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!

 

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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a recap/winter

Winter was not what I expected it to be, namely, cold. We had cold days and cold winds but we also had days when the temperatures climbed into the 80’s. I enjoyed the moody weather and the kids and I spent many afternoons at a playground meeting new people.

We did have one big snow in January. The kids had been watching the sky all afternoon and just when they had stopped looking for it, tiny little dots began to fall. They were the kind of snowflakes you can only really see out of the corner of your eye. The kids were ecstatic. Slowly the snow began to fall more steadily and the flakes became more visible. We ate dinner and the kids climbed into bed with promises and reassurances about the snow that would be there tomorrow. At 5 AM the kids were out of bed with their faces plastered to the window. The world as they had known it was gone and in its place was a white winter they had only heard of in books. We got 5 inches of soft, powdery snow and it stuck around for a few frigid days; long enough for everyone to get their fill. Ayden and Willow were shocked to find out how cold snow is and then how wet. They could not figure out how to layer and grew frustrated with the mittens, socks, scarves, hats, and zippers. For kids who grew up in shorts and flip flops at the most this was a lot of fuss just to get outside!

Our house has a gas fireplace in the little living room. I have always scoffed at gas fireplaces preferring the ruggedness of chopped wood and ashes all over everything and the “real experience.” I love my fireplace now. It was winter at its best snuggling up on the couch next to the fire with books and coffee. I had dreamed of winter days like that through many tropical Thanksgivings and Christmases.

The kids and I stumbled into a homeschool group that meets every Monday and we love it. We read and discuss books, take nature walks, write poetry, learn how to play new games, create art through many different mediums, and present our creations to the rest of the group. It was incredibly helpful for me as I struggled to figure out what homeschooling was going to look like for us.

On Thursdays our local library hosts a story hour with songs and crafts and we were there every week. I remember the library in Sitka, Alaska when I was Willow’s and Ayden’s age as a magical, almost mysterious, place. The kids and I spent many long afternoons at the library and we usually brought home about 15 beautiful childrens books for the week.

I attempted a winter garden but did not get much to grow. The weather was so erratic and I was late getting things into the ground; a farmer friend told me there were just not enough hours of sunlight. Everything germinated and stayed alive throughout the winter but the radishes, beets, and various greens did not mature. However, my ability to just keep things alive gave me confidence to try a garden in the Spring, so I still count it a success.

Autumn

I did not know when I left my house in Villa Obregon six months ago that I would not be returning. I did not pack up my Christmas ornaments, my journals, my kids’ favorite books. I did not say goodbye to friends. I did not give away extra pots and pans, tupperware, or clothing to my neighbors in need. I stood on the curb and kissed my husband goodbye, telling him we would see each other in a few weeks in Virginia. I took a last glance at the plants on the balcony, leaves lit by the just rising sun, and wondered how many would make it through the sweltering summer and how many I would need to replace upon my arrival home in six months.

Six months have passed and our lives are on a completely new path now. We are staying in Virginia where Ben can work a solid job that will pay our debts. Where we can take the kids to the library and watch them experience snow. Where we can enjoy the crisp fall weather, wear wool socks, grow vegetables and own chickens. It is so much of what we have been dreaming about. We knew that we were coming up on the time to leave Mexico. We knew from the beginning in 2011 that we would not be there forever, that it was a time to enjoy and that one day we would go back to four seasons and chopping firewood and frost on the windowpanes. I have longed for that life.

But I have also loved our life in Mexico. I love the ocean and the beach. I love the people we have served at our cafe and the friends we have made around surf boards and restaurant tables and yoga mats. I love that my kids both learned how to swim and can handle a boogie board in the waves. That they have seen the briny miracles: a whale tail slap the water, dolphins dancing in waves, baby turtles crawling out of their sandy nest, the sun rise and set over the ocean. I feel those miracles make up some of the marrow in my bones and I love that we have shared them. It is hard to walk away from that goodness.

I will be the first to say that our life in Villa Obregon was far from ideal and I am glad that we are moving on. It is not how I wanted the move to happen and there have been tears and sleepless nights as we struggle with making this decision. On hard days we wonder if it is the right decision. I think it is.

These days my little family piles into our minivan and drives to look at potential houses to make a new home in. We go to fall festivals and truck pulls and rodeos. We play on playgrounds and hike around the woods. I am slowly accumulating winter coats, boots, fleece lined jeans. The kids ask once a week if it will snow soon. We say goodbye to Papa in the morning and hug him in the door in the evening light. Ben and I talk about living in America again and how we can stay involved with the poor and the immigrants. The days are cool, we have had plenty of rain and grey skies, and the giant wolf spiders are getting cozy in our closets and boots. We hear the geese honking and watch little yellow leaves fall from the trees. Autumn is coming. There is goodness here.

 

Nesting

The birth box is fully stocked, the birth area has been decided on, the baby has flipped head down, and Mom has arrived. We are cleaning floors and counters, making playlists for laboring along with, and washing newborn infant clothes the size of a dinner plates. The energy is high (figuratively speaking for me…) and the anticipation is real. It is still early and we all realize that we might end up waiting weeks for this little one to make the big entrance into our lives. But even so, nesting is in full swing and it feels like I could be holding this new little life in my arms sooner than later.

So pull out a candle and set it aside to light when the moment comes, light the way for an infant making his way from one world to another.

 

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37 weeks

I try to take photographs of life here but I can never capture what I’m after: wet rubber boots on the wrong feet, clouds dropping rain in the distance, blond hair flying in the evening’s still cool wind. The strong, scarred man’s hands milling log after log into beautiful boards, the never resting mother’s hands wrapping around a steaming cup of coffee, the red clay smears on knees of dresses and jeans. The glow of sunshine on shoulders, the wood deck warm with May day heat, the blankets pulled tight around children snuggling in arms at the embers of a bonfire.

 

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