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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Mother of three

Well, here I am. Mother of three. I love it. And I hope I am blessed with a few more babies on top of these ones I love so dearly. Yes, I’ve had a few sleepless night since Liam came into my bed. I have fought to control my frustration with my two older kids as we all adjust to this new normal. I have wanted to snuggle up with my husband at the same moment that Liam decides he wants to nurse. But when I watch my two older kids asĀ  they run laughing through the sprinkler on a hot summer day, or when I hear them apologize to one another without being prompted, or anytime that this new little baby smiles I know I am blessed. My heart overflows.

I feel like I am finally emerging from the post postpartum haze and becoming interested and aware of things again. Christy and I have started meal planning – which is so much fun with all the produce available through the local farms – and working out a rhythm for our collective children. So far the rhythm revolves around meals and an afternoon rest period with plenty of outdoor time. They love any game involving water and Ethan (3) and Willow (now 4!) spend much more time naked than clothed.

The garden is producing broccoli, squash, zucchini, and lettuce. We have lots of herbs that get thrown in everything from pastas and salads, to iced teas. The tomatoes and peppers are getting closer to harvest. We finished up the last of the strawberries just before the strawberry moon of the solstice and are now on to wild blackberries. Our first harvest brought in enough for a night’s dessert, this morning’s blackberry lemon scones, and Sunday’s pie!

Ayden is into superheros these days and runs around in a cape and mask much of the time. Thankfully, his recent superhero power is helpfulness. He is growing up so fast and loves to spend time working with Ben and Dustin. Or just working in general, preferably outside in farm boots. He does well with Liam although he is not always as gentle as I would wish.

Willow is still the princess in the games. But a princess with super powers. She falls in love with one dress at a time and will refuse to wear anything but that dress until I manage to sneak it into the laundry without her knowledge. We went bowling for her 4th birthday and she loved it. She will sit with Liam sleeping on her lap for 30 minutes before she needs to move.

Liam is a darling boy. I think his favorite thing to do is nurse all day, every day. He sleeps pretty well; I have only had a handful of those exhausting and frustrating nights. (Quite the change after Willow, my little fireball.) When he wakes up from a nap he often opens his eyes and starts looking around. Twice now, I have gently said his name as he is laying awake and he smiles, turning his head to look for me. Melts my heart.

Parenting in this community style – two families in one house with 5 children ages 5, 4, 3, 1.5, and a newborn – is a challenge, to say the least. But it is also such a blessing. To have another young mother encourage me when I am having a hard time holding it all together is a gift I have not experienced very often since becoming a mom. I am thoroughly enjoying sharing life with Christy here on the farm.

Light the Candle

This wee one is coming. Please help me light the way.

I am like a flag unfurled in space,
I scent the oncoming winds and must bend with them,
While the things beneath are not yet stirring,
While doors close gently and there is silence in the chimneys
And the windows do not yet tremble and the dust is still heavy –

Then I feel the storm and am vibrant like the sea
And expand and withdraw into myself
And thrust myself forth and am alone in the great storm.

~ Rainer Maria Rilke

Loss

I just looked up into his smiling face yesterday morning and this morning I was told that he is gone. Is that possible? How can life be such a force and yet so fragile and temporary, so quickly gone? It has left me inwardly grasping at the faces and words of those people I see here everyday whom I have come to love; what if they don’t walk in tomorrow?

The loss of a friend who was healthy, strong, and had been playing his harmonica only minutes before his heart stopped is jarring. The tears sprang to my eyes and I felt the loss tangibly in my gut. I will never see his smiling face again and the loss of just those few seconds is enough to break the heart just a bit.

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Ayden lost his first tooth this week. He was sitting at a cafe table in the early morning sun playing with legos then in an instant he was in my arms crying and telling me he’d broken his tooth biting a lego. It took a while to reassure him that everything was fine, his tooth didn’t break it was simply coming loose, making space for a better tooth. Within the hour he’d pulled the hanging tooth the rest of the way out and was walking around the cafe proudly showing off his treasure.

The loss of a baby tooth is a milestone in the growing up years. I have that first little tooth now on my shelf in a ziplock baggie to remind me in the decades to come of what a little boy Ayden once was. I feel sure I will never forget that singular quality in Ayden that I will only ever be able to describe with the idea that he’s really just one of the lost boys from Peter Pan and somehow he stumbled out of the fairy tale and into our family. I hope that when I’m 65 and bouncing his babies on my knees I can look across the room and still make out that little lost boy look in his face.

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Homeschooling and dragonflies

For his birthday I gave Ayden a box with colored pencils, erasers, pens, and pencils and a brand new notebook, every page clean and ready for his wobbly letters and numbers. We told him that now he is five and can start his homeschooling! I had no plan whatsoever in place but I figured we could start slow, I mean, he’s only five and his attention span is not that long. However, after the initial excitement of unwrapping the gift he declared that he is not interested in sitting down to school. And he’s kept that attitude for the last week. So I’ve started looking around at different ways to teach him the lessons that he is capable of learning and it is challenging and exciting.

My mother homeschooled four girls and a boy and, with the exception of one sister who did her last two years of high school at the local school, none of us attended classes at a school. I am the only one who did not graduate college. One of my sisters has completed her Masters and another is close to finishing hers. My parents never put too much importance on getting those pieces of paper that our culture tells us we must have to be educated and successful. When we were younger we were encouraged to climb tress, ride bikes, and play in the rain. We spent time with kids our ages and adults alike, regardless of the language they spoke or the money they had. Many of the people we spent time with had never finished middle school while others held multiple degrees and spoke various languages. When we were older we were encouraged to appreciate different styles of music and other cultures and to travel. Between the five of us we’ve spent time in over 20 different countries. We watched foreign films and read plenty of books. We sat around the dinner table together almost every night of my entire home life and many nights when we were older we remained at the table long after the dishes had been cleared away. We talked, played cards, laughed. Successful life training is drastically different than what a high school or college diploma gives you.

So when Ayden told me he’s not interested in singing the alphabet or writing his name for the eighth time or adding and subtracting from piles of beans, I didn’t panic. Instead, I sent him off to work with his dad with hammers and power tools and when he got home we went outside and found a dead dragonfly that we studied under a magnifying glass then copied onto paper, coloring in the intricate lines. He’s a five year old boy with a lot of energy; maybe he’s not ready to sit still and “learn” the way he will one day have to. In the meantime there are a lot of dead dragonflies in the pool and we’ll just keep watching our world and take her up on her offers to learn.

Rhythm

A friend of mine recently wrote me a sweet email reminding me of how much we need one another; we need to voice our hearts and share our lives with one another. It gets so easy to go through day to day life feeling down, discouraged, unwell, maybe even unloved. The rhythm of life is so easily lost; we trip and barely catch ourselves before the next hurdle is there to trip us up again. We feel alone and hungry, scattered and uptight.

But the reality is that the rhythm is there, playing in the background somewhere. Can we quiet our hearts enough to hear it again? My friend asked me if it was possible to be still. Is it possible to be still while juggling a few kids, a household, a husband, the expectations of our community? It’s hard.

I have a number of friends who have recently added baby number 2 to the mix of their lives and I have been so bad at keeping in touch with them. I think of them often as the days go by. Going from 1 child to 2 was hard for me. The rhythm was so lost I forgot to shower, let alone brush my hair. It was all I could do to make it through the day and get meals on the table. How do we find the silence in the midst of our blaring loud lives?

So to my long time friend whose heart was laid open in words on the screen, my dear fellow mums learning the steep curve of parenting two littles, and all those who are listening for their rhythm, here are a few ways I keep my sanity..

This and this are on every day at some point – sometimes a little Bessie Smith, too.

I loved reading Cordella‘s first issue and can’t wait for the second to arrive!

I also look in here, here, and here when I have the chance.

Thought this article was interesting.

This snack is amazing and this crock pot meal is awesome.

Loved this salad, too bad my quinoa is gone…

I let the kids watch Daniel Tiger when they need a video to distract them – there are full episodes on youtube – they sing the sharing song and it melts me heart.

I have been enjoying the poetry of German poet Rainer Maria Rilke.

This article is informative plus I’ve tested the theory and it’s true. Why you need to change when you drink coffee.

Christmas lights, candles, Christmas music, cinnamon, pies… that all helps too.

In the afternoon…

while my kids nap I often read or nap or cook. Sometimes I make a cup of coffee or iced tea and sit and search the web. I catch up on world news or email friends. Here is some of the other stuff I’ve been enjoying:

LensCulture’s Emerging Talents

Why I Hated Christian Women’s Ministry

Famous Thinker’s Daily Rituals

I love to read about other people’s rituals and am constantly refining and adapting my own and my family’s routines to fit our life in different seasons. I think it is valuable to look at our daily activities as ritual instead of schedule or a to-do list. Day to day changes can throw me off kilter if I am too set on sticking to a schedule! But if I look at the day as a series of rituals – coffee and prayer, breakfast, kitchen and plants to care for, snacks, play time, lunch, naps. . . – then I can move from one thing to the next in a kind of rhythm instead of a jerking start and stop. I am more willing to set everything down for a book or a bike ride or a conversation with a neighbor if I am aware that the purpose for that moment is an experience of life and people instead of a project list with check marks beside each line!

Failed first attempt at the Green Mango Pickle but I am going to try again! As soon as the sun comes out… we have had an amazing last few days. Rain, rain, and more rain. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen this much rainfall! We have had consistent, pouring rain for days! The temperatures have cooled right down. I’ve worn my jeans three days in a row, and often a light sweater as well! Ok, you’re right, it’s about 76 F at the coolest but, hey, that is pretty cool after the temps we’ve been having here! I love it. We are eating soups and baking bread and making pots of tea. Ben has turned the espresso machine on for cappuccinos in the afternoons. Oh glorious Autumn! I thought we would get none of you, but look! You have appeared for at least three days and I will enjoy every moment! I won’t even mind the water dripping in multiple places in my bedroom and upstairs in my kitchen because I get to lay in bed with a book and the door open listening to the rain falling outside and from upstairs I get to watch the huge waves build and crash, the crosswind blowing the spray wild.