ¬†It just looks tidier. ¬†We were given a couple of old hutches and I decided to use one in the school room as a homeschool cabinet. ¬†I will probably paint it in the future, but I do like the original wood. ¬†We’ve been filling the glass top part of it with nature finds that we’ve been saving. ¬†The bottom part will hold puzzles, manipulatives, books, and whatever else we need to keep organized in there. ¬†Brandon put better lighting in also (can lights) because this room is the darkest in the house and that doesn’t make for a great school space. ¬†It has been fun to focus on just one room and make it suited to our needs. ¬†It’s amazing how the kids are drawn more to this space now and I think it is going to work better for us this school year. ¬†I used to spread out and do school at the kitchen table or in the living room, and we still do that for some subjects. ¬†But it has made a big difference for us to work in a dedicated space and keep all of our supplies handy. ¬†It makes it easier for me to grab what we need and helps everyone’s attention spans.

Meanwhile, the garden has been growing, growing. ¬†I’ve neglected weeding it for the past couple of weeks with the high heat, humidity, and the more pressing projects in the house sorting curriculum, planning, and reorganizing. ¬†It’s a bit wild out there now as one can only expect it to be come August. ¬†Our cucumbers continue to abound so I made a batch of refrigerator pickles using this recipe. ¬†(I didn’t use as much sugar and used more peppercorn and mustard seed.) ¬†So good and easy. ¬†We are able to share a lot of what we grow with others and that is always a joy. ¬†I’m thankful for all the flowers, enjoying watching them bloom and cutting some to bring indoors. ¬†Noah has been obsessed with drawing birds from this atlas, he has done at least twenty different drawings by now and they’re really good. ¬†He told me tonight that he wants to set up a stand tomorrow by the road and sell them.

The kids seem relatively happy but I wonder how all of these changes in our world are affecting them. ¬†Noah said at dinner tonight that he wondered when the virus would be over and all the stores could open up again. ¬†I realize we forget to tell them some of the updates happening, that many places are open again but there are still restrictions in place. ¬†Still, it doesn’t feel “normal” to them yet and it’s uncertain for all of us what normal will be from here on out. ¬†Our homeschool co-op will begin in a few weeks, it is a very small group and we are able to continue meeting. ¬†Hopefully that will restore a bit of normalcy for them, but who knows what this fall and winter season will hold?

Some “before” shots of our school room:

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In progress:

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Current iteration:

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I will share a few more photos maybe as I finish up in there. ¬†I am still organizing the shelves and my desk area. ¬†Little bits of work in little chunks of time. ¬†I hope in the next few weeks we are well prepared for a new and maybe altogether different school year. ¬†I’m beginning to feel excited about it.

 

 

 

hello, again

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Hello, again, friends. ¬†It has been a long time! ¬†I’m so sorry for my absence here. ¬†In some ways, it feels arbitrary — I’m not sure who even reads these posts, these snippets of words and photos strung together. ¬†Blogging really can feel a bit like talking to oneself. ¬†But if you are there reading along, hello! ¬†How have you been? ¬†I’d love to hear from you.

A good many things have happened in all of our lives since April. ¬†It’s a comfort to know we share in a lot of it and we understand the strain, stresses, the collective grief we’ve carried. ¬†We’ve been walking through some personal storms also, which have taken a toll. ¬†I haven’t felt like writing, like sharing, even much like taking photos. ¬†Days have slipped one into another, taken up with the necessary tasks. ¬†Space to be quiet has felt appropriate, necessary for survival. ¬†I’ve weighed whether or not to carry on with blogging, sifting my reasons for investing time and energy into it. ¬†Maybe the season for it has come to a close, I don’t know. ¬†Sometimes you carry on with the practice of a thing even though it doesn’t seem to have a great purpose or bear measurable fruit, and it feels hard to give it room in your life simply because you enjoy it.

Weeks have slipped by into months. ¬†We’ve mostly stayed home and enjoyed the solace of escaping to the wilderness when we can. ¬†Come spring we planted a garden, maybe all a bit too early in a bit of an anxious rush to get food growing. ¬†Our spring was colder than normal and our garden took forever to take off. ¬†It’s mid-July now and just this week our zucchinis, squash, and cucumber are harvestable. ¬†I’m still waiting on tomatoes to ripen, it feels so late. ¬†Summer is my least favorite season, though I don’t despise it. ¬†I just feel more cooped up because of the heat, humidity, and bugs. ¬†I feel less able to enjoy the outdoors and I think that’s why I dislike it. ¬†Keeping a garden brings so much joy to me in part because it gives me a good reason to savor summer, to be outside and to see the benefits of all that humid heat in the swell of red tomato skin and crisp bite of cucumber. ¬†Zinnias, calendula, cosmos, coneflower, and poppies are blooming and filling up the drab beds, a quilt of color. ¬†These garden photos are from some weeks ago, now. ¬†Before long the tidy rows will be an unruly jungle.

I’ve been catching up on children’s dental and annual doctor well-checks. ¬†Noah and Phoebe did their annual academic testing (required by the state) and both did so well, I was immensely encouraged. ¬†The last months of our school year were so difficult and distracted, we were all so burned out. ¬†Yet I see their scores and I marvel at how well they are learning. ¬†It’s all worth it to see the fruits of our labor on paper, to see that the sacrifices and inevitable exhaustion (for me) involved in homeschooling still outweigh the other educational options available to us. ¬†A good break from our homeschool routine also gives much-needed perspective and refreshment, and already I can see that we’re getting hungry to return to our studies.

We’ve been keeping up with piano lessons and swimming lessons weekly. ¬†I’m beginning to plan out our next school year, while still trying to tidy and put away work from the last. ¬†I feel horrible in that area, but really when we wrap up our school year I’m ready to not look at curriculum and papers to file for quite some time. ¬†I never can believe how fast these summer weeks fly by. ¬†I’m also making some improvements to our little school room, always trying to find ways to better organize books and materials while also creating an inspiring space for learning. ¬†Knitting and reading fills my evenings, bringing calm, a creative outlet, space for my mind to grow and wander as the day winds away and fireflies flicker like embers rising from grass, cicadas singing evening songs.

I hope you are well. ¬†I hope you are savoring the summer abundance and rhythm. ¬†I hope you are your loved ones are well. ¬†I hope you are pursuing the things that are life-giving and refreshing to you amid the mundane. ¬†I hope you sense God’s presence with you, His everlasting arms underneath, upholding, undergirding it all.

xo
Martha

p.s. I’m playing around with a new blog layout. ¬†I hope you enjoy the freshening up and can be patient with me as I continue to tweak it!)

autumnal equinox

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Usually I rush off from the last hot days of summer and try to hurry fall’s arrival. ¬†I’m learning though that any time we rush ahead, we lose. ¬†We lose time. ¬†We rush through the good as well as the bad, and we miss the beauty of this moment with all its nuance, ¬†both the dark and the light. ¬†So this summer’s end I’ve been forcing myself to slow and to savor these last summer days of 2019. ¬†These days when Phoebe is 8 years old, straddling the fence of childhood and “big girl-ness,” when Noah is 6 and loves to fly through the yard on his bike, Philippa is 4 and trots along behind big brother into whatever he’s doing, and Wren is a feisty 18 months, toddling to keep up with everyone and fiery mad when she can’t. ¬†I know next summer will have its own flavor and I don’t want to miss these days that will never come just exactly like this again.

It has been a good summer, one in which we traveled near and far, enjoyed our own mountains and the west coast mountains of California. ¬†It was a summer of learning how to swim and intentionally trying to make progress in that area for each of the children. ¬†It was a summer of garden triumphs and failures. ¬†The ground is giving us the last bits of harvest, the zinnias are firing off their final blooms, the mighty sunflowers bow their heads to the gentle fade of daylight. ¬†Wren wears her fairy dust cardigan for the first time on the chilliest morning. ¬†Philippa stirs soup in her little outdoor kitchen. ¬†Goldenrod and pokeberry blaze, the first leaves carpet the lawn. ¬†Noah pretends to chop firewood, lays in the hammock and reads books to his sister. ¬†Daddy cleans the canoe to take out for summer’s last hurrah. ¬†I trim more little bundles of lavender to dry for the winter, and then I trim little girls’ hair and marvel at how sweet they look now with their little matching bobs. ¬†It was a sweet one, this summer, even with its pockets of pain and heartache along the fringes. ¬†We are missing the thunderstorms, the heaps of cucumbers and tomatoes, but we are ready to lay it to rest and welcome the crisp cozy air of fall, the beautiful new light of October, the lighting of the first hearth fire. ¬†Alls well that ends well, as they say.

mountain farm museum

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Maybe they were some of the last hot days of 2019, and if so, thank goodness!  As we left the campground the other weekend, we stopped by the Oconoluftee Mountain Farm Museum down the road eager to explore the little old homestead.  The historic log farm buildings were moved to this sweet valley tucked beside the Oconoluftee River in 1950, and it was neat to peek inside this old home built from chestnut wood before the chestnut blight hit our mountains in the early 1930s and 40s.  I found the home to be quite charming and marveled at how much of that lifestyle from over 100 years ago now appeals to me (and many of you too, I would guess).  It would be a beautiful little spot for a real homestead.  The children enjoyed running free and seeing the free-range chickens and the smelly old sow in her picket enclosure by the river.  And of course, the elk again with the sweet fawns, so close to our car.

Afterward we had planned to begin the drive home but the kids begged and pleaded for us to let them swim in the river again before we left. ¬†It’s truly a beautiful river so we let them swim one last time before heading home. ¬†It was a really sweet, fun weekend (even though camping with kiddos is a ton of prep and work!) and a good way to make the best of these last warm summer days.

sweaters and swimsuits

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Looking at these pictures today made me chuckle, the juxtaposition of sweaters and woolens with sprinklers and swimsuits. ¬†We had a few cooler days (more like 80s instead of 90s) last week and cooler evenings, and thankfully here we can escape on the Blue Ridge Parkway to higher elevations and it is usually always chilly. ¬†I’m thankful for those little respites from the heat, the glimpses of fall. ¬†On the weekend we went for a picnic with my parents and of course, I didn’t pack enough warm layers because I couldn’t imagine it being that chilly, but it was. ¬†The fire was so cozy and we hope to get out camping soon, soon! ¬†The kids helped hunt for firewood and good climbing trees, and played hide + seek. ¬†We lingered in the beautiful evening light and Brandon did a short, impromptu map + compass lesson with the older three. ¬†Time up there in the quiet wilderness is always refreshing to my soul.

Meanwhile at home, flowers are growing, the garden is still giving its gifts, and bored sweaty children plead for sprinkler games. ¬†I’m in the thick of planning for the coming year, and I’m getting excited for school days to begin soon. ¬†I mentioned on instagram that I listened this week to the Charlotte Mason Poetry podcast latest episode (from Jul. 23) titled “Habits for Life” and was so reinvigorated by it. ¬†I highly recommend it!

Anyway, these are simple little snippets from my week.  It is the first of August now, and the last days of summer freedom are upon us.  May we savor them!