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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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Let Freedom Grow

A word which has shaped and defined this year is freedom.  I’m seeing it played out in so many ways throughout my every day.  For instance.  Today my skirt fell off.  Under many circumstances, this would have been categorized as one of my most embarrassing moments.  Thankfully, I was *only* outside in the front yard, having just walked out to our van to grab something and bring it inside.  The mailman wasn’t there.  No one was walking by.  The neighbors weren’t mowing their lawn.  I speedily pulled it together and ran inside.  This can be categorized as freedom, though not exactly what I had in mind on January 1st.  My box of wrap skirts have taken center stage in my wardrobe.  And I will not let a small setback, such as one falling off of me, deter me from wearing them.  My twenty-week-belly loves the wrap skirt idea.  2016-06-30 17.31.40This week the kids have been able to feel baby Chip move so much.  Their faces are priceless!  Jack sat there with his hand on my tummy for a couple of minutes when all of a sudden his hand shot back and he looked at me with his eyes and mouth about the same width.  It was great!  As I sit on the front porch this evening after a busy day of mommy-ing, attacking the weeds in my garden, and doing the regular mounds of laundry, I feel some kicking.  Baby Chip most certainly had a growth spurt this week, because all of a sudden I make a funny noise when I bend over, forgetting my front has expanded into my ribcage when in that position.  That, and I keep stubbing my toes when I walk upstairs.  I think it’s because I don’t lift my legs as high right before I take a step.  Pretty much on the dot, every night around 11pm the gymnastics starts, and I sit with my hand on my belly, in wonderment at another life bursting with joy inside of me.  Freedom.
For the past six weeks, Elsie has had a cast on her right arm.  After about a day of figuring out how to do stuff with a perpetually bent arm, she quickly resumed life with a cast, almost as if she had none.  She literally lets nothing hold her back.  Even without the use of her thumb, she figured out how to tie her shoes, do monkey bars, climb, ride a bike and even play baseball!
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Monday was a big day for her, when she was liberated from its confines.  Freedom.  They say a picture is worth a thousand words:
IMG_8590[1]This week I had to say goodbye to a dear, sweet friend.  Our husbands met at a spin class about 8 years ago, which was definitely a God-ordained meeting, since I don’t think either of them have been to a spin class ever since.  Our kids are the same age, and we’ve watched and prayed eachother through some mutually serious health issues.  She is the friend who introduced Plexus to me, and after watching her journey to health and freedom, jumped in to join her.  She has been an incredible source of joy and encouragement and wisdom to me the past few years.  I love how in Heaven others will truly find out how much impact they’ve had on your life.  Thankfully Tennessee isn’t too far, but knowing I can’t just pop over makes me get a little teary.  Letting loved ones go and be and do what they’ve been called to is one of the hardest things on earth, I believe.  Yet, letting them go gives you more freedom to love stronger and deeper and further than before.
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Once a week Nadine has been getting back into the saddle.  It’s the highlight of her week.  She gets to ride with one of her best friends as well, which adds all sorts of amazingness to her week.  To me, it’s scary.  To her, it’s freedom.  She continues to be a huge source of help to me around the house and is growing in her babysitting abilities.  nrw
Today our not-so-bitty-Betty lost her first tooth!  She is growing up, embracing her big sister role already, and is somwhat of an old soul.  Sometimes I look at her and wonder on what wavelength she communicates to God.  He must tell her things I can’t quite fathom.  If you’ve ever had a conversation with her, you might understand what I’m having a hard time putting in to words.  Growing up requires a little bit of pain, which usually results in more freedom.
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Speaking of growing up.  There are these two characters who live in the attic, who often sound like a small herd of elephants when they come down the stairs.  But they are in actuality, boy-men.  Boys trapped in bodies which are swiftly becoming men.  Boys who dream of motorcycles and ammunition and muscles and big stuff like jobs.  Jobs that pay money so Elijah can get his pilot’s license and fly his friends wherever they want to go.  It’s fun to listen to their dreams and know that many of them will come true if we never plant seeds of doubt into their fertile minds.  Freedom.
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Apparently there is a “look back and compare an old picture of you and your spouse to now” thing going on over on facebook.  So, for fun I decided to do just that.  I practically died when I pulled out this doozy of a photo from nine years ago!  Matthew had been sick for about a year and a half, was on high doses of toxic meds, and I was barely surviving as a mom of three.  How incredibly blessed and grateful I am for the road we have traveled, and for the way the Lord has helped us navigate the stormy path.  I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

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We don’t even know how many prayers have gone up for us on Matthew’s behalf.  So many.  There were times we literally felt like there was no way to go on.  We praise the Lord for the gift of health.  We know we are never guaranteed another breath.  But for every breath we are given, we praise Him!  Matthew is out running right now, his reflective vest on, heart pumping, lungs breathing, windpipe open.  Not something we would have thought about before.  It is the storm which has made our love so strong.  It is being in the pit which has made the air above so clean and worth savoring.  2016-06-28 23.14.09
We pray for open hands to receive both the sickness and the health.  The richer and the poorer.  Til death do us part.  In doing this, there is great freedom.


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Two Foot Bologna and Wolf Ears

Yesterday morning started off relaxed and chill.  Some kids listening to a story in one room, someone else slowly savoring their bowl of cereal.  I still meandered around in my sweat pants and two-day-old shirt, after having ignoring the little voice that told me I should get dressed immediately upon rising.  All of a sudden I got a panicky feeling that I was supposed to be somewhere.  I texted my friend to ask her if the kids had science class today.  I had checked the schedule, but must have read it wrong. Yes, science class began five minutes ago.  I jammed on my boots, didn’t even tie them, shrugged on another layer over my limp shirt, and shoved a hat on my morning hair.  Betty, who was in the middle of being a ballerina, put a coat over her stockings and leotard, and off we went.  It was harrowing.  Amazingly, they were only twenty minutes late for class.  Wearing my junky clothes (okay, pajamas) I still had to fetch a lunch for my poor students, so I ran to the nearest grocery store.  Somehow, in 15 minutes we managed to use a two-foot-long piece of bologna to whip other siblings in the meat department and we also were able to tip the cart on top of ourselves just before the checkout line.  We, meaning, those of us under the age of thirty-four.  The worst part of the morning was in the parking lot.  Just before our van, Elsie ran ahead of me by a few feet and as I called for her to stop, my voice quickly changed into a scream as an SUV pulled forward from behind another parked car and came within one foot of hitting her.  Praise the Lord for protecting us!  Praise Him too for fresh beginnings and new days.

January came and went, leaving a few fun memories behind in its wake.  Matthew and I celebrated our 13th wedding anniversary.
As a belated gift, I surprised him with going to see Les Misérables at a local theatre.2015-01-16 23.53.51 Processed with Moldiv

We were gifted with the treat of going to Great Wolf Lodge in the Pocono’s with our family and some of Matt’s co-workers.  It was a super-fun memory with the kids.  Sadly, Elsie got pretty sick for half of our time there, so I bonded with our hotel room more than the indoor pool area.
This girl right here turned four.  She multi-tasks like a natural woman, and makes us laugh so much.DSC_6883
What’s not to love about a girl who burps, giggles, then says, “Some girls have some burps.”  Or someone who plays in the snow and says, “My feet are soaking, soaking cold!”  Or calls firecrackers, “firecrackles”.  Sometimes when I overhear her and Elsie playing together I get such a kick out of what they say.  Once Betty exclaimed enthusiastically, “Hi!  You can call me Aunt Vicky!”  I have no idea where that came from, and I laughed so hard.  Some mornings I get woken up with this:2015-01-21 07.46.30-2
A little baby wolf with big brown eyes.  “Can you come downstairs with me?”
January 2015 phone photos
Sometimes I wish she would stay bitty forever, but I do love watching her grow.

Today Matthew is having his second infusion of Rituxan.  He has no side effects from it, but he also hasn’t felt any better yet.  The big kids had a computer class last month, so Elsie and I enjoyed some one-on-one time.  The kids have also been having a blast each week at a winter class at Black Rock. Jack has been wrestling like a champ.  We went back to Matthew’s highschool in Philly and watched his old teammate coach the current team to Public League Champions.  It was very nostalgic watching those boys wrestle, just like I used to watch Matthew wrestle many moons ago.
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There is much more to say, but time to dive into February and all it holds.  Without the two-foot bologna.

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When Sparks Fly and Cracks are Backed

It’s two o’clock, and I am finally eating lunch.  The quiet scribble of one person doing their writing homework is like music to my ears, while the hot tea is like medicine for my harried brain.  Outside, the boys are reading on the trampoline.  You know, between jumps.  This morning was full of dictation, reading out loud, and lots and lots of math.  Math four times around each day has both enriched my  brain and caused it to temporarily shut down for the day.  A few facts I have learned today:

The moment I have to use the bathroom is the moment everyone has a need of great importance.

Informative speeches are impossible to write.  (That fact is up for debate.  Maybe the person claiming it should write a persuasive speech to prove their point.)

It is not difficult to make deodorant, and it smells amazing.

I often wipe my nose on my sleeve without even thinking.  Please tell me this is something moms with small kids often do.

Receiving a big box with a smile on the side is a huge reason for celebration.  Especially when the box contains a new heating element for the stove.

Ah, the stove.  About a week ago, I was testing out some recipes for my first ever cooking class.
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As I preheated the oven for some grain-free corn bread, I noticed a small flame dancing inside the oven.  This would not be a problem if we had a brick oven, but ours happens to be electric.  I tried to blow it out, because this has worked in the past.  When it seemed to get bigger and start spreading, I called Elijah to grab the fire extinguisher.  I ordered everyone outside, while we unsuccessfully put out the sparking flames.  Finally, I told Elijah to run get our neighbor, while I called 911.  Fortunately, I was able to tell the dispatcher never mind, as our neighbor ran over with a big fire extinguisher and the grand idea of flipping off the breaker connected to the stove.  The second he did that, the fire fizzled into nothing.  What a bunch of excitement.  And mess.
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Of course my cooking class was in about ten hours, and I was now without a stove.  Enter: wonderful neighbors again.  Thankfully, their stove was just fine, and the classes were able to go on as planned, with just a little extra walking.  I also paid double to have someone overnight a new heating element.  How exciting it was to receive the box.  The thrill died about as quickly as a blown-out candle when I pulled out a completely bent element that would not work at all.  Thankfully, you can return things in this country.  The box we received today with the smiley face on it contained a just as happy part, which will be responsible for much delightful baking this fall.

Now, seven hours later, I can hardly believe another day has passed.  Often you can find out what filled my day, by glancing at the open tabs on the computer: Aromahead Institute, Patchouli, Artemisia, DIY rope rug, Amazon, Crockpot Bacon and Goat Cheese, Elderberry Syrup, Hillsong Acoustic Sessions.  The other way to find out what has filled our lives the past couple of weeks is to dump some photos from my phone:
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Winter clothes turnover day, many Betty faces, our own William Tell, walking Toby the rabbit, school planning squeezed in during piano lesson time, late night Bible studies, and lots of tea.2014-10-18 17.14.27
This week we also saw our whole Weldon family, including our Italian family and the college boy, which was a huge treat!

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Sleepy head Betty, and her outfit of choice this Sunday: red silk and black velvet Christmas dress, blue cotton tights with pink flowers on them and black patent leather shoes.  She has been asking a lot when Christmas is coming.  She asks in such a way that makes it sound like a person is coming to visit us very soon.  My week has also been full of aromatherapy school, pumpkins and the chiropractor.  Whenever we go to the chiropractor, Betty grins, gives a big sigh, and says she loves getting her “crack backed”.
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This year, the four bigs have also been involved in a homeschool co-op.  Their science teacher took these great pictures of them in his class as they were learning about density.

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This was the scene around the table tonight.  We’ve got four readers, taking turns reading around the table.  It is one of my favorite parts of the day.   As is this time: hanging out with my man.  Good night.

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Life At Three

Sometimes when I say our house needs cleaning, what I really mean is that I think we should move some gigantic pieces of furniture.  I look at our home like an ever-changing puzzle, the pieces of which fit in different places at different times.  This week, a harmless conversation about the little girls’ room staying clean, turned into a gargantuan project.  A job requiring paint, a drill, and hours of Matthew’s already full days.  I painted over the pink, and he cheerfully took apart bunk-beds, unscrewed shelves and heaved heavy mattresses from one room to the next.  The finished product: the girls switched rooms!  Nadine now has the slightly larger of the two, with a closet, and the little girls have the smaller one which limits how it can be arranged, but which suits their needs perfectly.  In addition, for Betty’s birthday we were able to acquire a fabulous Craigslist deal and get the girls a wooden play kitchen complete with fun wooden food.  All week there have been restaurant, pizza shop, and birthday party games going on for hours on end.

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Since Betty is now three, we told her she was too big for the pack n’ play.  Now she sleeps on the bottom bunk.  She also has kept her panties dry at night for almost two weeks!  We quit diapers at night, cold turkey, and she rose to the challenge.  It is so fabulous not having any diapers in our house, except the few her baby dolls wear.  I do believe it’s the first time in eleven years.  So far, being three years old is pretty awesome!

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Yesterday I had the joy of watching a baby boy come into the world.  I drove home as the sun rose, and was once again awed and amazed by the beauty of new life.

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You’ve Gotta Take Care of Those Kids

This was the other day in Target:
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I was pushing that train of a cart, gently bumping into the corners of aisles as it turned its wide arch.  I smiled brightly at the mom with one baby in her cart, sitting quietly on a clean cart-cover.  Betty held a receipt, which doubles as a “tag” in a pinch, so she can suck her fingers.  Elijah likes to hide under the cart.  Sometimes even the extra nearly hundred pounds I’m trying to push doesn’t clue me in on where he’s gone, so I start calling his name and he laughs from his hiding spot.  Switching seats, spotting sparkly boots, and constant chatter makes our trip the usual exhausting but profitable excursion.

Last night, armed with four very large containers of popcorn and Christmas jammies, we drove to nearby neighborhood to watch a local light show.  The lights were choreographed to a radio station, and it was pretty impressive.

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Tonight little miss Betty must have gotten bit by the giggle bug.  When the boys got home from grocery shopping with Matthew, it was close to 10 o’clock.  The little girls were still giggling up in their beds.  Jack looked at Matthew and said very seriously: You’ve gotta go take care of those kids.  I’m not joking.

Betty keeps us laughing.  The other day she was playing with her little baby.  She had been tucked into bed for about five seconds before Betty leaned gently over her ear and made a soft rooster sound.  Time to wake up, baby!  She would say, after cock-a-doodle-doo-ing into her ear.
Once when Betty was trying to get out of the kitchen, Elsie asked, What’s the magic word?  Right away she replied: Betty!
Today, Matthew and I were trying to have a little bit of snuggle time on the couch.  We literally had five pairs of eyes glued on our every move.  There is a small sensor that goes off when we start talking or kissing.  Immediately, all bodies are within touching distance of ours, or there is some urgent sentence that must be uttered.  In the middle of our hug, Jack came over, put his arms around us and said, Group hug!  Which in turn led Betty to pile on some more love.  As Elsie would say: There’s room for more in this hug!  Once we started to kiss, however, Betty squealed, Let’s get out of here!  They’re kissing!
The other day, Elsie was discussing age order.  Apparently, Elijah was of a “medium” age.  She then told Nadine: I remember you sucking your fingers!  When, in actuality, she wasn’t even born yet.
This is the face I get when it’s time for bed.
It is also the face I am giving, because I am not one who loves going to bed.  I’ve been enjoying the sewing machine and crochet hooks this month.  Super secretive things have been in the works.  There is much more on my mind to write… but it will have to wait.  Right now I’ve gotta take care of this mama, who needs some serious rest.