Spring : March

And spring it is! Every tree has buds and tiny, new leaves. The forsythias are glowing their yellow hues around every corner and the spring bulbs are all blooming. Every fall I try to drop a few dozen bulbs into the ground and every spring I am surprised and grateful when they unfold their cheery flowers into the crispness of March. The fourth weekend in March I brought the first cut flower bouquet of the year into our dining room. It made me smile like a fool.

I prepped garden beds all month. I went ahead and made my order for seed potatoes so now I have no choice but to finish weeding, breaking up dirt, mixing in compost, and laying down a weed barrier around the beds they will grow in. It’s much easier on the back to place happy little flowers in the ground and I’ve done a little of that as well, just to keep my spirits up while I wait impatiently for our last frost date.

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The tomato seedlings are the happiest I’ve ever had thanks to my little brother’s greenhouse which he let me borrow. I also have started a number of different flowers in there. Slowly, slowly I am learning this little plot of land we are on and figuring out how to foster an environment where different plants can grow. Every year that passes I feel more confident about what might grow and where I can branch out and try new things. I fail and kill a lot of plants, actually, but I have had some great successes, as well.

In March we enjoyed reconnecting with family we had not seen in years. It is always a joy to watch my kids play with cousins. Or are they second cousins… It was also a nice break to get out into the old farmland of Virginia.

We went to North Carolina for my birthday. Eggs benedict, wine, conversation, laughter, it was everything I wanted it to be. I made bank this year with a new Suburban and a dish washer!! Talk about life changing… something about having a fourth child made me want a dish washer and I have not been disappointed. Even now, every time I load it, pour in the soap, and push a button I feel grateful for it. And the truck? It feels like luxury. We call it “El Chapo”.. may have something to do with the slashed seats…

 

And now we are two weeks into April when I am finally getting around to posting this! My computer is on the fritz so we’ll see if I can keep nursing it along. Also, I have been down with a terrible head cold. Which has left me so much more time to read and dream and plan. More to come…

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Winter : February

February. It seems February has always been the hardest month to get through. When I was a kid we used to go to the ocean in February. When I lived on the coast I used to remind myself that with the passing of February the craziness of the tourist season would be dying down for us at our cafe and soon we would be able to breathe again. Now that I am back in a location with four seasons I remember how long February can feel: please just get me to March and spring!

However, I am happy to report that while my driveway and yard are a series of puddles and mud pits my attitude is remaining positive. It helps that we continue to have warm, sunny days interspersed with the rain. And the bulbs are coming up! Almost every day I walk around the house and look at the bulbs bravely pushing their way into the light.

Not long into this month we enjoyed a glorious week of sunny days in the 60’s. (If you have not noticed, I watch the weather like a hawk. I use my weather app when I plan outings with the kids, when I plan meals, when I brainstorm garden ideas. I recently realized that I have started watching the level of the James River like I used to watch the behavior of the waves on the ocean. Somehow watching the sky, the nature around me, helps to keep me grounded even if it does make me sound like an oddball.) I saw this glorious week of warm weather coming and booked our days full of fun: trips to the play ground with friends, dinners out of doors, lots of garden clean up, bonfires.

By the time we reached the weekend and the snow returned I was ready to crawl back into my cave and return to hibernation. We have winter for a reason. It is important to settle in and hunker down with our families, our thoughts, our plans. It helps us grown the roots down a little deeper, I think.

Now. I used to live in a tropical environment when the time for work and play was during the winter. That left us the summer… that long, lonely season that some years lasted from April to November. We used to hunker down then, as well. Tropical summers are nothing to laugh at. The point is, we need time to come back to ourselves. It is easy to be distracted. I am tempted in so many ways, by so many things, to keep my life busy. I can stay home for days and still keep my mind overly busy with all the news, entertainment, and information available to me right here. It is hard to say no.

I have been struggling with some anxiety recently. In those moments I just want to numb it with some kind of distraction. It is hard to sit down in silence and look at it. Over the years I have dealt with depression and anxiety. I know that dark place and I don’t like it. I have found people who will look at me and say the words I need to hear and I have discovered that trying to push the darkness aside and ignore it is not the answer. I leaned into it this month and learned a little bit more about myself and about my lack of trust in a loving Father. So the struggle continues and I continue to attempt to walk in a grace not mine.

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A few notes…
Lent begins next week. I am thinking of marching my kids out into the world as beacons of light. I plan on visiting some lonely people, surprising someone with an act of kindness, and giving a gift to a stranger.

My birthday is later in March and I get to celebrate with my daddy which makes me really happy.

Did I say homeschooling was going really well? Yeah, we’ve hit a bit of a rough patch… but we took a week off and are trying some new things and so far we’re doing ok again.

In March I want to write more, pray more, and put lots of seeds in the earth.

 

 

Winter : January

Here we are in January of another year. This winter has been mild compared to last year’s freezing temperatures and I’m thankful for that, but I am most thankful for the sun. We have had lovely sunny days when it doesn’t really matter what the temperature is. We have had snowy days and an ice storm, complete with a power outage but after the storm, the sun came back and everything glistened and the woods sang with an icy, crackling sound.

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As I do every year, I made resolutions during the last weeks of December. They were just the normal ones people always make: exercise more, drink less, read more books, stare at fewer screens. So far, I’m doing ok. I’ve polished off a couple books and I have learned that shutting my phone off well before bed works wonders for cutting back on the constant scrolling that takes place otherwise.

I am in a season of learning to do “self care” well. I guess it has been percolating in me for a while. I began to realize that I needed to be more intentional in carving out time for myself in order to keep a balance that works for our lives. This is not an easy thing to do when you have four kids and a husband who travels for work. But now that I have four kids I find that I need the space more than ever. I am so thankful to have a husband who understands my needs and a friend always willing to take my children for an afternoon.

So what does it look like? Sometimes it’s just grocery shopping by myself. Trust me, that can be a treat. I often head to the library to sit and journal in the quiet by the big windows. When the weather allows I will pull on my outdoor boots and slog through the mud or across the frozen ground of a nearby park. Whatever I do I try to be intentional with the time I have. I leave my phone behind, I turn off the radio in the truck, I push out the to do lists and projects and focus on the sunlight or the shadows. I have found myself really drawn this year to the winter colors in the landscape: tans and browns, greens of different hues, the occasional red or deep purple of leaves and berries. I feel like I am soaking up winter in a way I never have, nestling into the cold of it and finding warmth.

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Homeschooling is going better than I could have hoped. We have hit a nice stride since coming back from the holiday break. It truly is one of the joys of my life, which has not always been so. We still have school periods that end in tears or books slammed closed and left for the next day but overall we are pretty happy. I am trying to incorporate more for Liam who, at two and a half, frequently finds himself left alone with nothing to do. Not a good place for a toddler to be! It has cost me plenty of maple syrup which he poured all over the table. Twice! And there is not a chapstick in the house that hasn’t been mashed into the cap.

January saw us rock climbing, meeting friends to fly kites at the park, listening to and reading so many books, and drinking plenty of piping hot tea.

Going forward, I want to write more. I want to pick up the fiddle again. I want to spend more time with girlfriends. I want to learn to paint.

I miss the ocean. It makes me cry sometimes, I miss it so much. I still have so many thoughts and emotions surrounding the last couple years that I don’t know how to put down in words. I am still so grateful for the many people in my life who challenge me to both grow and rest. It is a new year and I am thankful.

 

Walking gently toward fall

Little miss Estella Marie is here. She took her time in coming and I was going crazy the last few weeks, but come she did on September 9th. And once she had made up her mind to come, boy, did she come! We had planned on a home birth with my amazing midwife Nancy. I had organized candles, affirmations cards, snacks, and was anticipating a gentle, centering birth like I had when we welcomed Liam two years ago. What I got was a mad rush; labor was an overwhelming, painful, out of control experience. My mother was my midwife and doula, my husband was my strength, as he always is. Together they supported me as I fought my way through the chaos of labor until I caught Stella into my arms, crying and strong. Labor lasted about 2 hours. Relieved that all had gone well, my mom tucked me into bed while Ben made us eggs benedict to celebrate.

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Copyright Patience Salgado

The name we had chosen didn’t fit her and it took us some time to find her name. She was born with her face toward the sky and Nancy told me babies born this way are called star gazers, so Estella seemed appropriate. Stella’s was not the birth I expected or wanted, but it is the one I was gifted and I am a stronger person now.

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Copyright Patience Salgado

Stella is sweet and thoughtful. She sleeps well and is happy when she’s awake. We all adore her and Liam, especially, dotes on her.

 

Three weeks later and I am feeling well. We enjoyed a bonfire the evening of the autumnal equinox to welcome in the new season and the first of October saw us at a local pumpkin patch collecting pumpkins and mums. I love Fall. During those moments when I feel overwhelmed by life with four children it has been a help to know that it is Fall. I am not supposed to rush or hurry to enjoy every moment like we do in the Summer, I am free to calm and quiet. I am meant to set aside the math worksheets and watch the children climb trees in the cooler temperatures. I can sit and enjoy the lengthening shadows as the sun sets over the tree line. I can mix up pumpkin bread and spiced scones and brew a pot of tea. It is the season for quieting and letting go.

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Estella Marie ~ 6 lbs, 15 oz ~ 19 inches

The first two photos were taken by Patience Salgado. She walked into my room like an old friend and gave me the gift of a listening ear and some amazing photos. Please check out her work and her beautiful spirit here.

33 Weeks

Did I forget to mention that we’re expecting baby number 4? Sometime in August, most likely, our new little one will make the grand entrance into this world. We are planning for a home birth like we had with our first two children. The last few weeks have seen me prepping a box of birth supplies, making list after list of projects to do and meals to prep and freeze, and trying to implement habits and routines for our days and weeks that will, hopefully, carry over into the postpartum weeks. (Like getting my kids to¬†actually¬†do their chores!) I feel really good about where we are. I feel well in spite of the extreme heat and I feel ready to meet this new life. Almost ready. Not too soon, though, little one…

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I have also been spending quite a bit of time on the next homeschool year because I know how important it is for me to feel like I have a plan I can implement. My brain will not be able to put a plan together for some time after the birth, this I know from past experience! If I have the map for where we are going and have a step by step to get us there, then, hopefully, I can just show up and encourage them on their way. And read, read, read.

On Thursday Ayden and Willow will both have an evaluation done on their progress academically since this time last year. This is a requirement of the state and I feel confident that they are doing well; this in spite of my abilities to teach them and more a result of the incredible ways they learn and grow. One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned about homeschooling this past year is that the plan is necessary for me but not for them. They are learning all the time.

Already this summer we have had three amazing, educational experiences just dropped in our lap. First, the kids picked out specific sunflower seeds, planted them, and are watching them grow. They are huge and will not bloom until the end of August. Second, we had a little wren couple build a nest in one of our hanging baskets. Over the next 5 or so weeks we watched the little eggs be cared for, hatch, be fed all kinds of spiders and bugs, and we were there the morning all five of them jumped out of the nest and flopped awkwardly around the porch learning to fly. It was amazing. Third, after we learned about honeybees from library books we were able to get pictures of a honeybee collecting pollen from one of our sunflowers. This learning thing is real life and I feel so, so lucky that we all are getting to learn together.

The summer has been a hot one so far with maybe a week’s worth of cooler days – the kind of days one is incredibly grateful for. We have spent many evenings at the pool and many hot afternoons watching the World Cup in the comfort of the AC. We went to the mountains for a weekend in June and it was exactly the break I needed at the moment I needed it: restful, fun, centering.

July looks like finishing up preparing for the birth and baby while enjoying the bounty of summer’s produce, late nights, and time in the water.

August will see us visiting with my brothers and sisters, welcoming our wee one, and resting together as a family.

September, I hope to be getting back on my feet as far as homeschooling goes. Maybe not till mid-late September… and then a gentle walk toward Fall.

Rush, rush: summer!

Well, I asked for summer and I got it! We have had a couple weeks now with 90 degree temperatures, outings to the pool, and sunburns. It came faster than I expected but I’m enjoying it!

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Searching for red strawberries

I take my coffee outside in the morning and enjoy the cooler temperatures while planning what I should do in the garden. I wander around in dew soaked grass searching the ground to see what seedlings might have emerged overnight: sunflowers, cucamelons, cosmos, pole beans. I feel a mad rush now, to get seeds in the ground. We went from cool spring straight into hot, hot summer and I am scrambling to turn beds and throw in seeds. I am impatient to see them grow. I work in the garden in my pajamas until the sun gets around and the air gets too warm: usually that’s around 11 or 12 with a quick break for second breakfast in between.

Everything seems to be moving now. Our family is moving just like the butterflies that flit past, tumbling around together, alighting momentarily and lifting off before Liam’s grubby little hands can reach. The dishes pile up, the laundry is always waiting to be folded, the floors are consistently, remarkably in need of a sweep, but we keep flitting from garden to popsicles to books to the pool and back to the garden as the sun drops. It’s glorious. I love the carefreeness of summer. After the long winter it feels so good.

Unfortunately, we have all picked up a virus. So this newfound freedom is often spoiled by noses that won’t stop running, headaches that make us lie down, and sleepless nights of comforting small bodies. It makes me think we might be moving too fast. It’s so much easier to listen to one’s body in the cold, dark days of winter. We have no time for that now! We have soccer games and swim dates to get to! As you may have guessed, we hit a wall over the weekend. The mom guilt settled in and I mixed up some orange juice and herbal tea. We are still wandering out to put a plant in the ground or water the pots but we’re laying low and letting life settle. My goal this week is to finish our read aloud. And get well.

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Flow

Where to start…? It has been such a long time since I sat down to write anything other than a quick journal entry. I have spent quite a bit of time trying to figure out why I stopped writing, why the words stopped flowing and where they might have flowed away to. I’m not sure I’ve found the reason though I have some ideas. Over the last few months I have felt a softening, an opening in my heart, where I had unknowingly closed up tight. I feel ready to see if the river of thoughts and words will change its course again, flow back through me and water my soul.

To begin, I should give a quick update about the every day details of my life. I am at home with my three kids most days. I teach the two oldest (7 and 5) to read and do sums and love stories. We read books and build forts and argue and get frustrated at one another. We all take turns trying to entertain the almost 2 year old little guy who loves to be held, kick a ball, be outside, and knock over anything stacked. We have soccer practices twice a week and games on Saturday. We have a Montessori based class on prayer and meditation that we attend once a week. We visit the library and now that the weather is warm (finally!) we will start going to the park again. I love being at home with my kids even if I do get overwhelmed on an almost daily basis by laundry, dishes, meals, and said precious kids.

My husband used to work about 45 minutes away roasting coffee in a warehouse but as of this week is working from home! Yes, the coffee roaster is now in our garage along with green coffee, packaging equipment, bags, bins, tubs, and all the small things that make a coffee roasting company run smoothly. We are very much in the adjustment stages of moving a business into our home space but it’s wonderful to have Ben around.

We traveled a bit in April and I didn’t get any vegetable seeds planted for the garden so I will have to buy plants this year. Which I am secretly pretty excited about, even if it does limit the variety I have to choose from. Raising seedlings is stressful! I am eager to see the garden take shape but a sick baby and rain have slowed down my efforts. I want more flowers this year than what I had last summer, and more tomatoes!

We doubled the size of our chicken farm last month, which means we have 8 chickens and a rooster. Something has happened recently and the food started disappearing from the shelves within days of shopping. My answer? More eggs. When in doubt – or hungry – the answer is usually eggs.

I am dying for spring to merge into summer! It was a long, cold winter for us and while I love the season of hot tea and scones, fires and long, dark nights, good books and soups and breads, I am so over it. I am craving salads and roasted peppers and sunburns and swimming and summer fruit and fresh tomatoes on everything! I know myself, and I will be complaining of the heat in a few months but today, a rainy, gray, wool sweater kind of day, I want the sun.

Enjoy a few shots of the family from last couple months!