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This is Not a Normal Life

“This is NOT a normal life!” she exclaimed from the back seat.  I glanced back at the stop sign to see what she was doing.  She had a small notebook and pencil.  Her legs were crossed, the tips of her fuzzy boots sticking up almost to her knees.  “This is NOT a normal life.”  She was playing MASH. With herself.  I laughed out loud while Betty told me how she was living in a mansion with THREE children and driving a Ford.  Oh, and she was married to Toby Mac.  When something is interesting or exciting for her and she wants me to listen she will say, “Hear this!”  Such a herald.  She is doing fabulously in school, reading sentences like, “The path led to the shed.”  She recently celebrated her 6th birthday.

Elsie is a great teacher and when she’s not DOING school, she is PLAYING school.  She has a vim and vigor for life.  A shaker and a mover.  Literally.  The other day she and Betty rearranged their room.  A girl after her mama’s own heart.  She is our pancake-maker, and does a fine job of it!

Jack is back into wrestling season full swing.  When he’s not wrestling, he is doing pushups.  Hundreds of pushups.  I’m excited when I do 30 in one day.  He’s not satisfied until he does 300.  We also recently discovered a Ninja Warrior gym not too far from us.  He conquered the warped wall the first day there, and loves to challenge himself with the other obstacles.

Elijah is my right-hand man in the kitchen.  We can throw together supper in less than half an hour.  I love teaching him stuff in the kitchen.  He gets my style of cooking, which doesn’t lean on recipes as much as a hunch on how different flavors will work together.  Having an instant pot has made dinner prep SO easy.  He is a geometry whiz, and we are looking in to some sort of coding class, as he is bent in this direction.  Sometimes he explains things to me and I have no clue what he’s talking about.  He’s also doing daily pushups and slowly inching closer to my height.

Nadine is our baby-whisperer.  Harry and her have a special bond.  She is convinced he can say her name, and it does sound pretty close.  I honestly don’t know how I could manage this house without her.

Harry adds the most perfect element of sweetness, joy and delight to our home.  When he starts to talk, everyone comes running.  He smiles and the sun comes out.  He is two months old already!  He is the king of expressions, and makes so many faces.  2017-01-12-10-21-55-2We’re slowly getting onto a sleeping schedule.

Though we often pass like ships in the night (literally), Matthew is my biggest support.  Between coaching, working, and being an amazing dad to these six… 2017-01-09-19-12-48
He is also the one whom my soul loves.  2017-01-21-15-35-34-1
It’s not hard to love him, but sometimes lack of sleep and the demands of being needed by 6 people can sometimes push me over the edge.  He is so patient with me.  It’s not tear-free, anger-free, frustration-free or hardship-free.  But it is full of joy, forgiveness, humor, and faith.  Had we been thrown the life we are living now, I might have also exclaimed: “This is NOT a normal life!”  But it’s the perfect life for me.
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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!
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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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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:

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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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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!


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Saying Goodbye to Try

The other day Betty said to me, “I want to do something I’ve NEVER done before!”  I literally blinked my eyes and stared at her in wonder.  Not for the first time, either.  This girl seems to say things which I feel like have come from somewhere deep inside my own heart.  Unspoken.  Then they find words  and come out of her mouth.  “Really?”  I answered, playing with her hair.  She’s been on big rollercoasters and flown inside a cessna airplane.  I could tell in her eyes she had a hunger to experience the thrill of something new.  Just like her mama.  So, even though she’s done it before, it had been a long, long time.  We decided to take a walk around the neighborhood and she asked to bring her bike.  It’s been about a year since she rode it, and she was nervous about falling down.  My favorite thing about our time together, wasn’t the fact that she did in fact ride the bike without me holding on.  No, my favorite thing was how she talked to herself while she rode.  “I can do this!  I can do this!  I can do this!” she breathed over and over while I slowly let go and ran beside her.  Cheering her on.  Watching her fly alone.  In her hounds-tooth dress and polka dot rain boots.  Her fear lay in a pothole somewhere between our house and 8th Ave.IMG_8061There’s something incredible about what we say to ourselves.  I dare you to listen to yourself when you’re thinking.  It’s incredibly enlightening.  Do you say things to yourself that you would never allow someone to say to your child?  Or to you?  Changing negative thinking has totally transformed my life and is transforming the lives of our children.

Interestingly, Paul didn’t say, “I think I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”  Nope.  We should never say we will try to do this or that.  Every time we try, we make a small exception for ourselves to fail.  And you know what?  You might mess up and fail.  But that should never keep us from picking ourselves back up and getting stronger.  I CAN do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

I am so proud of these kiddos.  We completed our school year a couple weeks ago.  They have all grown and accomplished so much!  2016-05-06 14.08.57
Being out of school has been just what we all needed.  There has been a lot of imagination and rearranging and purging that comes when Mommy’s brain is free from thinking of school for a couple of weeks.  We started our vacation out right with a broken arm.  Broken in three places, no less.  That girl is incredibly tough. This is the second time this has happened in her short little life.    She doesn’t complain, and she really hasn’t let it stop her from doing anything.  When I told her to be careful on the playground, Betty piped up: “At least I can jump!  Because I have two arms and two thumbs and two elbows!”

New neighbors just moved in next door, and the boys had no qualms about asking them if they could have a bunch of their huge furniture boxes to make a small town with them.  The rest of the day was spent cutting and creating tiny houses.

Earlier this week, Elsie let out a big sigh in front of me and said,”I just want to run a business or something!”  She kept persisting, and finally her dream became a reality.  Older sister and a friend all chipped in to squeeze lemons and taste test the perfect lemonade.  We had some very enthusiastic salesmen and women, who were not afraid to ask the UPS man, the neighbors, and any passersby’s to buy a cup of refreshing lemonade.  Why?  Elsie, broken arm and all, determined it was to raise money for gymnastics.  This has been a huge dream of hers, and I’m so proud of her for looking ahead, past the “impossible” and seeing her arm healed enough to take gymnastics. IMG_8156
Many days are spent gardening and cutting fresh flowers, enjoying delicious berries, and being amazed at how my belly has popped out with pride and joy.  At 17 weeks, baby Chip is kicking and loving the berries I’m eating.  Most recently, Matthew put up a new fence on the one side of our yard.  It was an exhausting day.  But one of my favorite kinds of tired.

So very thankful and daily more in love with this guy.  He takes good care of us.  He feels great, which is something we never ever take for granted.  Once your health has been on the edge of survival wondering at the surety  of your next breath, you never go a day without praising God for one more day to enjoy this thing called life.  Every day my passion grows to help others who are hurting and sick and tired of being sick and tired.

For the next coupe of days I need to get my game on and face my least favorite past-time: packing.  The motivation of having five whole days with Matthew by my side, along with some of the most motivating, loving, encouraging people… I’m not going to TRY.  I will take a lesson from my sweet Betty and whisper: “I can do this.  I can do this.”  I can confidently face my suitcase and smile.