Stillness Found

img_0911 img_0909 img_0910We had a quiet day at home today.
No errands to run, no trips into town.
Home.

I didn’t get everything done that I thought I would, but I spent a beautiful time pushing my youngest son on the swing as he talked to me and told me stories and ask me questions – his favorite thing to do when I push him on the swing; he becomes quite a chatterbox.
“Why do the leaves fall, Mama? Are the trees dying?” “How do plants drink, Mama?” “When I close my eyes I can remember things.”  “Push me hard so I can fly like the birds!”

It’s moments like this that I miss most when we’re so busy that we don’t have time for spontaneous stillness. Stillness can only come in unplanned moments; you can’t schedule it in on a list of Things To Do.
This is the stillness of watching a child learn and grow.
This is the stillness of cementing the hearts in a family together.
This is the stillness that you often don’t realize is missing until it’s so far gone you don’t know quite how to recapture it.
This is the stillness of a wild and free childhood and why we chose to live where we live.

This is the reason why I’ll be fighting the battle to stay home more.  I won’t be able to explain that we’re staying home so we can be still.  Most people don’t understand that and our culture certainly doesn’t value it.  But if I’ve learned anything this past season of busy and running (which has followed closely on the tail of many previous seasons of busy and running), it’s that I need stillness.  I think we all do.

I don’t know yet how I’ll balance the interests of my Middles and the needs of family and friends with moments of quiet, but I’m going to fight hard for the quiet.  Remind me please when you see me doing many things, will you?

A Satchel, a Blacksmith and a Story

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Once upon a time, there was a young blacksmith. Like many trades, blacksmiths learn more skills throughout all their lives, and so like all blacksmiths, he was still learning his trade, though he was much more at the beginning of the learning than at the ending.

One day, this young blacksmith, Zach, wanted to give a birthday gift to a friend.  The gift he most wanted to give was a special satchel for carrying a camera, as the friend so enjoyed taking pictures.

Sadly though, after searching through many nearby lands and traveling to the Kingdoms of InterNet, Etsy, Amazon, and Ebay, Zach wasn’t able to find just the right kind of satchel made just the right kind of way for just the right number of gold coins, and in despair he was ready to abandon his quest. Then, rising early one morning, Zach spied his mother working at her sewing machine.  “Aha!” Zach cried!  “I cannot find the perfect satchel, but perhaps my mother can make it!”

And so he enlisted the help of his mother, who dearly loved to sew and even more dearly loved to see her children happy, and she agreed to take on the challenge.  Zach and his mother spent time looking for just the right pattern, and the two journeyed to many markets to select the right materials, gathering the things they needed from many different merchants, but they could not find the silver rings they needed.  One merchant had rings of silver, but they weren’t the right size.  Another merchant had rings almost the right size, but they were not silver.  Still another merchant didn’t have rings at all.

Zach and his mother were determined to complete their task and they continued their quest for the silver rings as they worked.  They cut and labeled all the many pieces for the satchel, as like all great satchels, this one had several pockets.   Zach’s mother tried to pin all the pieces together, but there were so many layers to make this the strongest bag for protecting the most treasured camera, that Mother’s pins bent and folded under the burden of the task.  After pondering the situation for a bit, Mother ventured out on a journey of her own to all the hidden drawers and closets in their little home to gather just the right thing to keep all those layers together – binding clips.  (And Mother would like to make a note to her husband and children that smallish binding clips would make a very nice gift at Christmas, as well as new pins to replace the bent ones.)

So Mother continued to stitch and soon the satchel was nearly complete.  But she couldn’t finish without those silver rings.

Zach looked at the rings they bought that weren’t the right size.  He held them and flipped them and measured them.  Suddenly he declared, “I can make these!”  That very evening, as the sun was setting over the hills behind their home, Zach and his father went to their forge and began to heat and bend steel to their will.  After a short time, the hammering ceased, and Zach brought two silver rings to his mother, his beaming face bright under the layer of coal smudge.

His mother looked at the rings and tried them and declared them to be perfect, so Zach went out the workshop to polish them and wax them to a shiny finish and   in no time at all, the satchel was complete.

Zach was so pleased to give this gift, and I think, the receiver was just as pleased to have it.  And they all continued to live happily ever after.

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Grazing (and appraising the garden space)

Yesterday was one of those perfect early fall days. The sun was shining, the skies were blue, the air still warm but drier and crisper than just a couple of weeks ago.  We had a few days of being home this weekend and I had caught up on all most some a little of the inside house work (yes, well, we had clean clothes and I had removed most of the dust and the floors were swept clean, so we’ll call that good, shall we?), so after some book work was completed in the morning we all ran outside to enjoy the day.

I took the goats out of their enclosure and let them graze for a while in the back field and the Littles explored, trying to find their way among the deer paths that had been made through the tall grasses.  Zach found evidence of what we thought to be a bear visiting the back field and after an evening visit to the computer to look up bear scat, our hunch was confirmed. (I do assume you don’t mind that I don’t have an accompanying picture of the evidence.)   As it hasn’t bothered us or the goats, I’m not too concerned about the presence of a black bear in our woods. There is much for it to eat in the surrounding areas, though I’ll be revisiting livestock guardian animals before we add any more animals to our care.

grazing-1083 grazing-1082 grazing-1077 grazing-1066 grazing-1062We walked around to the garden clearing and assessed the damage of not gardening for 2 years.  The upper terrace, where I made an attempt to plant peas this spring, wasn’t too terrible, but it needs attention this fall so that spring planting won’t be quite so daunting.  The second terrace needs to be regraded and either raised to the same height as the top terrace or I need to build a retaining wall to keep the soil from washing away.  I hope to get that work done before winter, but it does require a lot of time at home and more than a little lifting and shoveling.  I might have to ask for help from bribe Zach to get some of it done.  The lower terraces are quite a different story.  They are so incredibly overgrown that I wonder what we can do to reconquer them.  While I try to figure out that part, I put the goats to work on some “clearing” of the brush while I did some cutting and moving of my own.grazing-1072  grazing-1070grazing-1071grazing-1074 grazing-1073grazing-1084

The cats joined us, wandering in and out of the trees, and Mrs. Norris (the smallest of our cats) practiced her stalking skills on one of the goats.  At first the goat was unaware, then she was a bit wary, and then she lost her patience and chased Mrs. Norris away, all in good fun.   The children explored, drew treasure maps on rocks, discovered fairy gardens and watched for the fairies, and found and buried treasures along the way.grazing-1060 grazing-1052 grazing-1047  grazing-1043grazing-1050

Days like yesterday remind me of how much I love this corner of the world we call home.  It is good to be here.grazing-1079

Making a Secret

I haven’t been home very much these last weeks, so my time for making has been minimal, but I do have one project I’ve been working on.  I can’t tell you much about it though, because while I don’t think the recipient it’s intended for reads my blog, I don’t want to take any chances on spoiling the surprise.
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Let’s just say this:
–  I’ve never made anything like it.
– There are so many similar looking pieces I needed to label them, and each time I work with one, relabel it when I’m done.
– My children have way too much confidence in my abilities.
– I keep telling myself I’m never making another one, and then look at how great it’s coming together and plan 3 more.
– I’m extremely grateful for the extra space in the dining room that allows me to extend our table for more work space.  I needed it.

You can see a peek of the pattern there in the corner.  I’ll share more soon.

P.S. It isn’t a diaper bag for my daughter who is due in just a couple of short weeks, though I keep thinking it would make a nice (though small) one.

Breathing Peace

(If you follow me on Instagram, you read most of these words last night, but I wanted to share them here as well, and I’ve edited them a bit.)

God’s artwork.
A soothing and peaceful gift at the end of a day that was a lot harder emotionally than I expected.

I watched the dawn arrive yesterday as I sat with my youngest daughter who is struggling with an asthma flare-up from a recent cold, listening to the droning sound of the nebulizer that treats the inflammation in her lungs.
I prayed as the sun was rising for my granddaughter who was undergoing a bone marrow biopsy mid-morning.
Mid-day, I drove the familiar path to pick up my mom who is recuperating from hip replacement surgery.
Together we drove to the nursing home where we spent the late afternoon visiting my grandparents; watching my grandfather struggle as he recovers from pneumonia, his frail body, once so strong, failing him even while his mind is sharp as ever; loving my grandmother who is watching the love of her life, husband of 73 years, wish his journey would soon end.
My grandfather cried when I said goodbye to him.  So hard.

Mom and I each had groceries to buy, and we stopped at the grocery store, splitting up to complete our shopping. As I moved up and down the aisles, I focused on my family waiting at home, gathering the best nourishment I could from the shelves.  It was a busy time in the store, and I saw so many harried people, barely smiling, barely talking to one another. I wondered what was happening in each of their lives to cause such lack of joy, and I chatted with a few as I passed by,  I love how a smile lights up a stranger’s face when a friendly word or two is offered.

My mom and I returned to her home and I quickly helped her unload her groceries, checking on her furnace and then heading back into the car, wishing to be home with my family, knowing I still had work to do when I arrived home.

As I drove home at the end of the day, God sent this painting and it stopped me in my tracks. I took the picture as a shadow of a reminder of the beauty of the moment, and what you see above is an unfiltered image.  It was truly a stunning sunset.

I continued my drive home, and I saw so many people standing outside watching as the sun set. I loved how the many eyes were drawn upward by the beauty in the skies; looking heavenward at the end of a long day, drawing deep breaths and feeling the promise of rest.

God is good.

 

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Board and Batten and Fairy Houses

boardandbatten-0958 boardandbatten-0957 sticks-0972 sticks-0974With the heat of the summer moving behind us, Husband The Amazing spent some time working on wrapping up the outside of the kitchen addition.

He doesn’t love working with vinyl siding, and while it has its benefits – namely easy maintenance – it is lacking a bit in the “character” department.  Part of what we’ve always loved about old houses is the history of additions made over time.  It gives a character and depth to what might otherwise just be a box.  Because our addition looks like a porch that was enclosed to make a larger kitchen space (even though it was never a porch but was built from the ground up for this project) we’ve been consciously keeping “enclosed porch” as part of the story, and as such we thought about using a different material for the siding.

We looked at a few different options but hadn’t found anything we loved until a recent construction project at Husband’s workplace where they used a product that he really liked, so he bought some for us to try.  It’s called Veranda HP.   While we generally lean toward natural products, this one isn’t, though it is recyclable, unlike many building materials.  He really liked that he could use regular woodworking tools and didn’t need to buy anything special, and he said it was pretty easy to work with.  (I feel like I’m doing a product review.  I’m not.  The company doesn’t know we exist.)  We really liked that he could do pretty much whatever he wanted with this product, and we’ve always loved the board and batten look, so that’s what went up over the weekend.  As you can see in the pictures, the chickens have become his adoring fans, following him everywhere.  It made it a little hard for him to work, but we all giggle at his Minions’ antics.

The Littles, inspired perhaps by the building happening on the outside, spent some time working on fairy houses on the inside.  They got about half way through construction and then decided to scrap the project, but that’s okay when we’re building with craft sticks. I’m not really sure what Silas’ face is telling us in that one picture, but I’m glad it’s happening with a fairy house project and not with our life sized one.  🙂

What’s happening in your world? Any fun projects?

And Then He was Five

Is it possible that he was born only five short years ago?  I feel like we’ve known him forever, always a part of us and our family.  It’s like that for me with all our children.  That feeling that once they arrived, they had always been here.  And yet it doesn’t seem possible that five full years have gone by since the wee hours of the morning when we welcomed him into our arms.

imageAt five he has completely entered the world of boy, no toddler traces remain.  Knowing that he is my last baby has been bittersweet.  The days have gone by so fast and no matter how hard I try to slow them down they keep moving onward.  Gone completely are the days of nursing and diapers and teething and squeezing in naps.  I will miss them. But he still often snuggles with us at night, craving the warmth and safety he finds between my husband and I, and I cherish those night time cuddles even at the same time as I long for a full night’s sleep.

Silas’s birthday also signals another anniversary as it was only three short days after his birth that our second oldest child left home for school in Florida.  (I don’t think I will ever be able to  put into words the emotions of that week.)  And so, with the celebration of a birthday is a reminder of how quickly the time goes by that we get to claim our children wholly as our own.  Once they leave, they stretch and grow and change, and while still ours, they become completely themselves.  It’s beautiful to watch, but it tugs on a mama’s heart so.  The blessing is in knowing that it is right and good for them to leave, but the missing will still continue.

imageI’m grateful for knowing just how fleeting the children-at-home parenting years are.  I didn’t know this with our oldest two children. Oh, I was told by many mothers who were older and wiser than I, and I tried to listen to them, but it isn’t until you’ve experienced a thing that you fully understand.  I understand so very well now.  And I enjoy all the lovely laughing moments with each of my babies still at home even more for it.