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.

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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!

 

wrapping up summer

The summer is winding down. I can feel it in the air and see it in the slanting of the sun’s rays across the kitchen floor. I feel the stirrings in my heart for rhythm and routine. This summer has been a whirlwind, exactly what a summer should be: too many late nights, friends and family, dirty kids being tucked into bed without washing up, guitars around bonfires, camping in the tent, hikes, swims, s’mores.

Our stay on John’s Island for the family reunion was perfect. It was the first time we had all been together at my grandparents cabin as adults. We had so much laughter. We watched the bald eagle soar over our heads and listened to the seals at night, we spotted the orcas and tried oh so hard to spot even one jumper; we were too early for the salmon, though. We chopped and stacked lots of wood and painted sealant on the captain’s room upstairs. It felt good to do some upkeep on a place we love so dearly. I think my favorite part might have been watching my children with their cousins, so many grimy little hands and feet. Those kids played hard all day, everyday in the same magical places I did when I was their age. We are so blessed to have this legacy, to be a part of this family.
The first weekend back we celebrated Ayden’s 7th birthday. I still have a hard time telling people he’s seven… He began soccer last week and will be playing on the same team with two of his buddies. We’re all pretty sure it’s gonna be awesome. His face simply beamed through the entire practice. In September he’ll start first grade along with Willow. Homeschooling is a whole other story… but I think it’s going to be better this year.

The second weekend I was shocked by the events in Charlottesville. I was shocked by the hatred. It is the only word that I have been able to stick on the response I felt. It seemed like I spent the weekend walking around in a fog, listening to the news, refusing to believe but being forced to understand that the hatred is real, palpable. On Sunday evening after dinner we received news that a dear friend of ours had passed away suddenly. My heart breaks for his family, his legacy. He was such a gentle, strengthening friend. The light for me throughout the weekend was welcomed into the world as a promise and a hope: little Sojourn James is the seventh cousin to join our family. My sister and her lovely family are doing well. So thankful.
With the cooler temperatures we have begun cleaning up the grounds around the house a bit. There were three trips to the dump over the weekend as we clear away piles of rusty metal and old barbed wire. We burned leaves and brush and tilled up the winter garden bed; my little broccoli and cabbage seedlings are doing well and the first round of carrots are growing in the garden. We have family coming for the last hurrah of summer, Labor Day Weekend.

 

I planted a garden

This garden… well, it is teaching me patience. I walk out every morning and check on the flower buds but every morning they are still buds. They are closed up tight and I can’t even tell what color they will be. What are those pretty petals doing in there? How long can it take to grow flowers from seed? A long time, apparently.

I also planted a vegetable garden. The first year of our marriage I planted tomatoes and they did really well in spite of my lack of care and know how. Now I spend many mornings and evenings reading gardening blogs and trying to pinpoint which bugs I should be smashing and how to trellis cucumbers. We had a few homegrown salads, some snap peas, and now we are plucking beans off the vine. We’ve gotten a few cucumbers and some new potatoes. The tomatoes are taking their sweet time… but there are lots of green promises of red.

It is incredible to me every time I put a seed in the ground and a few days later up comes a bunch of tiny sprouts. I never expect it to work and somehow it does. My garden is a wild one. I keep throwing flowers in when I read that they are good companions for one plant or another. Or when I get tired of flowers that won’t bloom fast enough I just throw more zinnia or cosmo seeds in. There is a spindly little rose bush smack dab in the middle of the garden. It started as a stump and I tried to rip it out. I am so glad I failed because it has bravely sent out its shoots and given us some deep red roses. The pole beans and cucumbers are out of control. I feel bad for them as they are so obviously sending out their tendrils in hopes of latching on to something but all they get is thin air – actually, it’s quite thick, humid, palpable air right now. But I also kind of enjoy the challenge of sitting in front of the tangle of vines trying to see the prize, a plump, perfect vegetable – grown from a seed!

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The kids like to help sometimes. This has produced thick seedlings in some areas and sparse seedlings in others, broken tomato stems, flowers with half the root ball still out of the ground, and plenty of joy as they finally see the cucumber hanging there ripe for the picking. My kids love cucumbers. Tonight we dug up some pretty, purple potatoes. Everyone participated, even Huck Finn, the kitten. Ayden carried them inside and washed them up at the sink. He said he felt like a farm boy. I catch them tearing off basil leaves as they pass by and in my fear of not having enough basil for late summer pesto I have thrown about 4 packages of basil seeds in the ground. Of course, every seed seems to have germinated so we should be ok.

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In other news, we are leaving next week to a family reunion in Washington State. Back to John’s Island. We are counting down the days!

The weather is HOT right now and we go to the pool at the YMCA almost every evening.
We took a break from the weather and went to the North Carolina mountains for a few days and played with cousins and aunties and uncles.

And here are a couple shots from our little summer solstice party.
It’s a pretty fun summer so far.

Wonder

It’s been a rough couple weeks for us. We have been busy, distracted, challenged, and stressed. I have not been sleeping well for that last few days. It’s been good but rough around the edges. There are many reasons for this that I won’t go into now but I need to tell you that so you can picture today’s beautiful moment. I am sitting on the porch in the shade with a naked Liam nearby, the kids have climbed up a tree and are playing a game involving Star Wars characters. I am reading an article in the New Yorker and Liam is playing with beer bottle caps (Under my supervision, of course. It’s dangerous to leave a one year old alone with beer bottle caps: perfect choking hazard. That’s when Liam is most content though, with a choking hazard. So…).

Liam suddenly looks at me and makes one of his cute, one year old noises. I put down my magazine and look at him as he smiles then throws his head back and lifts his arms, making that adorable “look” noise again. I realize he is recognizing the wind that has just picked up and is blowing the trees all around us. I smile and laugh with him, throw my arms up and say “WIND”! He smiles, arms still overhead, and starts to clap. He is experiencing the sensation of the wind on his skin, in the trees blowing above him. Nothing else. Just experiencing wind. I tried to keep him in the moment as long as I could. It was like freedom for me, that one moment of sheer joy in a natural, everyday occurrence. Why do we cease to enjoy these simple pleasures?

I was reminded of an evening in Melaque when I was sitting down by the ocean watching the sunset. Little Ayden was sitting beside me playing in the sand. He was building something with sticks and bits of shell and plastic bottle caps he had found on the beach. It was summer when the waves are big and boisterous, the only sign of some disturbance out on the open ocean. Suddenly a huge wave crashed, sending spray up onto the beach where we were sitting. Ayden stopped what he was doing and looked up, squinting at the mist hitting his face. He looked at me with the same joy and recognition: that briny ocean water was hitting his face and he knew what was happening. It was no longer just a sensation he couldn’t explain, he was connecting the ocean wave’s spray with the sensation he was feeling on his skin. I had the same response I did today with Liam. The world seemed to pause as I recognized a sensation, the little miracle, that was taking place for my child.

There are no pictures only memories to hold onto and hope they last. But these little moments remind me… There are miracles all around. Just stop. Recognize the small wonders.

 

Spring and kids

Or is it summer? It’s hard to tell these days when the sun is hot on bare shoulders and the temperatures push into the 90’s. But the mornings are crisp and the coffee steams on my porch table. The evenings ask one to pull on a sweater and move dinner outside.

The kids will spend hours playing in the tree fort Ben built, swinging on a rope swing, or reading in the little Spring corner we created that gets just enough sunlight pouring through the honeysuckle and tree leaves. Often I find them clambering up and down and across Ben’s ladders and scaffolding set up. This is usually part of a game involving Nerf guns and swords and a mixed bag of characters: Darth Vader, Han Solo, Spiderman, The Flash, Elsa, Anna, Supergirl, and the occasional baby dinosaur. I get worried when they try to combine the costumes that go with these characters and the ladder climbing, but so far we have not had any accidents. They have only seen Frozen but somehow Star Wars and all the superheros are deeply in bedded in their imaginative play. They love to be read to and we are reading Pippi Longstocking and Mrs. Pigglewiggle along with library picture books and Ayden’s military aircraft and naval vessel books.

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Homeschooling is a continual challenge. We have good weeks and weeks when we don’t do anything structured at all. I blame our lack of routine on Liam who is completely unpredictable. Actually, for the last three weeks he has been predictably fussy, clingy, and will scream any time he is put down. It has forced me into using his nap time (which only happens if he is strapped to my body in a carrier) for doing laundry and dishes and transplanting desperate and dying seedlings into bigger pots. Occasionally I will bounce around with Liam and try to teach letters to the kids but it is exhausting for all of us. Both Ayden and Willow can read easy stories and are great at simple addition and subtraction. They are both so curious and love to be read to so I feel like as long as we keep that up we are in pretty good shape, right?

Our little home is slowly transforming before us. We now have three gardens, 5 chickens and a couple little chicks, and two tabby kittens: Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn. The kids are learning about chores and love collecting eggs; we have lost many of them in the excitement. Tom and Huck are the newest addition. I have had to lock the poor kittens in the bathroom just to let them rest a while! Liam is fascinated by all the animals, loves to dig in dirt, and is generally always happy if he is riding high in someones arms outside. One of our chickens up and died a few weeks ago and with the help of some farming friends we butchered her and stuck her in the freezer: a stewing hen for a cool day. I feel now that we have butchered our own animal we can call our place a farm.

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Our family has been incredibly blessed with a community of friends who farm in a neighboring county. We met one couple at the local farmer’s market last year and before we knew it we were part of a lovely little potluck group that gets together every 2 weeks. The “core” group is four couples and together we have 8 kiddos and one on the way. Often other friends pop in to potluck and we have had as many as 14 kids on the grass eating sausages and strawberries! When we pull up to potluck, regardless of who is hosting, the children disappear and we don’t see them again until they are hungry. They climb trees, play with goat kids, run through the woods, swing on zip lines, bounce on trampolines, and jump on hay bales until we pack them into the car late that night. We tuck them into bed with grime under their nails, scratches on their knees, and dirt smudges on their faces.

Ayden is six and a half, Willow will be five in two weeks, and Liam just turned one. So hard to believe! In honor of Liam’s first birthday I finally wrote out his birth story and the link is at the very top of the page.

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