into the woods!

My kids have discovered the woods. We started hibernating way too early at this house so I started a 15 minute mandatory recess each day. It's the same brilliant plan as before...send them out for fifteen minutes, and call them back in five hours later. Once they find their fun outside (if dressed for success: snowpants and mittens) I can hardly get them back in the house for dinner. (Also, I send them outside with snacks and a waterbottle. It seems to greatly add to the sense of adventure for them!)

But I love it. Doesn't it just feel good? My kids are doing exactly what I spent my childhood doing. My mom said she did the same. They have raked a path of dirt, pushing the leaves aside. Each kid has their own "room" with doors made out of leaf piles. They have made chairs and tables and decorated their homes with scrap lumber Rory had in a pile. They pretend they are Pa and Ma Ingalls and when Hattie comes out she is baby Carrie.

It is good. Childhood outside is so good.

apple cider vinegar

God is showing me something really, really neat. And it's likely one of those things that sound cliche and obvious when you say it aloud, except when God is teaching his truth to you, through your own life, everything feels profound and amazing. So hear me out on this one.

A bit more than a month ago I began feeling a lot of pain in my hands. In the joints. Wringing out the dish towel felt difficult. Pulling out the clothes from the washer to put in the dryer was a challenge. Anything that required a firm grip left my hands feeling weak and unable.

Then the seasons changed and I felt this throbbing pain more regularly. I didn't want to talk about it aloud, hoping it would go away. But deep down I was really anxious about what it was because my sister had rheumatoid arthritis in her 20's and my grandma had it very badly in her 30's. So here I was in my 30's, hoping very badly this wasn't actually happening.

Rory prayed over my hands each night and was quite concerned. Hands that hurt is a problem when all we do all day is write, hold, wipe, wring, button, unbutton, zip, unzip, buckle, unbuckle, carry, pick up, push, pull, pour, cut, draw, chop, open, close, fasten, brush, wash, fold, type, squirt, play, turn and point. Hands are very important.

A week later a friend of mine, Cori, posted on facebook that she was offering a 7-day pure eating menu for anyone interested. So I took her grocery list and got off of gluten and most sugar. And the affects on my hands were tremendous. On the whole, my pain was cut in half. Easily. The timing was an absolute answer to our prayers. I have stayed on this changed eating plan for a month now and feel so, so grateful to Cori for getting me started with such a healthy menu of great foods to eat. (I started an instagram account to document what I was eating so that when I get discouraged and think, what can I eat?!!" I can easily see my options. Here's the page if you're at all interested. :) I don't plan to post regularly, just as I eat something new that fits the plan.)

I do still have flare ups. Which led me to read an article on Apple Cider Vinegar. Have you read about the stuff? With the mother?!! Read this article. It is sort of a wonder cure for many, many things. I now drink three tall glasses of water a day with 2 cap fulls (maybe 2 teaspoons?) of vinegar in each one (I drink one before each meal). At first I added maple syrup, but now I like it best with just the vinegar. Weird!

I love it. I feel really good.

Then one night Hattie fell and gashed her head. Rory was gone and an egg was beginning to develop right on the front of her forehead. I called Rory and asked him to pick up some Arnica at the Co-op. My friend Ali had told me all about this wonder cream that reduces swelling immediately. Rory brought it home and said, "I think you should use this on your reduces swelling." I put it on my hands and immediately felt relief.

So here's what I'm learning from these things. Arthritis is terrible. I was initially really nervous about how it would alter my life. But you know what? It has altered my life in really positive ways. My eating is the best it's ever been. Every day I'm having a kale salad, eggs, sweet potato mash, veggies and hummus, ants on a log, and tons of water. I feel healthy in many ways I didn't feel before.

And then Hattie's terrible injury (on her head which is even worse) turned into a serious blessing when we discovered Arnica, an herb we can grow in our own house. That was when I began reading about holistic anti-inflammatories and began the apple cider vinegar routine. It was another hard thing that led to some really great knowledge gained.

The lesson God is showing me is that really hard things, scary things, difficult things can lead me to a place where he can teach me something new. I know that's a very elementary teaching. I know you're likely thinking, "duh, woman." But, again, it is profound when it is you going through the motions to learn the through the hard things to get to the good things.

My hands still ache when I come in from the cold. But by-and-large if I drink my apple cider vinegar, stay off of gluten and corn products and most sugar, then man, I am nearly fully healed. Arnicare is helpful when I feel the ache. And I praise God that I am healthier in all other ways because these hands of mine were hurting. He has so much to teach us through trial and hardship.

Alden, my baby boy

I just put Alden down for his nap (this pic was taken back in September) and I just want to tell the world how much I ADORE my boy. He is such a delight. His smiles are huge and gummy and he loves me as much as I love him. Sometimes I try to match his expression by opening my eyes as bright, lifting my cheeks as high and stretching my smile as wide. Alden is just good for the soul. And I adore babies. I just love them. I smooch his big cheeks all day long and he has this gutty belly laugh that I want to save as a ringtone. When I was pregnant with him I always heard, "pure gift." And that is what he continues to be. Just a pure, good gift.

And he's awake a lot more of the day now! He is almost 4 months, though wearing all 12 month clothes (and growing!) and wants to be held upright and within eye shot of the action. He is still a very chill baby and I am just so glad we had him.

Also, he is Ivar's twin. Which is odd, because they are seven years apart. But these two were definitely separated at birth. By seven years. I'm having a hard time capturing exact expressions from one photo to the next, but you'll have to trust me that there is a striking resemblance.

Just write.

I feel like it's been a while since I've journaled about my life, and I feel like writing it out might help me organize my thoughts, so here I go.

I've been using the same version of Photoshop Elements for the last TEN years! A great $90 well spent, it seems. And today it won't open. I'll have Rory take a look at it, but isn't that weird? I've been limping along with it because I'm too cheap to pay the subscription each month and I know how to use Elements. But my days may be over. Hence, no pictures in this post. Instead, here are all sorts of words and stories tumbling around in my head.

Two weeks ago I took a HUGE load of laundry out of the dryer and discovered that a red crayon had made it into that load and came into contact with every single article of clothing that I had stuffed into the machine. But here's an interesting insight with how I cope: My heart rate didn't even rise. I simply didn't have time to get upset. I just took it all out, put it in a basket and put the basket in a corner for the next week and a half. I believe they call this denial. I call it saving my energy. And it was only when Rory asked what my plan, exactly, was with all of that laundry that I decided to go article by article and throw a whole lot of it away. It looked like blood. I saved big bath towels to use as rags. I saved a pair of Rory's NEW jeans for work clothes. (I clearly do not pre-sort my laundry...) I tossed the rest. It was terrible. But what are you going to do?

Here's a happier story: Yesterday Alden was dedicated at church and it was such a special day. We will have him baptized around Thanksgiving with my side of the family, and as I always say, in both services we are proclaiming the same truth: this is God's kid first. We get to raise him. We get to be his mom and dad. But God will always be his heavenly father. We recognize that. We acknowledge that. We believe that. And it always feels so good to have these services as a public declaration that we stand on that truth while doing our best to raise our kids to know and love and fear their Maker.

After the dedication we celebrated Rory's 40th birthday, Hattie's 2nd birthday and Ivar's 7th birthday. At the beginning of the fall I had asked Rory what he wanted to do for his 40th. I had always planned on a big barn dance, but then we had the Family Corn Roast and we both felt a little exhausted of event planning. He said what he wanted most was to have help get the farm ready for winter. So we invited family and friends (who knew how to run a tractor!) to come and help triple the size of his garden. Unfortunately it rained hard on his birthday so we cancelled. But the thing about a farm is that the work doesn't actually get cancelled even if the party is cancelled. So the two of us worked our tails off over the course of two days. And you know? It was a lot of work! And it also was very, very satisfying. I was happy to have him and he was happy to have me. It was all shoveling dirt, raking leaves, and using a pitch fork to spread wood chips. But we did it and I do believe I will take more ownership in that garden now that I worked so hard alongside Rory.

Speaking of working with Rory...the farm partnership has morphed into his work as well. We launched a sales campaign last week and stuffed a bunch of envelopes with a mailer selling his weather monitoring services. I signed my name on each letter, Rory folded and stuffed, Elsie sealed each one and Ivar put the stamp on. We worked hard as a family and it was very rewarding to get those envelopes in the mail. We are in a very new-to-us, uncharted season, where we are working together more and more. And what we're seeing quite clearly is that my gifts and his gifts compliment each other really well. It feels exciting and full of possibilities.

Another whole topic: I have a friend, Cori, who invited me to her 7-day pure eating group. I accepted with enthusiasm and then she set me up with a menu for the week, grocery list, ideas for healthy snacks and had a facebook group where she posted encouraging thoughts and truths about our bodies and God's hope for our lives. I loved it. Ate great for 7 days and have now continued another week. Yesterday there were three birthday cakes and a plate full of my sister-in-law's incredible sugar cookies and I pulled through. I had a cup of coffee instead (with a whole lot of maple syrup as my consolation!) and decided if I can withstand that sort of deliciousness, I think I can pull this eating off. I never weighed's not about that for me this time. It's just eating what leaves me feeling good and gives me energy.

Oh here's another story. On Saturday I pulled into the driveway with a van full of groceries. The sheep were all on my front sidewalk eating my hollyhocks. I tried to open the garage door, but it gets off its track easily and takes Rory to lift it while I press the button. (I have a call in for a new garage door). So I parked the car and shoo'd the sheep out of the way, tripped on the cats, told the chickens to move and started bringing the bags of groceries in the front door, careful not to step in any of the sheep poop that was scattered along the sidewalk.

I brought in bag after bag, closing the sliding door after each load because the chickens and cats were trying to get into the van and the sheep were sniffing around.

I got all the groceries into the house, left my shoes on the front step, and then went in to bring the groceries from the entry into the kitchen and put them away.

Sunday morning rolled around and we were all dressed up for Alden's dedication, running late for the meeting before the service for families who had kids being dedicated. Rory took Hattie to the van in the driveway and then came back with Hattie and announced, "Boa the cat was trapped in the van overnight. There is cat poop and throw up in three places that I have found so far."

Can. You. Imagine??!!

Can you?!!!!!

So Rory found the big towels that had red melted crayon on them (perfect!) and used them to start cleaning up the mess. As fast as he could. Then we checked everyone's seat and told the kids to load up and raced off to church.

And now I have a call in for a full interior detail. The works. Heavy clean. We want it to look brand new.  And please, make it smell brand new too.

On that note, I'll let you go now. Thanks for listening. I miss this space for these mind dump posts. They're good for me. As always, I'm still posting quick posts on The Grovestead Instagram. So if I ever go to quiet here, I'm likely over there...

Happy Monday!

our growing orchard

I took these pictures on a hot day in August and my kids were certain they were melting in that sheep shelter above. They were not as into the "check on the apples" experience as Rory and I were. But I love that they huddled together in that shade, eating their apples, sweating it out together. Now that it's blustery and cold today, I can appreciate the sibling bonding that was happening in this moment.

My friend Leisha once told me that raising kids is a lot like planting an orchard. You tend to the trees, you water and mulch them. You take measures to rid them of the bugs and insects. You prune them so they're sturdy and support them so they don't topple over in strong winds. You fence them in to protect them from harm. And then one day, years and years later, you get to enjoy the fruit of all of your labor. In the meantime you get a few apples every season. And you can see the goodness that is to come. But you plant an orchard and tend to those trees with your eyes on the harvest many years to come.

I love that illustration so, so much. I think of it every time we're out checking on the progress of our apple trees. And feel encouraged for all the ways I am tending, disciplining, training, guiding, protecting, supporting and encouraging my four kids every. single. day.