A simple treasure hunt for today .

Just popping quickly in-- because the baby is fast asleep and the boys are busy taking every couch cushion off the guest bedroom sofa and jumping away-- to say happy first day of Autumn. I love this season. So much. Yesterday, my Graeme-bear and I went on a little treasure hunt to welcome in the new season, while Job and Wren took their afternoon naps. We thought we'd share, just in case you'd like to do the same today. . .

one brown leaf // acorn // a yellow flower // leaf from an apple tree // feather // one smooth rock // bark // two pinecones // a red leaf // a small twig // a flower pod // an allium // one green leaf // pine needles

p.s. We found everything on our list except for an acorn. Pine trees outnumber the oak trees around here. (wink) Happy Autumn, friends!

Her birth story | Four weeks young

Tomorrow she'll celebrate four whole weeks of life on the outside. I can hardly believe it, really. It seems like just yesterday I was propped up in a hospital bed, holding her while she slept, talking to kind friends who stopped by to welcome her. (Brave ones, too, if you ask me. Funny things can be spoken when I am woozy. I still remember the time I told Jobie's first hospital visitor, an elder from our church, that it was like the parting of the Red Sea when my water broke. I have absolutely no! idea! why I would've given that (inaccurate) information at that time and to that person other than the fact that I was heavily medicated from surgery. Goodness.) 

I'm going to be very honest and tell you that a third cesarean delivery is not for the faint of heart.  I knew, going into the process, that the road would not be easy. In this case, the third time was not a charm. It was grueling. I sobbed in pain, as a somewhat loud-mouthed and demanding nurse required that I cough into a tube to prevent pneumonia forming in my lungs. Nearly five days later, I would stoop in pain from just a small cough or laugh, but imagine the pain, fresh from surgery a mere six hours earlier. (My doctor also informed me on the operating table that she needed to sew some of my stretched-out stomach muscles back together and I imagine that the extra pain I felt this third time around stemmed from that as well.)

But she's here. And we're whole. I have two cesarean delivery scars low across my abdomen that remind me of God's sovereignty and goodness and that modern medicine is a miracle, and if that weren't enough, three beautiful babies to tell me again and again that such things are indeed true. 

I can't say that I entered Wren's delivery without a great amount of fear. A third time for a major surgery intimidated me. I called my siblings the day before and made sure to say I loved them. Just in case. I told my husband to play this song, by my friend's husband, as they opened up my body and pulled out our beautiful daughter. And, I asked him to play this song while we held her for the first time, all piled on the small operating table, tears pooling and rolling down our cheeks.

They pulled her out and I heard someone say how little and cute she was, another commented on her hair. But then I saw her, I heard my husband's voice crack as he called out to her moments before I caught my own first glimpse of her, and she was perfect. 

And here we are, four weeks later. Each day, growing more and more in love with her. All of us. But, I'm sure you probably gathered that from these photographs. Happy four weeks to our beautiful Wrennie-Wrennie, as her brothers love to call her. We want you to know, little one, that we are indeed the lucky ones, with very grateful hearts to the One who knows you, made you, and brought you safely to us. 

p.s. I want to say that I wouldn't have made it without my sister, my husband, and especially my mom. I love you and am so thankful for you, mom!

Our baby bird | Little Wren Margaret

I still remember holding the ultrasound envelope up to the window light in our living room and seeing it. Wait, did I just see the letter g? (Frantic moving of the envelope into more light.) Steve was painting in the next room over but I could hear the ringing in my ears over the rhythmic sound of his paintbrush. We are having a girl? We are having a girl.  I put the envelope back on the counter and sunk into the rocking chair, watching my husband slather on fresh black paint over a brick wall. He made small talk. I tried to gather my courage to admit that I peeked. After several minutes I spit it out-- I peeked. Without missing a beat or stroke of paint, my husband laughed and said with certainty-- no you didn't! After a few moments of convincing him that I certainly had cheated, he asked me to get the envelope. And I have to tell you, my husband fell for our little girl the minute he knew she existed. 

A few days ago, I wrote the following on Instagram: All of the fears and doubts I wrestled with, since finding out we were expecting a baby girl, disappeared when I saw her for the very first time. I cried and cried when her little profile turned my way across the operating room curtain and I knew, with absolute certainty, that she had my whole heart.

I knew it would be that way. But I failed to comprehend how quickly my whole heart would be smitten with her. It happened in a split second. And in that fragment of time, I knew she was one of the very best things ever to happen in my life. 

Today, she is two weeks old. She is our little light, our Wren Margaret. And I wonder why I ever doubted how she'd fit into our family and into my heart. In all honesty, she has quite stolen every single one of our hearts. (I hope to soon post a few pictures of the boys oohing and awing over her.)

Wren Margaret
6 lbs, 8 oz
19 and 3/4"
Born at 9:00am on the dot
Monday, August 25th, 2014

Summer Shenanigans, Part Four | BumpNest Review

When we moved here last summer we could hardly believe our eyes that not only was there a pond in our backyard but also a resident duck whom we learned had been named Sloppy. My boys fell immediately in love with Sloppy the duck and, really, so did I. Then came winter and a cold snap of negative temperatures. I mentioned to my husband one night during the cold snap that I was trying to figure out a way to talk Sloppy into coming indoors. But it was too late. We never saw Sloppy again. Although I've always feared the worst, Graeme has always been completely convinced that Sloppy took off looking for his family. (Even though we were told he was unable to fly.) And I am not about to tell him differently. (smile) 

So, try and imagine our absolute glee when a mama duck and her seven babies appeared in our pond in late June. The boys insisted on giving the name Sloppy to the mama duck and I thought it was quite redemptive. We had a bit of panic the week of July 4th when our little duck family disappeared for a few days. But, I'm chalking it up to fireworks and the fact that this mama duck is a terrific little mommy. Perhaps she was just being extra cautious and keeping her little ones in the shadows for a few days after all of those firework booms.

It's safe to say that we've been spending hours upon hours outside this summer. Between our beloved ducks, our pool, our shade umbrella, and our last-year's-swimming-pool-turned-sand-box, we've stayed pretty happily employed. And a tad hot. And did I mention hot? (big pregnant smile) My three salvations this summer have been the pool, the umbrella, and my BumpNest pillow

It's so unbelievably surreal to me that we'll be meeting our baby bird in less than three weeks and less than two if she decides to show up when her brothers did. (My water broke on the same exact night with both boys-- the night before I turned thirty-eight weeks.) Whenever she decides to arrive, we will welcome her with open arms. And until then, you'll find us loving on our baby ducks who, as of just last night, let us feed them bread. We're pretty in love with these feathered friends.......

almost 37 weeks | photograph by baby bird's daddy

I've read several great reviews (here and here for starters) from women who loved their BumpNest pillow, especially for sleeping use. But in addition to giving sleeping comfort, I personally think this pregnancy pillow is a wonderful addition for outside shenanigans. I love that the cover easily zips off for the wash and it is such a nice size that even the boys are able to enjoy it right along with me. I would definitely recommend BumpNest's pregnancy pillow to you. (I always appreciate a company with a beautiful logo, product and photography, too!) Their pillows come in a variety of beautiful patterns and their scraps to caps initiative is such a good one. Thank you so much, BumpNest, for sending me your pregnancy pillow. Our outside summer shenanigans would have been much, much less comfortable without your BumpNest pillow!

our baby ducks. . . from Sarah Kate Branine on Vimeo.

Blueberry Picking in our Lightning McQueenies | Always enough grace .

We went blueberry picking last week. Friends of ours freely share their blueberry bushes and we are the happy beneficiaries of their generosity all through the summer and winter months alike. Fresh blueberries for the summer and frozen ones for pancakes throughout the fall and winter. Their land yields a thousand delights for little boys, not the least of which is a water fountain surrounded by smooth small rocks. I lost my boys to the fountain and rocks after about three minutes of blueberry picking. But I knew they and their tummies would return. And they did. Job returned sopping wet from head to toe, telling me that he was wet from the fountain and not from wetting his pants. I had gathered that, as even his hair was wet. (smile) I stripped him down to his Lightning McQueenies and off he went to pick, and immediately eat, a few blueberries. 

Several weeks ago, I started panicking about being the soon-to-be mama of three children. But if there's one thing I've learned in life over the last several years it is this-- there is always, always, always enough grace. (I'm specifically talking about grace as it pertains to motherhood but I certainly felt this lesson in so many other areas prior to becoming a parent.) In some situations I'd be hard-pressed to agree with my own life-lesson discovery. But deep down I know it to be true. And over the last several weeks, I've felt God filling up my grace cup just in time for it to be poured out, empty once again for filling. And isn't that the case? It seems that you can't store up grace nor can you come up short. Because that's the character of God-- he is always enough.

Today I cried when my Graeme-bear said to me in a very grown up voice-- mommy, don't call me Graeme-bear just call me Graeme. There he stood, folding all of his laundry and Job's too. I feel like I can't handle the crush of losing more one-on-one time with him as we prepare to welcome another little one into our lives. The maddening reality that he is growing up, too. And yet, this growing up of his is a gift of grace. Watching him as he learns more about responsibility and work, it's a thing to rejoice over, not to instead mourn the time that refuses to stand still. (But I will most certainly still call him my Graeme-bear.)

Sometimes grace reaches me in a paint color that finally turned out perfectly, sometimes it grabs a hold of me through written words. And during these last few weeks before our baby bird's arrival, I'm so grateful it found me through a little boy who has triumphed in potty training and another who is falling in love with responsibility. Thank you, Jesus, for your grace and for your love in showing that grace in so many tangible ways, even if it includes blueberry picking in our Lightning McQueenies. 

Summer Shenanigans, Part Two | And some ramblings. . .

A couple of weeks ago, we piled into Elsa and pointed her towards the coast. We stopped for, what my mom would tell you, the best apple fritter she'd ever put into her mouth. We wandered along through the little shops, spending most of our time watching the boys read in a book store and then borrowing quarters and pennies from Granna to add to our penny press collection. And now, as I write this, I'm sitting underneath a beautiful canvas umbrella on my back porch, the boys splashing away in their blow-up pool beside me, all of us probably daydreaming about the cooler temperatures that we enjoyed at the coast. . .

I always feel like this little journaling space sort of goes on vacation during the summer months. Please excuse the scattered postings, as I'm mostly just trying to keep track of all our summer shenanigans. And in that vein, over the last few weeks, I've been contemplating how this journaling space will most likely change after our baby bird arrives in August. I am so grateful that my husband talked me into starting this cubbyhole so many years ago and I look forward to keeping it going even though the postings will surely be fewer and even farther between. I do feel that I can safely promise to bombard my instagram account with plenty of baby photographs, though! (Further rabbit trailing, I painted baby bird's crib what I thought would be a delightful shade of pale lavender. In the end, it looked like something out of a My Little Pony magazine. Today, I tried again and believe we've landed on the perfect hue of pale lavender. Things are coming together for this little one and for that I am very grateful.)

Today marks thirty three weeks for our baby bird. (I'm sort of dying to announce her cute little name, but since we waffled a bit on her middle name, we've decided to wait and announce it when she is born. You know, just in case we waffle a bit more!) For weeks and weeks, I looked forward to the first of July just so I could officially say, "I'm having a baby next month!" And now that July is here, I'm finding myself in a panic. Yesterday, I ordered our little girl her first baby doll and her first hair bows. And now we all hope she comes out a little girl or we will certainly have one sad little boy on our hands as he lays in a lavender crib. But it is the most perfect shade of pale lavender. (smile) 

Happy summering, friends. I hope your summer shenanigans are going well. We're off to pick (and eat!) a boatload of blueberries in the morning.
Be back soon,

Summer Shenanigans | Part One

Last week, the boys experienced strawberry picking for the very first time. Jobie was covered in strawberry juice and ate his weight in berries. Graeme wasn't far behind in the berry count and his enthusiasm made us all smile. I know our shenanigans might be few and far between this summer but I wanted to begin this series to keep track of every single one. It's funny how an hour of strawberry picking can make two little boys' day. It's funny how snapping these photographs made mine. Here's to the next shenanigan, and the next, and the next. . .

Jobie heading towards the strawberry field // the perfect day for picking strawberries // John Deeres for days around here and my boys love that! // Jobie's bucket // running for more berries to eat // helping Granna to pick the last for her bucket

Happy summering, friends, wherever these snaps might find you. . .

Stories from Here | A Giveaway with 4Moms

Today marks the one year anniversary of our move to unincorporated living. We are so incredibly happy to be here! I still vividly remember the Sunday morning, from last April, when my husband spoke for the very first time to what we now know as our local church. In ministerial terms, he was candidating, an interview of sorts. The church had put us up for the night in a brand new, beautifully spacious hotel suite and the boys slept in late, presumably due to their splishing and splashing in the pool with daddy the night before. 

My husband needed to arrive early that morning, catching a ride with one of the church elders. I knew it would be a slightly crazy morning, getting the boys ready and packing up the car all by myself. But I planned things out the night before and felt fairly confident. I'll just get one of those luggage cart thingies, load everything on it along with the boys, and make one solitary trip down to Elsa. In theory, it was a grand idea. However, there was a pack-n-play involved. And when pack-n-plays are involved, grand ideas can quickly turn into sweaty messes. (Along with possibly a few naughty words from this baptist preacher's wife. Possibly.)

I knew that I needed to be at the church by the time the service started. Obviously. I mean, first impressions here, friends! (smile) But as I worked feverishly to get the last stubborn pack-n-play hinge to close, I saw my window of (on time!) opportunity quickly disappearing. I was a hot mess. The boys were running around the hotel room unpacking the bags that I had carefully packed up just a few hours before and I was near tears. I began picturing myself driving into the parking lot, late, with the pack-n-play thrown on top of the volvo wagon. I finally decided that we had to just leave. I smooshed the unsubmissive pack-n-play, with an angry heave, into the back of Elsa, strapped the boys into their seats, and headed for the church. I was late. I was so embarrassed and upset. What would these people think of me? I couldn't even manage to be on time for the very first time my husband was officially interviewing?

As it happened, one of the deacons pulled in right next to us. I was afraid to even look his direction. But he met me at my door, wished us a happy morning-- with no mention of why in the world are you late and why is there a very sad looking pack-n-play wadded up in your trunk?-- but instead said to me, "could I carry Jobie in for you?" His kindness literally meant the world to me in that moment. And do you know what? Not a single soul said anything to me about being late. But if you know these people, well, then you'd already know that! I am incredibly grateful for their graciousness towards us in so many ways.

But let me finish out this story in a most unexpected way-- with a giveaway of all things! A few months ago, I was given a Breeze Playard from 4Moms. And while there are many things to love about this modern playard, the one thing that I appreciate so incredibly much is that it opens and closes with one single push/pull. I know that you might not believe me, so watch the video. I am here to tell you that this playard is like magic. And today, I'm giving one away in partnership with 4Moms! I love this company and their products and if you know me at all then you know that I am not just saying that. (I can guarantee you'll be hearing more about them on Cranny + Me in the coming months-- minus the frustrated baby parefenalia stories!) Enter below to win your very own Breeze Playard from 4Moms. 

Catch up with 4Moms over at their Facebook page for a full list of opportunities to win a Breeze Playard via their current blog tour! This giveaway will end at midnight on Sunday, June 22, 2014 and a winner will be selected and contacted on the following day. The giveaway is open to US and Canadian residents only. Crossing my fingers for you! Happy entering! 

Lately | Catching joy twenty seconds at a time.

There's a big part of me that doesn't want to record the thoughts you're about to read. Because, who wants to say, I'm struggling and things feel difficult right now. Nobody. Especially the one who is carrying the miracle of brand new life and watching two others, full of joy and beautiful happiness, run circles around her each day. Yes, especially that one. 

On Mother's Day, I realized before twenty minutes had even passed the clock since stepping out of bed, that this would be a different sort of Mother's Day. My husband had beautiful gifts on the counter waiting for me, flowers, a card, and my favorite muffins that he made early that morning before leaving to go and study. I started to get breakfast for the boys and before I could even sit down to join them, my Jobie had smeared his muffin from one end of the table to the next, crumbs smashed into every crevice of table, rug, and pajamas. He looked at me with those big and smiling blue eyes, full of mischief and, let's be honest, naughtiness.

My morning continued in a similar vein, my soul struggling to count and redeem any of it as joy. Training is wearisome, my emotions usually raw and reeling. I have tens upon tens of reasons to apologize to my boys each day. I don't find the part of asking forgiveness and telling them that I am sorry the difficult part. Because, my boys always meet me with grace and forgiveness. The difficulty is in my constant inability to meet them in the raw and reeling moments in the same way. I think, wrongfully, that sometimes I want the ability to do this myself and then am maddened by the realization that I simply cannot. I read these words this week and they stopped me in my tracks in a really, really needed way-- You will never esteem and seek grace until you finally admit that sin is a problem you have no ability whatsoever to solve. (Paul Tripp) I cannot solve my yelling, my anger, my harsh tones, my lack of patience with my children. But I know the One who can.

On Mother's Day, as I stood back and watched the joy in my boys' faces over their gift to me of a record player, I realized that this part of motherhood, though seemingly in a difficult spot, it's still full and ripe with redemption. There is plenty of joy and beauty to be found, even if for only moments at a time. The real find, though, is in realizing the Redemption and Joy and Beauty that is here, every moment, for the taking. And that is good, good news.

/1/ possibly my favorite capture ever of my Jobie /2/ captured joy in blowing dandelions /3/ we hung our hammock and I will be eternally grateful that nobody was there to record my first attempt at getting into it. Eternally grateful, I repeat. /4/ pulling out my 60mm macro lens more and more these days in anticipation of a sweet baby's arrival and the onslaught of pictures you'll no doubt be seeing! /5/ our little baby bird at twenty five weeks

Dream a little dream .

Just popping in with a little favorites/wish list for our baby girl. Does it shock you to know that this list took me a few weeks to put together? Oh goodness. I have to remind myself that finding those simple, sweet, and unique items can take time. And so, even when I have moments of panic, like yesterday afternoon when I was sitting on the sofa lost in thought about how soon she'll be here!, I have to remember that everything will come together. All of the special things I want to prepare for her, her little room, all of the nesting projects on my list ....... it will be alright. So, here's to a little wishing today, a few pretty things to look at, and a song that's been on my mind.

/1/ moses basket  /2/ floral tank and bloomer set by Old Navy  /3/ rose gold moccs by Freshly Picked  /4/  That Bowtie I Like print by Michelle Armas for her nursery wall  /5/ pacifier  /6/ chambray bubble one piece by Baby Gap /7/ (not pictured) Aden + Anais' easy swaddles and sleeping bags  /8/ (not pictured) this leather bag or something similar for a diaper bag/purse