Sunday, February 28, 2016

muddy footed mondays: 2.29.16

        A moment each week to celebrate family life intimately entwined with earth.

Monday, February 8, 2016

muddy footed mondays: 2.8.16

             A moment each week to celebrate family life intimately entwined with earth.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

done enough.

Much of my children's early years were spent with some part of our home looking something like this:

Over the last five years my husband and I have s-l-o-w-l-y renovated our home.  We have done all of the inside work ourselves with the help of a dear friend who always seemed to show up during the worst of the manual labor (thank you Jim).  We have torn down walls, put up different walls, moved walls, wired electricity, pulled up subfloor, tiled, installed wood flooring, drywalled, mudded and sanded, painted, dropped windows (oops), replaced windows, replaced doors; you name it, we did it.  

It has been slow, slow work and we have learned a great deal along the way.  As I look around my house now, it's easy for me to look at all of the work still to be done.  There are doors to hang, trim to finish and still more flooring to install, but that is for the years to come.  For now we have declared our home "done enough."  It is done enough to be livable and safe for our kids, it is done enough that it feels more and more like a home again.  The truth is, we began the work as an act of love; we both love to use our hands, but construction and children don't always make for the best companions. The house is done enough, and being present for our children is also an act of love, so they are the focus of our love and attention for now.  The floors and trim can wait.

I am writing this post so that on the days I look around and feel overwhelmed by the unfinished projects surrounding us, I can see how far we've come, and I can remind myself to settle into the joy of having a home that is done enough.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

time together.

There has been a great deal of fighting in my house these days.  I don't want to pretend like fighting has never happened here before; it has.  But there is a new level of sibling discord here that we have never seen before.  My husband and I scratch our heads and wonder, Is it their ages?  So much changes as the three of our kids move in and out of their individual stages.  Is it their new school? There have been ups and downs with a transition to a new school for our oldest two children. Is it me?  All too often I wonder if there isn't something I am missing, somewhere I am failing them. Sometimes I can even hear my own voice in their harshness, a humbling reminder of my own work to do in managing stress.  There are so many variables, but there is a new reality in my house: a lot of sibling squabbles.

My first instinct is to divide and conquer - separate them and give them all some space.  But any parent who is outnumbered knows there is no way to separate children in a way that gives them all individual attention.  Someone always feels left out.  The second option was to go out and do something fun together as a family; this was met with groans.  With their new school comes a great deal more time in the car.  The last thing they want to do is get in the car on the weekend.  So we decided Saturday to stay home together.

In the past there are three things that always brought my children together; imaginative play, crafting of any kind, and time spent in nature.  So we decided we would take a walk in the woods to find materials for crafting.  Something happened in our time in the woods; we found one another again. We walked through the woods gathering bark, needles, pine cones and sticks to make wands and who knows what else.  We played hide and seek, which is usually track and seek in the winter, but it's a bit harder to track on the sheer ice that covers the ground this January.  You could feel the energy shift. It's funny how my instinct was to separate us all, but what we truly needed was to be together.

We came in and spent the day working on countless creative playthings.  Wizard wands, wooden swords, fairies and forest creatures, pine cone cars, and even a woodland rockstar.  Time spent in nature and crafting of all kinds led into imaginative play.  My children had found their happy place with one another.  As a parent, watching them - all together - lost in play has been my greatest gift.  I know these days are fleeting.  It won't be much longer that I can catch the three of them donning butterfly wings swimming together across the yoga room floor, but I will do everything I can to encourage it while it will last.

I wish I could tell you this happy, together time lasted all weekend.  That would be a fairy tale and I only deal in muddy truths, but it did last for one whole late January day and that is a win in my book. As parents we learn to cherish the good moments, however fleeting they may be, for the next struggle is right around the corner.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

turning thirty-eight, a celebration in photos.

Today I am thirty-eight.  I celebrated the day of my birth by taking a hike with my beloved, followed by a little silliness at the river. The afternoon was punctuated by unexpected calls and visits and hugs from friends and family and the gift of a little time alone to dip brushes in paint.  An incredible meal and a campfire marked the descent into night.  All in all, it was a simple, yet full, day spent almost entirely out-of-doors with the people I love.  My soul is full and I am saturated with gratitude.  Now to lie under the stars and catch a glimpse of the leonids....a celestial ending to a most incredible, earthly celebration.

Monday, May 4, 2015

following orders.

We can never fully know the impact of our own words on another person.  Our words are powerful. Words have the power to lift someone up, or to tear them down.  I think of this often when choosing words to use with my children.

When I was in college, I loved to write.  I wrote letters, journals, poems, and I especially loved writing screenplays.  I loved bringing to life stories of the women I was learning about in history and women's studies classes through the dialogue of a screenplay.  It was a hobby that brought me great joy.  I once shared a screenplay I had written with a friend. She told me, after reading it, that I was "a terrible writer."  Those words landed right at the core of my being; they became my new truth. Writing had been something I loved, but became something I avoided, something I abandoned.  Our words are powerful.

Last Friday, on my husband's birthday, we got news that his dear friend Greg had passed away.  My husband, left shocked and heartbroken, searched for meaning in the loss. He tried to avoid the guilt that inevitably sets in over precious time that was taken for granted. In his search for meaning, he came across an email that his friend had sent exactly one year before on his birthday.  It was a gift of words.  An expression of gratitude for their friendship that gave my husband great solace and I am sure will continue to for years to come.

At the end of the email, Greg left a gift of words for me too.  He wrote:

"And tell your Muddy Footed Momma to update her blog more often!  She is a really good writer and it let's us keep up with your family.  This is a direct order, not a request."

These simple words of encouragement healed a wound in me that I was never able to express to Greg. While I know we should not be defined by the words of another, there is no denying that our words are powerful and they impact those around us.  Words have the power to break us and the power to heal us.

I am learning to be more mindful of my words, especially with those closest to me, those who feel the impact of my words most deeply.  I am learning to hold back my reactions.  To hold back my harshness and watch as it fades and allows space for me to respond with clarity in my head and heart. I am learning to be more vulnerable, to speak the love and gratitude I feel in my heart, especially when fear is holding me back.

We never fully know the impact our words have on another person. I never got to thank Greg or tell him how much his encouragement meant to me.  How deeply transforming his kindness was. So to honor his gift, with gratitude in my heart,  I will follow his order and keep on writing.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015


When you've lived on a piece of land for some time, you begin to know it intimately. When my third child was born, I created a dark cave for us to spend her first two weeks in.  She was my third, my last baby, and I wanted that postpartum time to nurture us both.  I tucked us away at the back of the house where it was quiet. While I spent those two weeks resting and enjoying my babe, I had another constant companion.  Outside our bedroom window was an oriole.  A Baltimore oriole sat perched in this giant hemlock outside our window.  All day as I sat holding my baby girl, I would watch this brilliant orange-colored bird shine against the lush, deep green branches of the hemlock.  The stunning contrast of colors was food for my sleep-deprived soul.

When my daughter turned one the following spring, we noticed the ends of the branches on that same hemlock were turning brown.  We were worried that putting in our septic had disrupted its roots. The spring my daughter turned two, the hemlock that was home to my constant companion those precious weeks after my daughter was born was completely dead.  This spring, as my daughter turns three, we will be cutting that hemlock down.

my girls playing under the branches of that hemlock
 a year and a half ago

that same hemlock today

My children also loved that tree, for it was the provider of small hemlock cones, perfect for fairy houses and all sorts of natural play.  My children came running up to me the other day to tell me their tree wasn't giving cones anymore.  They didn't notice it's dry brown branches, just that it's usual offering to their play was missing. We all loved that hemlock and another that is at the end of our property that provides a large, much needed shady space in the heat of summer and is the place where we first saw our owl friend this winter.  We noticed that the ends of its branches are beginning to turn brown as well.

The hemlocks in our woods are all dying.  We hoped it was an isolated incident, but this spring we are noticing that the hemlocks in our yard and up and down our road are all turning brown at the end of their branches.  The hemlock wooly adelgid is a tiny invasive insect and it's wreaking havoc in the woods I love.  I am hoping this cold winter will have stopped its spread through our forests, but only time will tell.

When you live on a piece of land you begin to know it well; it becomes an extension of your home. We are taking care of our remaining hemlocks the best way we can, but we are also savoring them, in case the day comes when they are missing from our home.

white clumps or "cotton" at the end of the
hemlock branches are the telltale sign of
 the hemlock wooly adelgid

small hemlock cones are perfect for fairy houses and all sorts of
nature crafts and play

beautiful striped underside of the hemlock needles