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Horses, Blue Hair, Kisses, Fashion & Fall

“When will this stop?!” I exclaimed, as I peered at the sweet little ankles of our youngest daughter, no longer covered up by her pant legs.  As the weather has cooled, all of the jeans have come out of hibernation, and reveal what we all know is going to be true, but is still surprising year after year.  About three inches too short.  High-water pants, without the water.  The funniest part of this observation was when she came over to me, threw her hands up in the air and returned my comment with: “It will NEVER end!”  I just stared at her, both amused and surprised at her accuracy and hilarity.  My old soul of a daughter, who knows a bit more about life than I do sometimes.

Indeed, fall is upon us.  I spied frost this morning, and I think not being able to perform my usual putting our garden to sleep for the winter, has made me feel like it can’t possibly be here already.  Thirty-seven weeks pregnant,  gardening is an activity that has been scratched from my fall to-do list.  Baby Chip is strong and low and starting to make me long for the end.  I want to see these strong legs that make sweeping movements even yet, across my belly, and make me wonder if he has six legs, they are so active and everywhere.  I can hardly wait to see if his hair is straight or curly, and what color eyes he will inherit.  Will he have that joker smile Nadine was born with, or dimples and a cleft in his chin?  So much about which to wonder and wait.

The children have been incredible as they have a lot more on their plates than normal.  Keeping this nesting mama happy with a clean house, washed dishes, and delving into their schoolwork each day.

Nadine has been back in the saddle and doing such an incredible job riding!  She is learning to jump and is almost to a canter.   The other day at her lesson, this horse kept me in very close company!
She is really into puzzles, and spends hours doing them in her room.  We’re also working on a big one on our dining room table right now.  So yesterday we were sorting through pieces, and I was messing around with a pile of similarities.  She sat down, grabbed a piece out of the box of a thousand pieces, and put it in a spot, first try.  Five seconds later, same thing.  By the fifth time of doing this, I looked up and possibly glared.  How on earth?  She just laughed and shrugged.  Talent, I tell you.

We’re all taking bets as to whether or not we will have another teenager or a new baby first, since both events are due to happen the same week.  Elijah hopes Chip comes first so we’re all home together, and I agree.  Recently, he had the urge to dye his hair blue.  With permission (while I wasn’t home, because that’s just easier on my nerves), he gave it a go.  It was pretty hilarious, because his hair didn’t turn blue as much as his scalp and forehead did.  Eventually it all washed out.  During our family vacation, he was so much fun to photograph, jumping off the pier into the lake.  He is also such a patient teacher and helps me a lot with the younger kiddos during school.

Jack continues to grow like a weed.  He is involved in a pretty intense wrestling league twice a week.  A few weeks ago he got work out with and meet his favorite wrestler of all time: Olympic champion, Jordan Burroughs.  He inspires me to not quit, and I told him he will need to coach me back into shape after baby is born!  I love watching him and Elijah interact.  Elijah recently converted Jack to the love of hot sauce.  Now we will probably go through two bottles a week instead of just one.  This past night at wrestling practice, I stayed to watch him until Matthew could meet me there after work.  It was especially packed out, with more than thirty kids practicing.  I was just leaving and almost to the door when Jack came running up to me and gave me a kiss goodbye.  I think I left part of myself melted on the floor right there.  I don’t take it for granted that my ten-year-old son wouldn’t be the least bit ashamed to show his mama some love in a room full of tough boys and adults.  That’s the type of guy he is.  And yes, he still eats lots of apples.

Sometimes I forget that Elsie is just eight.  She’s incredibly capable and strong.  Her love for life and new adventures is hauntingly familiar.  She loves fashion, and I’m always amazed at the outfits she comes up with, because she certainly never asks my opinion about them.  She dreams of gymnastics, and we hope to be able to say yes to this soon, now that her arm is fully healed.  When she’s not doing her schoolwork, she is playing school with Betty.  She told Nadine the other day that she wants to be in eighth grade.  I realize I don’t take enough pictures of her.

Betty loves school.  She is reading and doing math.  The other day she was writing words with “X” in them.  She wrote “Tax”, then drew a picture of money and a sad face.  When I asked her what it was, she said, “The person has a sad face because they have to pay tax.”  Where does she come up with these things?  She is such a good sleeper, and fell asleep on the stairs the other night.  A dress, hole in the knees of her leggings, and sweetly crossed ankles describes her pretty well.  She brings us so much joy!

Tomorrow is a big day for us!  Matthew and I leave bright and early for a quick trip to Texas!  I’m pretending like our suitcase is being packed, when in reality my bed is unmade, the suitcase is just there, and I’m seriously pondering a second cup of hot tea.  We are so excited to get away and be with some dear sweet friends.  It is a business trip, yet also a retreat.  We need this time to connect and dream and plan before our lives completely change the next month.  God is so gracious to gift this to us, and yes, I’m praying we do not have a Texan baby.  2016-09-02-22-34-52
Stay tuned for more!

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Thirty-four Week Reality

I tried to bend over.  My shoelaces felt like they were a mile away, and I sat back down on the couch, defeated.  My sweet baby girl, who is no longer a baby, knelt down in front of me.  Her own sneakers neatly tied, warm winter coat covering her little body.  It was so chilly this morning.  She deftly took my shoelaces in her pinkies and tied my shoes in her own special Betty way.  Unique like her.  Her helpful servant’s heart overflowed through her fingers to make a perfect bow.  It was a soft moment in a rather rushed and not so gentle morning.

2016-10-11-08-10-03-1My day began around 3 o’clock this morning when a noise woke me up.  Which in turn led my bladder to wake up and I shuffled out of bed to the bathroom.  It’s a dangerous journey these days, down the hall and through the bathroom doors.  As we’ve been painting baby Chip’s room, there are extra things tucked along the edges, making it very tricky for a balance-challenged-half-asleep-pregnant woman.  Often I can fall right back asleep, but this morning my body felt VERY awake, despite the long day of painting before.  I read for a little while, then dozed off right about when Matthew was getting up for work.  The next thing I remember is being fully awakened by a phone call from Matthew, at work, to make sure I was awake.  Only then did I remember hitting my snooze button.  Oops.  So, we had 45 minutes to ALL wake up, get dressed, eat breakfast, and pack lunches for their day at camp.  Insert my shoes getting tied here, after an incredibly rushed and harried morning.

We did make it in time.  After I dropped them off, I had the entire day alone.  This is both therapeaudic and eery for me.  To not talk to anyone, or hear my name being called for the thousandth time, can actually be a bit lonely.  Right around 1 o’clock I somewhat lost it.  I had many hopes and expectations for my day, and about the only thing I accomplished was putting away the groceries I got and washing the dishes from our incredibly crazy morning.  Something about the water rushing over my hands, and the quiet of the house, made the tears fall freely.

There are other things at play, I’m sure.  Something like pregnancy hormones, and all the changes going on in our family right now.  For the past fourteen years, each and every pregnancy has been coupled together with major changes, as if having a baby isn’t change enough.  Yet their births have been like exciting exclamation points, accentuating God’s blessing on our family.  When we found out we were expecting mid-November, I knew God had something huge in store for us at the end of this year.  We’re still unsure of what that is, but we feel the crescendo of God’s masterful handiwork, as November swiftly approaches.  Stay tuned.

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Bananas Foster & Gasoline

I was kind of intending to savor those bananas foster for the entire duration of me sitting down and writing tonight.  But, there they are.  All gone.  And I haven’t even written a word yet.  For some reason I had a strong urge for the buttery sweetness of bananas foster, minus the rum, and they were absolutely delicious.  Maple syrup, real butter, raw walnuts, and a dash of cinnimon.  Yes, please.
This morning began bright and early, or rather dark and early.  It’s been lovely to get up before anyone else and have some quiet time and prayer time and business time before delving into my mama-ing duties.  Thankful for the inspiration and nudge of my friend to get up and pray together, via technology, before anything else.

Once everyone got up and we started our day, it sort of morphed into a home-ec morning of scrubbing the kitchen and preparing dinner together.  I knew our afternoon was going to be very full and we would come home hungry, and I was determined NOT to start cooking dinner at 5 or 6 o’clock like I’ve done way too many times.  So, into my handy-dandy instant pot (insert choir singing) went the sumptuous ingredients for beef stew.  We read about Esau trading his birthright for a bowl of stew, and wondered if this stew would taste anything like Jacob’s of old.

At exactly the time we were hoping to leave, we got into the van and made our way an hour West to the new holistic dentist we found a few months ago.  We had such a great experience with him when Elsie had a dental emergency… which turned out to be not as big of a deal as I thought.  We were a few hundred yards away from the office, making a left turn at a light, when Oceanus sputtered and felt like she’d stall out.  It was a busy enough intersection I didn’t want to risk trying to pull out and get broadsided if we didn’t make it the whole way through.  Instinct told me to not even try, and to hop out and ask the person behind me to please push us through at the next green light.  I’m not even sure he spoke English, but I guess he got the gist when Nadine and Elijah hopped out and took their stance behind the van.  Reason 1,567 I love having a stick shift.  Makes situations like this so much easier!  And yes, I’ve been in this situation a few times.  We had just the right amount of downhill, so it wasn’t difficult to make it through and down the street towards the office.  At that point, the kids were running behind the van while I steered it towards the building.  With an ever-s0-slight uphill into the parking lot, I barely had enough oomph to land, right in-between two parking spots.  I looked like the obsessive owner of a very old Eurovan, with many scratches, but not willing to have anyone park near me in case of one more.  It was raining.

Our time in the office was great. All three hours.  The one hygienist was so sweet and drove me over to a gas station so I could get some gasoline in a can to bring back.  So yes, I left four children in the waiting room and one in the cleaning chair to drive with a stranger to get some gas.  I’m so glad to add to our growing collection of gas cans.  I think we have six now.

As I got a small shower in the rain, I was able to give Oceanus what she was dying to have, and she started right up.  The reason this has happened more than twice, is because of a broken gas gauge.  I do zero it out each time she is filled up, but for some reason I didn’t pay attention that the mileage was way over 400, which is my signal: It’s time to Fill.  Her. Up.  Back into the office I went, reeking like a gas pump.  2016-09-28-16-56-47
No cavities for anyone, which was a huge exclamation point in an afternoon which seemed to want to rain sad-face emojis all over the place.  Yet, I wasn’t sad one bit.  Kind of exhilarated and thankful.  Thankful we ran out of gas in a safe place within walking distance to our destination.  Thankful for kind people.  Thankful for strong kiddos.  Thankful for gas money.  Thankful it was indeed just running out of gas, and nothing more serious.  When one fills their tank, and the total amount pumped reads 21 gallons, in a 21-gallon tank… one is thankful. 2016-09-28-17-09-35
I’m so thankful to have made it home safely.  To a clean kitchen and hot supper.  The consensus is still out as to whether it was birthright-tradable, but everyone agrees it was pretty smackingly delicious.  2016-09-28-18-39-55
Baby Chip is doing his nightly antics in my belly.  I think he enjoyed the bananas foster just as much as I did.  The lady at the gas station took one look at me and said: “You’re having a boy, right?”  She was so very confident.  I told her yes, and how did she know?  She just smiled and said it was the way I was carrying him.  A couple of weeks ago another friend’s two-year-old son pointed at my belly and said, “Ball!”  Thirty-three weeks tomorrow, and oh-so-thankful for the ability to carry another child into this world.  It is not something I take for granted.

Now I’m excited to lay down in one of my two comfortable positions and rest.  There are so many more things to remember and write, but they will have to wait.  Tonight I was pondering the motto of my life.  A motto given to me by the Lord when I was just a teenager.  Life is beautiful.  This is what I look for in every circumstance, every day.  I don’t have to pretend.  My life truly is beautiful. Empty gas tanks and all.



Sixth Annual Kids Day plus

Today I left the farm with two bushels of tomatoes, and lots of onions, garlic and peppers.  There is something incredibly rewarding and delicious about canning our own tomato sauce each summer.  Nadine was a wonderful help, as she always has been in the kitchen.  We got through one bushel together before I sat down, put my feet up with a cold dandyblend beverage, and let her finish the second bushel.  We chatted about life.  It was a special time together, and I appreciate her youth and helpfulness!  Having teenagers is great!  The entire process took about 8 hours, but we now have tons of delicious roasted tomato sauce canned for the winter.  Not exactly the most convenient day to can and get the kitchen as dirty as can be.  Matthew is busy installing a new hot water heater in the basement, which means we temporarily have no water.  I’m soooooo excited to have hot water again!  Our tank has been leaking for a while, and he is replacing it with a tankless water heater, which confuses me to no end.  Which is why I can the tomatoes and he installs the water heater!  Yes, we did about forty jars, and yes, that one green-lidded fella bothers me too.  It’s the Where’s Waldo of my canning jars.

Processed with MOLDIVYesterday we celebrated Kids’ Day.  This is our sixth year doing it, and it is never a specific date… just someplace in August when the time is right.  The inspiration of this day is due to my sweet friend Ruthie.

It was a rather scattered morning, in which we found out the coupons we had been saving for this specific date were expired.  But we still ended up driving to New Jersey to venture around Six Flags Great Adventure for the day.  It was so fun that we never even got a picture of the kids on their special day.  Most of the day was spent in two groups: the three oldest, who were tall enough for all the rides, and the short crowd who wished they were, but made the most of as many rides as they could.  Each group was accompanied by either a parent who doesn’t really care for rollercoasters because it makes them somewhat sick, or a parent who adores rollercoasters, but happens to be growing another human being and wasn’t able to do any of them.  I’ll let you take a stab at who’s who there.  We shut the place down, and made many memories in the process.

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The Ferris Wheel was the only ride Mom could do, which was fun with the little girls. We started school, and much is done around our table. Elijah had a sweet tea time with the girls to make up for a friend who was unable to come. My diligent artist, learning how to create 3D drawings and illusions.

As the month comes to a close, I relish how beautiful it was.  Playing.  Splashing.  Growing things.  Experiencing imncredible heights.  Being with friends.

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There were a lot of super difficult days, to be honest.  A few in particular which threatened to unravel me for no apparent reason except to remind me that this is not my home.  I’ve also been remembering how different our life was three years ago, when Matthew’s life was hanging between life and death.  It’s not fun to go back to that place, even though somewhere in my deep subconscious I know that this week was the week.  As hard as it all was, it was what God used and is using to bring Him much glory and many people to a place of freedom in their health.  We’re so excited for the stories emerging about how God is changing lives through Plexus!  We share our story, never knowing what He will do!
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Baby “Chip” is growing so much!  I’m twenty-eight weeks along already, and have only begun to realize that we should start getting ready to welcome a baby into our busy little home!  I feel great, though huge, and am enjoying his antics which go on every night around the time I’m crawling into bed.  He is so loved.
2016-08-02 09.59.18-2Have a delightful last few weeks of warmth and summer!

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A Permanent Paint Job in My Hair

“Is that paint in your hair?”  He grinned.  I think I glared.  He knows perfectly well that even though I am the one to get paint in my hair while painting, that none of this has been going on for a few months. He kept grinning and then said, “I LOVE your grey hairs.”  He actually gets kind of giddy about them.  I guess they are factual of our journey from teenagers to pushing forty.  It is a beautiful thing to grow old with someone and know your grey hair makes them excited.  He’s actually getting a tiny swath of grey himself, which I find very attractive.
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I could name a handful of reasons for a few extras which may have popped up this month.

Earlier in July, Nadine came downstairs one morning with an incredibly stiff neck.  We had done massage, chiropractor, essential oils, and more, but she steadily got worse.  More sore, feverish, and absolutely exhausted.  A few doctor’s visits later and bloodwork drawn, I noticed a nice red circle on her leg.  And her shoulder.  And her arm, and torso and so on.  The number hit 17 bullseye rashes.  Her body felt and looked like it was shutting down.  We had spent so much time in prayer over her and Lymes kept running through my head.  As horrible as those bullseyes were, at least they showed up to confirm my thinking and get us on a path of treatment for her.  Just 24 hours later of being on strong antibiotics, she was sitting, standing up, and walking without having to collapse into bed.  She even swept the floor!  If people think I am anti-medicine because I’m a crunchy-granola-Plexus-mama, then they’re misinformed.  There is a time and there is a place, and I thank God for the ability to research and choose and make informed decisions.  I do not take antibiotics lightly.  So thankful too to have a quality probiotic to counter the nasty effects it will have on her good gut flora!

A few days after she started feeling nasty, I was grabbing some groceries and meeting my mother-in-law to pick up the youngest two who had been having a week at grandma’s.  We were waving goodbye as we backed out of our parking spot when all of a sudden the gear shift popped out of place and the whole gear shaft just started spinning around.  Thankfully, Linda hadn’t driven away yet, so we pushed the van into a safe spot and we all piled into her car where she drove us home!  Thankfully, it was not a huge fix!  Yesterday something else happened and we had to tow it again, but it’s fixed already.  We’re getting to know our local tow-truck drivers!
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I spent a lot of time sitting still and being quiet that first week of July.  Not my strong point.  Our front porch is my summer haven, and it gets a lot of love.  Between a broken arm, a broken vehicle, and a broken down body… I was pretty broken myself.  But God.  He’s in the business of fixing and providing and healing.
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One of the biggest blessings of this trial was seeing the rest of the kiddos rise to the challenge of taking over Nadine’s chores and jobs and serving her in many different ways.  From getting her icewater, to cleaning the kitchen, to hanging out with her while she couldn’t do anything but lay there.  It was refining for us all!  We also saw her faith grow in Jesus by leaps and bounds, as she audibly thanked Him for the sickness, and acknowledged He knows what’s best for her.  Do you know how hard that is to do?2016-07-13 14.19.53
As her body started to heal, God did another amazing thing for our family.  Because of the many broken things which needed money to fix them, we had to tell the kids they weren’t going to be able to go to soccer camp this year.  It was super difficult to tell them that, but we reminded them how God had the power and ability and means to provide for them if He wanted them to go.  So we laid it before the Lord without telling anyone else about the need.  On Saturday, one week before the camp would be starting, Elijah said to me, “Mom, camp starts in 7 days.”  I told him to keep praying and trusting God would provide if they were to go.  The next day, we recieved a phone call from someone who wanted to pay for our kids to go to camp if that was something they were wanting to do.  Seeing their faith grow when we told them the news was incredible.  At that point we weren’t even sure if Nadine could go!  We didn’t shop for her, until two days before they had to leave, when she was showing signs of having enough strength to handle a week at camp.  God provided in more ways than we could imagine!
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Now camp is over, and we are on our second day of school!

We are still celebrating summer, with later nights and a bit of sleeping in, but I always need a week or two of slowly easing into what our year will be looking like for the next ten months.  This gentle beginning also gives me room to purge from last year.  The last couple of days have seen six trash bags exit our house, lockers cleaned out, shelves re-organized, new books introduced, and a general feeling of newness and anticipation for the year ahead.
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I’m incredibly thankful for these amazing blessings entrusted to us for a time.  For the five independent ones downstairs eating icecream, and the one who is sending me love kicks from my womb.  We actually decided to find out whether “Baby Chip” is a boy or girl.  Here is the video of the kids’ reaction to the news:


There is so much more I could write, but I have a few things left to do with my quiet evening, which my greying husband gifted to me tonight.  Thank you, love!

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What to Do with Fear

On Saturday, I experienced something I have never experienced before.  A couple of weeks ago, I heard that a friend from our church who is a part of a ski club, needed someone to climb to the top of a pyramid.  I honestly had no clue what that meant, but I called her to ask for more details.  Basically the criteria was: they had to be under 100 pounds, not afraid of heights, kind of a risk-taker, and able to climb.  Since Jack enjoys jumping off great heights and reminds me of a cross between a cheetah and a jack-rabbit, I thought it was the perfect fit and volunteered him for the task. We told him about it the night he got home from soccer camp.  He practiced the next day by doing a dry run, with no water, and learned how to climb.
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The following week there was rain off and on, but he managed to practice once in the water before the actual performance day.  Stacy is an incredible teacher, and instilled a lot of confidence in Jack, who had shown a bit of uncertainty to us the day before.  On Saturday, a few things happened which made it so he never was able to climb during practice that morning.  The pyramid was the last act of the day.  We sat on the side of the river, praying the rain would hold off and for a small window of sunshine and calm so they could do the show.  God answered affirmatively.  When it got to be his turn, my stomach started doing all sorts of flips.  There was no doubt in my mind that he could do it.  Yet, there was an undeniable trepidation at the thought of what he was about to do!  2016-07-30 14.47.03
The team took off, Jack on the shoulders of the middle man.  2016-07-30 14.59.11
The boat cruised down the river,  way beyond where we could see them.  As it turned and came back into view, we saw the two girls had already climbed onto the three guys’ shoulders.  I was filming and nervously talking to Matthew at the same time.  When I saw this little figure, climbing up these bodies, I lost it.  It was almost like he was created to do it.  Jack be nimble, Jack be quick.  Right as they passed where we were yelling and screaming from the bank of the river, he confidently made it to the top of the girls’ shoulders, stood tall, turned his head to the crowd and smiled.  I could NOT stop screaming.  I didn’t even KNOW I was screaming until I watched the video later.  One-hundred or more times.  The epitome of freedom right there.  Literally staring fear in the face.  Because I’m quite sure fear lives at the top of a swiftly moving human pyramid on water.  He didn’t fall down.  He climbed down.  They finished the run, and we learned later,  it had been 15 years since they had last done a 3-tiered pyramid.

We all face fear.  It’s what you DO with fear that’s the key.  Fear is not from God, so if you know you’re supposed to do something and don’t because you’re afraid… then fear won.  Fear cripples and freezes us.  Fear clouds our thinking.  Not letting fear win, sets us free!  Free to change, free to grow, free to step out of our comfort zones.

We don’t all have to stand fifteen feet in the air, balanced on someone’s shoulders who is water-skiing, to prove fear no longer has a hold of us.  But you might have to quit your job, or move to another country, or step into that gym, or birth a baby, or make that phone call, or make some dramatic changes in your life.  You might have to ask for help, or admit you’re wrong, or stare blankly at an unknown future.  And you know what?  You will most likely still be afraid!  But if fear is no longer keeping you from acting, moving, changing or growing, then you will become stronger and reach higher.  Even higher than fifteen feet.

By the way, if you want to hear this mama’s reaction to seeing her little boy flying down a river on top of everyone’s shoulders, check out the live video on my facebook page:

If you want to see the filmed version of the entire act, from the perspective of the boat, here it is: 

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2016 Charlotte Mason School Planner

For the past week, I have been spending tons of time creating my homeschool planner.  This is the first year I’ve done this, and I’m excited to be organized and have better expectations laid out for myself and the kiddos!  I’m not exactly sure how to share my pages with you, but created a short video explaining what’s inside.  I hope you are inspired!