Freedom

(Disclaimer: Firstly, I am grateful to live in a country where I have the freedom of speech, expression, and creativity – to share my thoughts and opinions in a public(ish) forum without fear.  Secondly, this post may read unpatriotic, but that is not my intention, just happens to be where my heart is.)

In the words of my friends Shane and Shane:

For freedom you’ve set me free,

And yes, I am free indeed.

You rewrote my name,

unshackled my shame,

You opened my eyes to see

that I am free.

So this song has nothing to do with Benjamin Franklin or George Washington or any of those other fellas who wore weird hair. It’s not about the promise of forefathers or any current or historic politicians for world peace or a better economy or an increase in national employment or security. The writing (or rewriting) isn’t referencing any bills, amendments, laws, etc. that outline the do’s and don’ts of society.

No, this freedom is much… freer. And, it is for everyone.

Because the price, the biggest sacrifice the world has ever seen, has already happened. And it can’t be renegotiated or voted on or changed to include or leave out any group or individual.

What a relief.

I’ve been in an intense season of spiritual pruning over the past several months (I guess almost two years now – wow!) and have come to realize that our only true freedom is love. That big, abundant, all-encompassing love that sets you so free that no matter the state of this country, our society, your very own heart – you shall know the truth, and the truth will set you free. Free.

A free that lets you breathe. A free that lets you love.  A free that lets you extend grace. A free that lets you receive grace. A free that lets you forgive. A free that lets you find things new every morning. A free that lets you restore and reconcile yourself to him. A free that lets you take leaps of faith.

Leaps that take you places you never knew you would go, could go. Leaps that cross state lines…

When we ventured back to North Carolina in February we came with big, vulnerable hearts – opening ourselves wide for whatever God laid out for us. When not but a year before we felt so broken and dejected that some days I wasn’t even sure which way was up, I never could have imagined how bountiful the promises would pour out.

First, there’s this place:

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And these people who feel like family:942253_10103067246959353_1913024684_nAnd these folks who have stolen my heart:

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And these loves who have prayed and loved us through every leap, big and small:

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And people who encourage me to create and pursue small business dreams:

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And the miles and miles of possibilities of new-found freedom:

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For freedom has set me free.  And yes, I am free indeed. He rewrote my name, unshackled my shame. He opened my eyes to see, that I am free.

Free.

Up the Creek

No need for a paddle. This time.

These spontaneous adventures take me back to spending two weeks a summer in the mountains as a kid.

…collected “wittle wiver wocks” until my pockets were billowing over and my shorts were falling off…

…climbed hills that were far bigger than me…

…played in mud, to my mama’s chagrin, probably took more with me than I left…

…stomped through the creek, looking for the rock to make the biggest splash…

…posed for a bajillion (and one) photos to get the perfect family shot…

…learning how to use the “facilities” in the woods…

…turning over rocks and logs and being mesmerized by my findings…

…and exploring it all with people I love.

It’s crazy to think how far back these memories take me. And even crazier to be making fresh ones in similar backdrops with our little fella. I hope a million years from now he will splash and get muddy with his little ones, but that will have to wait – his heart belongs to his mama until at least 35.

Twelve: Round Two

Alright. It’s kind of fun having a “toddler”, I’ll admit – even if he doesn’t toddle (that’s a real word – no red squiggly line) real well and is starting to practice for the Troublesome/Terrific/Terrible/Transformative Atti-Twos. I love him to pieces – sometimes so much my heart aches. I love to watch him play and discover, figure things out, test his limits (he is quite fond of this one), and wonder what is going on in that little brain of his. His imagination already runs wild, I can see it in his eyes. Most days are filled with laughs and games and looks of mutual adoration, often started off with a good morning smooch from the little guy – but I will confess we are entering the phase where the discipline part is kicking into gear, and I am not sure yet how good we are going to be at this part. More to come on that at a later date…

I love being a mama, especially to this little guy:


Noah’s Birthday Invite that never got printed or sent…whatever.

…and even if he does call me “Beb”, here are a few (or twelve) reasons why, in no particular order:

1. He loves Florida State football – not so much the arena in which it is played, just the team itself. He loves them so much that he had an anal volcano ALL over his seat, shorts, hands, and Grammy Nan just as we were pulling into our parking spot for the game. Perfect. I recently heard that the “adventure only begins when everything else has gone to s#*t” – wise, wise sensei.


Exhausted much? It’s hard work being a Nole.
Sidenote: He’s worn this jersey every game day except Oklahoma.
We aren’t superstitious.

2. Clap on – (clap-clap). Clap off – (clap-clap). Noah has the clap down to a patty cake. I even fed him pancakes the other morning and when I was telling him what it was he started clapping. And the part where you “throw it in the pan” he starts to duck for cover from tickling fingers.

3. Wagging. Taking a walk with a wagon – wagging. This kid loves all things wagon – riding, snacking, pushing, throwing – if he can do it in/to a wagon, count him in.

Wagging is whoa-some for the wandering wagger.

Look closely – it was chicken pox season.

He is riding in his Quarantine Wagon.

4. White boy can dance – well, as rhythmically as his genes allow. The best is that once he starts flailing his arms to the beat he expects everyone else to do the same. And we do. The other day Chris said, “Why does he think that just moving his arms is dancing?” – to which I responded by showing him, in close proximity to his face, the flailing about that we’ve been inherently teaching for the past 12 months when anything resembling a tune is played. And to that all he could say was, “Oh…”.

Go Pack – only when in the presence of Uncle D…
5. Noah plays peek-a-boo now – where he is the “peeker”. He will play with most anyone anytime he has something to hide behind – sometimes even himself in the mirror (obviously my favorite to watch). Fair warning: if the object is mobile, watch your face. You’ve been warned.

Peek--a-boo!

6. We have had enough parties to get us through until he’s three. Yep, three celebrations of Noah’s first year of life: Fairhope, Clyde, and Ten Mile. Each one full of love, laughs, friends, family, food, and fun. The Fairhope party is where we gave him his very own chocolate cake – I have been told since the day he was born that his first cake MUST be chocolate so it shows up in the pictures. And show up it did:

‘Scuse me, sir. It is not your birthday.
Please step away from the cake.
I think he liked it.
Finger-lickin’ good.Clean up, clean up, everybody everywhere.
Clean up, clean up, get the chocolate out of your hair.
(Pay no mind to the green gob-lin doing the spraying.)
“diss?”Party numero dos at the Giusti casa. He’s not very excited about it.Noah and GiuGiu – she knows how to get down.Mason’s face says it all – ha! Love it.

We are thankful for everyone who helped us welcome Noah Matthew into the world a year ago and for everyone who has grown to love him since. We are beyond blessed with the family-by-blood and the family-by-love that surround us.

7. Noah took his second trip to Boone, NC to hang out with Aunt KD & Uncle Dan – and he let us come along, too. Sleeping in the closet went better than before, the little doggies were slightly more tolerant of the other four-legged creature in their midst, wedding things were accomplished, autumn weather was enjoyed, Florida State football was watched, and Green Bay shirts were worn.

Football & snacks with daddy –
sounds like a good Saturday afternoon combo to me.
I love the mountains…I love the rolling hills…I love the Noah and all his simple thrills…

8. Noah has always been a great sleeper – I mean, phenomenal. During his twelfth month he decided that not only is he going to be a great sleeper, but he think he likes being a night owl as well. Down between eight and nine (usually), wakes between eight and nine. Yes, please. Sign me up. AND he still takes a beast of a nap or two during the day – two plus hours per nap. So for those of you (Aunt Meg) who said that “all babies wake between 6:30am and 7am because they are babies and that is what they do and I should just go on and forget about not being a morning person” – you are welcome to sleep in at my house any day. Knock on a big ole piece of wood…

Sleepy McGeeface

9. For the first time in his life Noah got to have all four grandparents all to himself for a whole weekend! We went down to Pensacola/Tallahassee/Fairhope over Labor Day weekend to go to a football game, John Mayer concert, and to celebrate Noah’s first year with all of our FL/AL family. While ‘beb’ and daddy were with Aunt Kelly and Uncle Paul, Noah was hamming it up with his four grand parental units. Scary thought, I know. The amount of sugary love in that room must have been stifling.

A whole lot of this was happening…
while chaos ensued.We look pretty wild, eh?Prom Pose
Watch out – that’s how babies happen.

(On prom night? What exactly does that mean?
This post must be running way too long.
Almost over, I promise.)
10. Sippy cups are old news, we have moved on to the straw in this house. Blessing and a curse: 1) He wants to get his grubby little hands on everything with a straw – my drink, your drink, the people at the next table’s drink. 2) He has “forgotten” how to tip his sippy cup and drink on his own. Convenient. 3) Meltdown will occur when straw-drinker does not immediately surrender said-drink to the boy. Public spectacle = Slightly embarrassing.

11. I mentioned this before, though I feel it is worth listing here as well. We are ween-ers here in the Fab Ford Fam. No more boob for the little one. He decided it was for babies and very easily and naturally moo-ved on. Amen? Amen.

Any suggestions of how to get him to drink this instead-
without putting chocolate in it?


12. And last, but certainly not least, as this one is probably the biggest milestone of all – for all parties involved: Noah spent his first night away from us and his bed. BIG step – more for us than him. It was very strange not having him with us and felt like we were being irresponsible at times – like we had left him somewhere on accident. Mama Bo and Papa Bo took him with them over to the Giusti house for a few days so that Chris and I could get the house together for Noah’s party and spend a little bit of time just the two of us. We went to the climbing gym, to a movie, dinner, and just relaxed. It was wonderful to have the together time, but it felt even better to have Noah home.

That’s a whole lot of little boy lovin’ right there.


Wow. Big month for our not-so-little guy. It’s hard to believe it’s been a year (plus) since he changed our lives and hearts forever. Our love for him is worldly and imperfect, yet mighty and unconditional. I would easily give my life for his, my tears for his pain, my joy for his sadness. If knowing that I could protect him from hard lessons and uphill battles would provide for him the best possible outcome, I would – but I know better than to think I know what’s best. We love him more than there are stars in the sky, but only his Maker knows that count…

The next update is just around the corner… but here are a few blogs to be looking for: 180 South, 3 Cords, Etsy (gulp)…

Fall Friskies

Orange. Red. Yellow. Crunching. Leaves. Chai Tea. Thanksgiving. Hammocks. All Things Pumpkin. Cool Breeze. Birthdays. Anniversaries. Socks with Chacos. Long Sleeves. Festivals. Halloween (OK- really just the candy). Harvest. Change. Fireplace. Crisp Air.

I. Love. All. Things. Autumn.

I think I am not going to call it Fall anymore. Typically when something falls it breaks, shatters, hurts itself – all not-so-very-fun things. And Autumn is so very fun.

I have decided to make a list – a list of projects I want to take on this Autumn for no other reason than they will bring me joy:

  • Dig up hosta plants that have taken over my yard. They are pretty and apparently expensive but I don’t have a desire for 9,374 of them in my yard. I would like to plant other things – like tulips or carrots.
Hosta la vistaHello, pretty spring time flowers!
  • Build chicken coop (I originally spelled this “coup” – and then laughed at the image of a bunch of chickens living in a rag-top hatchback) with my dad. Yes, it’s happening. This spring we will get chickens. I haven’t decided yet if we will try to hatch them or try to acquire them post-brooding, depends on how in touch with my roots I am willing to go. Chicken pox, you don’t scare me.
Welcome home, chickens.
  • Hang our hammock. Sadly we have moved two hammocks to three houses and have yet to put either one of them up to enjoy since Kansas City where it’s a frozen tundra three-fourths of the year. (I’m not bitter.) Operation: Hammock may happen this afternoon – I have to check with my boss. The little boss.
I need a lot more of this in my life… just up off the ground.
  • Sew. Sew. Sew. My goal is to make a stockpile of hand-grown goodness to sell on (deep breath) Etsy and then the Market Square Farmers Market next season. I also have Christmas gift dreams to fulfill as well. I think I will need to tune up my machine to prepare it for the storm – anyone know how to do that? Cinderelly, Cinderelly…
The dress I made for a little one who is loving life in the womb.
Come on out and meet the world, sweet girl.

  • Research and plan a year-round garden based on the Vegetannual starting in the spring to further our attempt at becoming locavores (Folks who eat local, in-season food as best they can). I gladly welcome any pointers. I am not trying to feed Roane County, just our little family and enough to can/freeze for the cold months.
Yummy – now when do I plant y’all in East Tennessee?
  • Paint our dreary living area. I say “living area” because it is just that – our kitchen, living room, dining room, entry way, sewing nook are all one big room. And the color on the wall is about as exciting as a root canal.
I am digging this color or something similar – bright and inviting.
I also like the green of the next room.

  • Create a business card. (Listen, I know I am nothing fancy, but a girl can dream.) Tell me what you think.
  • Throw my almost-one-year-old the most incredible birthday celebration this side of the Mississippi. I know, I am running behind, but this chicken pox stuff has thrown me for a loop – and now I am rethinking the original theme. This is what happens when I have too much time to think…
Celebrating a little early with Uncle Matt & Aunt Heather.
We are working on the whole “thank you” thing…
  • Carve pumpkins and reminisce on previous pumpkin carving parties. Do they have pumpkins in the northwest?
We’ve got mad pumpkin-carving skills in this neck of the woods.
Too bad half of our neck has run off…

  • Take a trip or two to the mountains. It’s always good to go home.
Back porch view from HiZi – such is life.

Whew. I better stop while I’m way already way behind. Three days, folks, until the Autumn equinox. I’ve got a lot of goodness on my plate – how about you? What are your favorite things about the season formerly known as Fall?

Ten

For sake of not having an emotional breakdown over the fact that my little baby has hit the double digits in months, I am going to skip the cutesy antics and conversation I typically have with the next month and get right to the list.

But, Eleven, I’m watching you.

1. Noah’s parents aren’t the only ones with the watersports bug, he got his start this month on the boat as well. Dennis and Stephanie took the Ford Family out on our own tour of WBL and I think Noah enjoyed it as much as the rest of us… Once more and he might be as good of a skier as his paternal grandpa.

Noah lulled in the arms of Mrs. Stephanie.

Can’t tell who is enjoying it more.

As soon as we docked he woke right up.

2. Our home has been like a daggum revolving door this summer with folks coming to and fro, in and out, just stopping in or passing through. We’ve had parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends – lifelong and new, and a partridge in a pear tree. And I love it. It gives me an excuse for my house being dirty.

Abigail was able to come and spend almost two whole weeks being “Mama Helper” while her brother and sister were at camp in North Cackalacky. We played, swam, skied, ate ice cream, crafted, watched movies, and loved on Noah. You would never guess the amount of help an almost-six-year-old could be, but I could definitely handle a little helper more often.

Pretty girl at the marina for dinner.
She made her hair flower.
Also among those visitors were the Chanceys, Chris’ mom’s side of the family, who had never been here before. Their visit was too short, but we managed to pack a lot in. Oh, and I am pretty sure Noah was likely the draw that brought them across the mountains. I mean, who can resist him?
Aunt Meg, Chris, Jamie, Shelley, and Uncle Roy on the two-cent camp tour. Jamie helping Noah enjoy his newly crafted JD tractor,
an early birthday present from the Chancey family.
Can you believe he’s to the point where he can be receiving “early birthday” presents?
3. Grits has learned that it’s to her benefit to have a baby in the house, now that he knows how to feed her. You see, instead of leaving it on his tray or in hiw bowl, Noah thinks it’s a good idea to pitch his food on the floor when he’s done. The instant gratification to watch the pup gobble it up makes it even better. Once our computer is released from the Geek Squad, I will share a video of this lovely pasttime. Until then, this will have to do.

These two are quickly becoming partners-in-crime.

4. Camp was, is, and always will be part of the interwoven fabric of my being, Chris’ too. (We became one when we married, so do we just have one fabric now, or are we looking a little more like stonewash denim?) So naturally, being born into our family, brought home to a camp house, Noah’s fabric is already tie-dyed with splashes of camp…which is why it’s incredibly special for us that he has gotten to meet a whole slew of Crestridge folks, and his first Crestridge baby friend.

Ashley/Templeton came to see us the first weekend of July,
thus winning the prize for meeting our little guy first.

We jet-setted to Boone for a few days, meeting Krystal and her family for the first time.

Capping off the month with a Bridal Shower, Noah was pleased to meet Kristi & Carver…

Picture to come.

As well as Debbye and Nancy who joined us for the shower in Black Mountain.

5. Noah and I spent what seems like half of July in the mountains, either in Balsam or Boone. He’s explored mountains, streams, wildflowers, abandoned houses, blackberry bushes, wild ponies, rock climbers, mountain peaks, and more…all from the comfort of my back. He likes to hike, looking around to take it all in. Of course, I would probably love it even more if I got to ride on someone’s back. Any takers?

Hiking around with my mom and dad on their first visit to YASNY.Hiking up to see the original homestead on the mountain.

6. Teeth numbers five, six, and seven are poking there way on through. I am fairly certain these little boogers have been the most painful for him, even still, he takes it like a champ. These little white specks are constant reminders that he will never stop growing, never stop changing – no matter how hard I try to convince myself otherwise. I find myself wishing he could just keep the four little charming chompers he has now… we do live in East Tennessee, that’s a lot by some standards.

Beware of biting baby…I recommend visually counting the teeth.

7. All along our sweet guy has been extremely laid-back and very low-maintenance, rarely putting up a fuss for much of anything. And now he’s discovered all the new things his voice can do – and boy, does he use them. He has learned/taught himself/concocted this high-pitched-nails-down-a-chalkboard-make-your-hair-stand-up-glass-shattering scream that physically makes my body hurt when he does it. This cry is reserved for when he is not getting his way, say at naptime when he thinks naps are for babies (I’ve got news for you, kid) or at mealtime when brocolli just ain’t cutting it. It makes me want to leave the room – and if he is adequately supervised (some days Grits counts) I may just walk away.

Don’t let those big blue eyes fool you.

8. Alas, our child is no longer a vegetarian. Unless he chooses to go Veg some other time in his life, he can always say he was until he was ten months old. And the first meat of choice? An all-natural beef frank – yep, a hot dog. He devoured it piece by piece and probably would have gone back for more. His face is all shiny and his little fingers are slick with all-natural grease (ha) when he finishes. I wonder if my strange hankering for hot dogs when I was six months pregnant could have been Noah letting me in on his preferences while in the womb? I wouldn’t have touched a hot dog for nothing before then…


Noah says, “Thanks, Aunt KD, for my first (of many) scrumptious hot dogs.”

9. Noah has learned the wave. Not the sportsfan phenomenon of people standing and sitting in repetition as the “wave” moves across the stadium, though that would be impressive. He’s telling people “bah-buh” while awkardly waving his limp hand in the air. He doesn’t really have the timing down yet, so he will likely kick visitors out of our house or try to depart early from places, but it’s so darn cute you can hardly stand it. He uses “bah-buh” for greetings and salutations accompanied with a wave so far… though he does say “ayeee” which is definitely his hello.

Hola. Aloha. Bonjour. Hiya. Hello there. Hey y’all.

10. And last but absolutely not least, our little one has found his M’s and has been working on his “ma-mas” all month. Melts my heart, yes it does. Does he call me mama? Well, no – anything can be “ma-ma” at this point, but it’s started, and that’s all that matters.

Loving on his mama before we floated down the river.

So yes, time flies when you are having fun and even sometimes when you aren’t (see number seven). We are looking forward to lots of fun things in months eleven and twelve, but it’s okay if they take time getting here.



Sidenote/Apology:

There are LOTS of pictures and videos that go along with this update, but our computer has been captured by the Geek Squad, so they will have to wait. I thought I ought to finish the post itself before I got fired. From life.



Upcoming on the blog: More of my thoughts and opinions on life, love, saving the planet, changes, and things I find consuming my time these days. Stay tuned.

West Virginia Mountain Mama

So I didn’t actually go to West Virginia, but close.

We started the week off in Balsam at my in-laws home with my parents and sister’s brood, headed to Boone to spend time with the Ashmans, picnicked atop Grandfather Mountain, hiked in Grayson Highlands in Mouth of Wilson, VA, and ended with a quick stop in Asheville to do my civil and earth-loving duty of purchasing “locally”. (Some may argue that Asheville isn’t exactly “local” to Ten Mile, TN, but I argue that I will always call NC home. So there.)

Before we get to the pictures, funny story:
As a lot of you may know YASNY is the Ford Family mountain home where my in-laws plan to spend a lot of their time once they retire, where we all meet for family Christmases, where Chris and I introduced Noah to the mountains that he will love for the first time, so on and so forth. This was the first time that I went to the house without any of the other Fords…and well, I figured that by this point I knew how to “open” the house (i.e. turn on power, water pump, water heater, etc.)…I mean, I have been in the family now for almost five years.

So we get in the house and I immediately go around to all of the dials in each room turning on the “air conditioners”, like I have seen my in-laws and Chris do many times before in past visits. About ten minutes go by and I notice that I am sweating, which is rare for me. I figure it must just be because I am lugging around an eighteen pound weight as I move things to and fro.

Then my dad says, “Is it hot in here or is it just me?”… I think little of it, chalk it up to menopause or something like that, and move along tinkering with this and that.

My mom then points out that “hot air” is blowing from the vents.
Oh boy, I have broken the house. Great.

So I texted Chris and Grammy Nan saying: Where is the AC in the house?

No reply.

At this point I start going around checking the “AC” dials again to make sure that I did it right, at which time I notice the small little golden nugget of information inscribed on the dial: Electric Heater.

Defeated.
Or should I say de-heated?

I text back: I didn’t know that YASNY didn’t have an AC unit?

To which I recieve: It does. Open the windows.

To my defense, this is the first time going up in the summer since 2006. And by myself.
At least I looked like I knew what I was doing…

Onto the photos…

A little porch reading with my friend, Barbara.
The view ain’t too shabby either.
Little monkey climbs on everything.He thinks his Papa is hilarious.
Chris: “Can grandkids have favorites?”
Sweet angel baby sleeping with MamaBo on the porch swing.Grits likes the front porch, too.

Mainly rolling her ball off the edge and chasing it into the bushes.The Bullington Fam joined us after picking up the oldest two from

Ridgecrest and Crestridge.Noah with Aunt Krystal at Grandfather picnic & condo in Boone.

And did I mention that Noah and I did this all by our lonesome?
Well, without Chris I mean.

Yep.

Noah slept in a closet, I got blisters with the new shoes to match, and was barely able to close my eyes for more than an hour.
And I would do it all again.

Please don’t call Child Services, it was a big closet.