outside

oh brother

oh brother

We're being far too serious here, Finn.

oh brother

What we should do is get our crazy on, like this:

oh brother

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!!!

oh brother

Screaming at the top of our lungs while covered in mud sure is fun, isn't it?

Some of you have asked about my secret method for cleaning off my boys. Truth be told, my boys are often covered in something - mud, weeds, oatmeal, peanut butter - I am not one to fuss over their appearance. 

But being dirty is the sign of a day well spent! To keep them from leaving a trail of mud in their wake as they move through the house, I just hose them off, dump their messy clothes in the washer, and dump them in the tub before dinner. 

Then it's my tub that's dirty. It never ends. The soil everywhere is a sign that we made the right decision by moving out here to some land - they're country boys, these two. Nothing is better than being outside. I'll take the ever-present dirt packed underneath fingernails.


instant gratification flowers

instant gratification flowers

I love the mystery of a seed that sprouts and grows into something beautiful. I want my boys to experience that in the garden. 

Sometimes, though? Sometimes my inner two year-old just wants some flowers now! And finally, after so many years of living in shade pockets, we can have container flowers. So we did it! I used a gift certificate that I could have used for something boring like a hose or a ladder. There's always something to get for an old-ish house. 

instant gratification flowers

instant gratification flowers

Instead, I bought potted flowers. My favorites, the icelandic poppies and lantana, are paired with columbines, hyacinths, creeping jenny, silver falls, and some gebera daisies, salvia, purple queen, and some daffodils and tulips. All of these are perennials, at least in my growing region.

instant gratification flowers

Here's a before view of my side entryway, which is where we go in and out of the house. It gets plentiful afternoon sun, and we spend a lot of time on this patio because it's home to the boys' digging spot - a planter that is devoid of all but a few shrubs and lots of dirt. We don't have a sandbox yet, but the dirt is, if I dare say, better than sand. They both have their place, but having a dirt pile is great. For the boys, not for the floors in my house!

instant gratification flowers

The little guys helped me plant, and, even though they were loving this "work," of course, I had to do what any mother of little ones has to do to get anything done - I finished the job once they were sleeping, by the light of the moon porch flood light.

instant gratification flowers

instant gratification flowers

I recently took a container gardening class at Craftsy - are you familiar with Craftsy? They have all sorts of online classes for sewing, knitting, gardening, paper crafts, and more. You should check out their platform when you get a chance. I've taken several of their sewing courses, too, and have really learned a lot (plus, I can take them at my own pace - while the boys are sleeping!) 

instant gratification flowers

instant gratification flowers

instant gratification flowers

Here's the view from the side door in the above pictures looking out toward the driveway. Everything's abloom! This has been a very exciting spring for us, as it is our first in this house, and we're enjoying learning about all of the bulbs the previous owners planted, as well as learning the names of all of the flowering shrubs and vines. 

Now I just need to set up my deer sprinkler and all should be good. Cross your fingers that it works - it's what I'm depending on to protect our garden this year, too, as we can't afford a fence!


sheepish

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Sheep! Seventy of them. The boys and I had a grand time at Stoney Mountain Farm during their sheep shearing festivities. The gracious owners opened their home to a good bunch of people, offering entertainment in the way of wool harvesting and sustenance in the form of a tasty home-cooked lunch.

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Having never seen a sheep get shorn before, I was amazed at how accommodating and docile the animals were through the ordeal. Look at the adoring eyes of that sheep up there! He looked like he was getting a spa treatment. 

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In preparation for the big shearing day, I checked out some shearing-related books from the library. Pelle's New Suit will have to be added to our own collection. Not only does Finn adore the book, but he looks exactly like Pelle. Who knew? The boy with just a drop of Swedish blood in him (there's more Mexican in there than Swedish) would come out looking like the spittin' image of a turn-of-the-century Swedish boy. 

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In addition to Pelle's New Suit , we've also enjoyed Feeding the Sheep and Weaving the Rainbow - all of which are about the process of shearing the sheep, making yarn, and then weaving or knitting clothing from the sheep's wool. 

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We've been shearing some of our own sheep right in our living room. I love observing how new experiences come out in imaginative play, and how they are understood and written in the memory of a child through prolonged and repetitive play or games. 

Do you have a local farm that makes an event of shearing day?


baby rain pants

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There's no such thing as bad weather - only bad clothes.

Very true. Since moving to our house in the country this past summer, we spend so much time exploring and working our land. Early morning is a favorite time to be outside; watching the sun rise, noticing the dew collect in the cup of a leaf, searching for frogs in our small pond. 

I already knew the importance of dressing children in layers of long johns if the weather is even slightly cool, but somehow I didn't figure out until this year the paramount importance of rain pants. 

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Finn has had his pair since Fall (they're from REI) and they are our most-used piece of clothing. Even if it's not raining, the grass is damp in the morning, and there's always a puddle to explore. Rain pants give us the freedom to let him explore without a litany of parental cautions, most of which focus on our desire to keep him dry (because we know that clothes are washable, but we also know that being wet can be very uncomfortable and can spoil any well-intentioned nature walk.)

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But what about Mr. Red-headed Crawly McCutie Pie? The REI pants only went down to a size 2T.

I needed to make him some pants - he needed them more than anyone, because he's always crawling and sitting on the damp earth. But rain pants require fancy material. You can't get it at your local fabric store, and you can't get it in most fancy quilt/fashion fabric online store, either. You can't use oilcloth or laminated cotton for rain pants (nor should you for kids' raincoats, as the material is not breathable.)

After a long search, I found what I was looking for! Waterproof, breathable fabric that is easy to sew. Now you can turn any pants pattern into rain pants. You can get it at The Rain Shed, an outdoor fabric specialty store. I used item #3388, 40 dernier ripstop 3-layer. 

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You can use any basic, elastic-waisted pants pattern, although I like a design that also has elastic or velcro at the ankles to keep them snug against the body. Make sure you size up a bit, too, as these are meant to be an outer layer, worn over other pants.DSC_2662_4559

It's nice to be able to get right down there with them (I have rain pants, too) and not worry about soggy jeans. Just need to make a pair for Patrick, and we're all set!


a mountain vacation

a mountain vacation

a mountain vacation

a mountain vacation

a mountain vacation

a mountain vacation

a mountain vacation

a mountain vacation

a mountain vacation

a mountain vacation

a mountain vacation

a mountain vacation

a mountain vacation

a mountain vacation

a mountain vacation

a mountain vacation

a mountain vacation

a mountain vacation

a mountain vacation

a mountain vacation

a mountain vacation

We had such a good time. Sometimes I felt like pinching myself, certain moments were so dream-like. But then a baby pulled my hair or a two year-old needed help turning on the light in the bathroom, and I remembered that I was, in fact, still in reality. A neatly transposed mothering reality tucked in a cabin in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

We hiked a lot. We even did something crazy - crossing the suspension bridge atop Grandfather Mountain in what must have been tropical storm-force winds. Seriously. The wind was blowing so hard that I hardly had to breathe, it was entering my nose of its own accord. That, combined with my ever-so-slight fear of heights. I felt giddy, baby strapped to my front. It was like I was in high school again, jumping off a thirty foot rock into the river below (blowing out my ear drum, as my mother will surely remind me. Pshaw, Mom. It wasn't that bad. :) 

I got to thinking about fear, and the thrill of pushing yourself just out of your comfort zone, and the confidence you gain, along with the sigh you breathe out, when it is done.

Am I comparing vacationing with two small children to jumping off a cliff? Oh yes. Excuse the hyperbole. But it is sort of like that, for a homebody like myself. I am an odd kind of homebody. I would much rather hang around the house than go out, and I guard our out-of-house schedule perhaps a bit too fiercely, not wanting to be over scheduled - pushed out of my comfort zone and into the not-as-predictable social world. But I do like the big adventure trip. I've taken many a leaps in my life, putting the homebody in me aside - living abroad twice, backpacking, jumping into water and swimming across large expanses of it, and even walking across aforementioned bridge. 

Somehow, for me, a bigger, more symbolic move out of my comfort zone is easier than the everyday little ones. But I learned something about myself and my family on this, our first trip away from home as a family of four - the comfort zone is important to my family and my children, but so is pushing ourselves out of it every so often. 

This week, we connected, we learned about each other, we laughed, we cried, we talked about the future, and we did things that I didn't think we'd been in a position to do before. We hiked nearly every day with Finn and Lachlan, each of us sporting a baby carrier just in case. We each conquered fears - our adult worries that everything would fall apart away from home, and Finn's smaller fears of standing up while peeing (!) and going tubing, to name a few. 

We conquered fears, and we made memories. The best kind of vacation. We need to make such time together a priority. 


thoughts

pruning

pruning

pruning

pruning

pruning

pruning

pruning

~ With one on my back and the other enjoying the carnival of activities available in our yard (digging, throwing, pretending, running), I was suprised at how productive I was. Pruning, gathering, hauling - all accomplished. Two reedy bushes by our little pond, looking wintery-dapper with their new buzz cuts. A productive yard sesson like this every day and maybe, just maybe, we can keep up. 

~ I've been thinking a lot about our garden. A deer fence, to be precise. The fencing quote was way out of our league. Build a six- to eight-feet tall fence ourselves? We've built a fence to keep animals out before, except this one was meant to keep out neighboring pigs, cows, and goats. And as lovely as cob is, I think fence 2.0 will be wire. At the rate we go with with the boys in tow, it would take us 18 years to build a cob wall for our garden. Post and wire it is.

~ Finn has been asking about chickens and goats. We have the perfect coop/spot for them. Too bad we can't just fence in our entire property, which is mostly open space, and let the goats roam free. I raised goats when I was a little, and I'm sure they wouldn't heed my warnings about the road that borders our property. Unless I danced around with alfalfa, making goat-ish noises. Not that I've ever done that. Nope. Wink.

~ Feeling thankful for my Dad and his recovery, and feeling optimistic about this Spring, when he will be able to be out in the garden with us, sharing all of his gardening know-how with me and my boys.


poet's walk

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*This is Finn's first photgraph. It was very intentional - he wanted to take a picture of his prized digging stick. I think I'll print it off and frame it for him.*

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Although there is frost on the lawn and the wood stove is crackling this morning, most days have been rather warm. Instead of bemoaning the nearly warm breeze (which I hate, being a mountain girl, and Patrick loves, being a Florida boy) the boys and I have taken to the trails, minus the long johns, jackets and hats. 

Wherever we go on our nature walks, we seem to end up at the river - donning rain boots for wading and mud play. This particular day found us at Ayr Mount on the Poet's Walk. We "wrote" poems, smelled the herb garden, and did a lot of digging. 

Hiking with small fries can be honey-dripping-slow, but I notice so much more when I'm with them. 

Happy weekending to you.


chuck your to-do list

chuck the to-do list

chuck the to-do list

chuck the to-do list

chuck the to-do list

chuck the to-do list

I don't believe I've mentioned to you that my parenting role has shifted these last few months. Instead of equally sharing daily responsibility for the boys with Patrick, I am now with them all day, six days a week. Patrick is preparing for his prelims in mid-December, and needs to work on that full-time. (He's getting his Ph.D in history at Duke.) This lifestyle shift has become even more drastic this past month, as my parents have also been on an extended vacation. It's the second shift, and my time with the boys ends each day only to find me awake far too late, trying to keep the business humming. 

For some time there, I had it all wrong. My head was filled with work obligations, to-do lists, and future sewing exploits while I was with the boys. I was anxiously twiddling my thumbs in anticipation of naptime, trying to get "things done" while watching them (always a bad idea) and working myself into a ball of stress with inner dialogues of "I-should-be-" and "I-need-to-."

Why must I contantly be striving to accomplish more, to "make up for lost time", to "just get over this hump and then I can relax?" I know I'm not alone with these feelings. So many of us, especially parents, are working so hard, striving to get to that mythical period of rest, plenty, and stress-free living, that we totally forget about today.

You would think that it would be easy for me to appreciate all of the beauty in every moment, given that I can always fall back on the "at-least-we-aren't-in-the-hospital" mantra. But really, it took a few weeks of constant inner badgering and unsustainable fatigue for me to check my to-do list at the door.

The moment I chucked my to-do list, a weight lifted from my shoulders and I was able to enjoy my boys again. The most deleterious side effect of my to-do list  was that it made me feel like parenting full-time was a chore - something of a burden because it kept me from being productive. I was overcome with guilt (aren't I, the former teacher and parenting blogger, supposed to adore every minute I spend with my own children?) ;) and I decided that it was neither me nor my boys that was causing this malaise. It was the darn to-do list.

So goodbye, responding to emails. Goodbye, long list of house projects. Goodbye, worry over producing new pattern designs. Goodbye, attending Quilt Market. Etc., etc. 

Phew! It felt so good. 

The next step was deciding that I was going to have fun with my boys. If I was going to spend all day with them and not have any time for personal creative pursuits, I was going to try to do something fun and interesting with them - to share what I love with them.

That's when I pulled out the hand-me-down baby backpack and the Ergo carrier, and we got out of dodge. (To a nature preserve two miles from our home, mind you, but man, after a week of (successful!) potty learning on Finn's part, it felt like a real adventure!) I figured that Finn could wander as much as he wanted and I would carry him back in the Ergo if he got tired.

We walked about a mile. It was awesome. Solo parenting can hurt your back. But it's a good kind of sore.

So chuck your to-do list. And enjoy life as-is! 


a farewell party

a farewell party

a farewell party

a farewell party

a farewell party

a farewell party

a farewell party

a farewell party

a farewell party

a farewell party

Despite the downed branches and power outages, we were thankful for one unexpected gift the hurricane left in its wake; our friends' out-of-town move was delayed, and Jeanne and Leah spent their last night in North Carolina with us before heading to their new home in Pennsylvania. Of course, a proper farewell party was thrown, and we were able to celebrate our friendship and that of our children over smores, lawnmower "rides", and a sing-a-long. 

It was, I dare say, a perfect afternoon and evening - the stuff of memories.  The best way to say goodbye.


the long haul

little red wheelbarrow

little red wheelbarrow

little red wheelbarrow

little red wheelbarrow

Little red wheelbarrow from Montessori Services.

 I've been solo parenting the last ten days while Patrick was in New York City doing dissertation research. (With my camera, no less!) Now he's back (I did miss him more than the camera!) and we're getting back to a normal routine. I've missed being here on a regular basis this summer, what with the surgery and the move. As the evenings get cooler, classes resume, and summer oh-so-gently fades into autumn, I'm grateful to once again have the time to write with more regularity in this space.