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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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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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200-ish Miles and At Least One Shower

I mean to take showers every day.  Really I do.  But I often tell myself that it will happen after I exercise.  It’s a lovely treat to wash away all the stinky sweat after a good run.  But when I forget to shower… I mean, exercise… I will usually be reminded by my sweet 6-year old.  It’s pretty bad when she looked at me yesterday afternoon as I stretched my arms in the air and said, “Mom!  This is like the fifth time I’ve told you… You need to shave your armpits!”  Oy!  My oldest sister used to remind me to take showers.  Now my daughter does.  As I’ve said before, it’s not my favorite thing to do.

This little girl is the queen of pull-ups!  She can do three dead-hang pull-ups in a row, and at least a dozen times a day I see her going down to the basement to practice yet again.  She is a funny girl.  The other day she said to me, “My life is changing.  Everything I used to like I don’t like anymore.”  I think we were just having a meal she wasn’t too fond of eating, but from her point of view, it was much more dramatic than that.  She loves to sing and dance and do one-handed cartwheels.  She is growing out her hair and can hardly wait until it’s down to her waist.
“I don’t want my hair in a pony any more,” Betty said to me.  “I want it in my ears.”  I think she meant “behind my ears”, but that’s ok.  I understand her sweet three-year-old vocabulary.  Which is really quite astounding.  She is a precious girl with a lion’s heart.  She can count very fluently until about ten, then she says things like, “Eleventeen, twelve-teen, thirteen…”  But she is improving daily on her school work, and sits for HOURS at her little desk.  She isn’t afraid of bugs.  “Real bugs fly like this!” she told me one time, flapping her arms like a bird.  “I really like ants and lightning bugs.”  Betty reminds me to use special things every day, because every day is special.  Like when she wears her most beautiful dress.  It’s a creamy butter yellow with tulle all around it.  I used to think it should only be worn on very special occasions.  Now it is worn to ride bikes, climb trees, and during sword-fights, because every day is special.

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Our week was short but very full.  The boys find reading much easier dressed in soldier gear.  On Sunday, we had the privilege of meeting Jay, from Kenya!  He was a graduate from Compassion International, and we heard his story last week at the mobile experience.  Nadine has her boot off at last, and this morning the stitches came out too.  She isn’t up to running yet, but not having crutches or a big boot is a huge blessing!  Getting back onto a horse, bareback, was a huge highlight for her this week.
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This weekend, Matthew and I will be running in a 200 mile relay with other people from his work.  I am runner #2 of 12.  Here is a look at my three legs of the race:2014-09-10 15.20.15
I’m a little bit nervous about it, but excited too.   This weekend I got my longest run in that I’ve had since March… so I hope I survive!
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Nadine told me to take lots of pictures of this weekend.  I’m mostly excited to be with Matthew for a a couple of days, even if it is doing something rather crazy.  And in honor of Elsie, I’ll be sure to get at least one shower.

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The Wind is Blowing Our Faces Into a Smile

There are many lost journal entries this month, as I’ve either been too exhausted to sit down and write, or I’ve been too wiped out by the end of the day.  One of those two.  Starting with tonight and working my way backwards, however, I will attempt to do a brief overview of our May Days.

The weather today has been awesome.  Matthew experienced hail the size of small golf balls where he was working, and we experienced sunshine and dark clouds, changing back and forth all day.  I had to explain to Betty five times tonight where all the snow went.

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Elsie is my helper.  I told her if she wore goggles while she chopped onions, they wouldn’t sting her eyes as much.  The other day when we were driving and smelling cow manure which wafted through the open windows, she said: If I could pop my nose off whenever something is stinky then put it back on when something smells good… Well, that would be great.  Speaking of smelly, Nadine had this descriptive offering of armpit odor: they apparently reeked of rotten chemicals with hotdogs dipped in mayonnaise.  Yum.

Right now my dad is in Africa.  In fact, this week he was able to visit the station where I was born and raised.  Partly because I was feeling especially nostalgic, and partly because the kids have been begging to pop into our “old house”, I decided to do just that.  We stopped in, and it is now a dentist office.  Everything is bright blue from the outside.  The downstairs is completely different, but the upstairs was just the same.  It’s hard to believe I stood on those stairs in my wedding dress over 12 years ago!  In my old bedroom, the inside of my closet door still had the glow-in-the-dark paint signatures of my siblings and friends, from back when I was a teenager.  There were even a set of my nephew’s baby footprints, glowing in the dark when we shut the door and stood inside the closet.  The same day, my same nephew, had just flown his first solo flight!
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School is winding down, with our last week stretching out before us!  I have learned way more than the kids, I’m sure.  Nadine has become a much more confident reader.  Elijah has improved in his math skills.  Jack is reading and writing.  Elsie is also reading and writing.  Betty loves books and can write a few letters of the alphabet.  She told me the other day: I don’t want to take it easy.  I want to take a break.  They love games, and have really improved in so many areas.  I have a nice-sized list of things I am changing for next year.  As my ever-wise husband has told me: this teacher and mama must keep a tight ship.  This week Betty also overcame some of her fear of bugs.  She managed to pick up fuzzy “calipitters” for hours on end with her second cousin, and she also willingly let an ant crawl onto her hand.  She told me very excitedly the other day: Mom!  Mom!  Guess what?  Lady bugs climb on trampolines.
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Besides book work, we are out and about for so many activities.  Nadine’s horse club has been a huge blessing for her.  Elsie & Jack have even gotten a turn to ride when we pick her up at the end of the day.  Field trips, archery, friends, blowing bubbles, picking flowers, and riding bikes leaves mama pretty exhausted some days.  I am no longer the endless source of energy that I see in my children.  I remember having it.  I know it once existed.  But it has been sucked out of my veins and into their own.  So now they just borrow my phone to take pictures of their tired mama.Phone Photos4
We do have a lot of fun around here.  The beautiful moments of this month I think can be summed up in this one picture of Jack:Phone Photos5

Our windows are down.  The wind is blowing our faces into a smile.  Summer is just around the corner.

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When It Comes to Five

Maybe it’s the way her hair curls to beautifully, or the way her smile has always been exceptionally bright.  Maybe it’s her ability to make people feel special.  Maybe it’s a little girl trapped inside a woman’s body, that comes out when she’s excited or playing a game.  Nadine loves creatures with fur, especially the ones that neigh.  She has friends she calls on the phone, can clean a kitchen well, and loves to write letters.  A woman of habit, she sleeps in the exact same position every night.  Her little sisters adore her, and the other day Nadine said something funny to Betty: You know English fully now, don’t you?  When we were eating bacon the other day, Nadine discovered she actually liked it and said, I think I’m finally coming to my senses about it.  You got that right!  Today she started back doing a special homeschool girls’ horse club with a few girls her age.  She proudly donned her helmet she’s been dying to wear since Christmas, and I left her happily basking in the environment where she thrives.DSC_1469-2
Maybe it’s the way his bright blue eyes haven’t changed since he was a baby.  Maybe it’s the way his body is swiftly changing into a young man.  Maybe it’s the way I look at my phone and see a note from him telling me I’m the best mom ever… usually on a day when I’m feeling anything but good.  Maybe it’s the way we both connect through music.  The other day he walked into the kitchen and “Don’t Stop Believin'” was playing on the sound dock.  He sighed and said, I love Journey.  His peace-loving soul hates conflict and strives for resolution.  Right now he is taking archery lessons and is one of the best shots in his class.  He is counting the days until he can drive a car, and I have to remind him how awesome it is to be a kid.  His feet are bigger than his mama’s.  Today he was looking for the peanut butter in the cupboard.  He poked around a bit then said, Maybe you can see it, because you’re taller.  He paused and looked at me, then added, Well, not that much taller, and chuckled.  He is a good observer.  Once he saw how Elsie had dressed herself.  I don’t remember the exact outfit, but generally it has to do with stripes, polka dots and flowers combined.  He said, Mom, I always thought Elsie would be  good trend-setter.  When I asked the boys why they had their shirts off the other day (when it wasn’t hot outside) Elijah said, Because it makes us stronger!
Maybe it’s the way he is always catching up to his growing body.  Maybe it’s the way his giant puppy paw hands will one day match the rest of his muscular body.  Maybe it’s the way he leaps over three stairs at a time in his roller-blades and makes this mama’s heart beat very fast.  Maybe it’s the way his heart tips the scales of my own when he wraps his arms around me and tells me he loves me.  Maybe it’s in his smile that’s so big it makes his eyes squint closed.  For Jack, an umbrella becomes a parachute, taking him to another world where there are things to fight and conquer.  He is okay with going to the store wearing a button-down shirt, soccer shorts, boots with no laces, a holster with gun, and a cowboy hat.  The other day said something very funny: Mom, I just have a question.  If you pick your nose at night do you need to brush your teeth again?  Today we reviewed our neglected chore charts.  Orange marker in hand, Jack checked things off one-by-one.  A few minutes later, I heard someone mowing, which is still a rare sound, after such a winter.   For the longest time I thought it was our neighbor, then I poked my head outside to check on the boys.  There was Jack, in his pajama pants, clip-on “pirate” earring, and flip-flops, mowing the grass for the first time this year.  I didn’t even know if the mower would start.  Elijah was right behind him, weed-whacking.  They took the “yard work” part of their charts very seriously, and I think we’ll be keeping those chore charts handier. DSC_1424-2 

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Maybe it’s the way she likes two little strands of hair un-tucked from her ponytail, so she can smooth them behind her ears.  Maybe it’s the way she wears stripes with polka-dots on most days.  Maybe it’s the gaping hole in her smile where her tooth was knocked out last year.  There’s something about Elsie that makes me chuckle whenever she walks into the room.  She loves friends, changing outfits, and monkey-bars.  If all three are included on any given day, it’s pretty much the best day ever.  She loves to sleep with her stuffed bunny under her head, just so.  Phone Photos
She also sleeps in a different position every night.  She likes to do her own hair these days, and she likes to “babysit” Betty.  She’s a terrific helper and does things almost always with a cheerful heart.  Currently, she is wearing a purple shirt, red vest, shorts, striped socks up to her knees, and sparkly shoes.  She sings hymns and songs and says the books of the Bible with lightening speed.
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Maybe it’s the way she cocks her head and smiles.  Maybe it’s the way she says, Bless you! whenever she sneezes.  Maybe it’s the way her hair is still uneven from the perfect haircut she gave herself many months ago.  Maybe it’s the way her brown eyes pull me in with their sweet chocolaty-ness.  There’s something about Betty that makes me scoop her up and cover her in kisses whenever she walks into the room.  She loves her dollies, taking care of people who are hurt, baby spoons, and the color yellow.  To emphasize something of great importance she will say, “So bad”.  For instance, I want to button my shirt so bad!  I need a banana so bad!  Sometimes she will say, Mom!  I have a secret!  Then she’ll whisper in a voice loud enough to hear all around, Please, I want a chocolate chip!  I mean three chocolate chips!  She still loves receipts as “taggies” to hold while she sucks her fingers. The other day she exclaimed: I found them all!  Seriously!  After finding a pile of receipts in her little purse.  Seriously.  Her vocabulary is hilarious.  There aren’t always darling moments, but there are many funny ones.  Like today, when I laid her down for her nap… for the fifth time.  Without a word, I carried her back upstairs, put her in her  bed, tucked her covers around her and walked out.  She cried behind my retreating back: I’m not a baby!  I’m not a baby!  To which I chuckle.  In fact, you are.  You’re my baby.  When she’s not a baby, she is doing her own schoolwork, and already knows how to make an H, B, and E.  You’re still my baby, Betty.

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Maybe it’s a combination of five hearts, all with their own special places in my own.  Whatever it is, I love these beautiful children.  Seriously.

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Neigh-deen The Horse Whisperer

My horse girl had her dream-come-true birthday when she participated in her first horse show.  It’s been a little late in coming, but here are the pictures of our beautiful 11-year-old girl doing what she loves best!




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Those chocolate eyes do a much better job of melting than intimidating.

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The boys found a friend who shares Elijah’s birthday.  They had fun playing together and watched Nadine occasionally.

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Nadine won seven ribbons, including 2nd place for jumping!  She is so graceful on a horse!

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As her brother likes to say, You and Daddy named her neeeeigh-deen because she loves horses!  Well, that is not actually the reason, but it’s a fun play on words!  Way to go, baby girl!


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Tenth Birthday Pictures

Before October disappears, here is a glimpse into Nadine’s birthday!  I made two horse cakes, which for me, is a feat!  I rarely venture outside of the round, layered cake.  I’m not very good at icing, and it didn’t look nearly as good as the one I saw online.  The Happy Birthday banner was made from scraps in my cloth basket.When Matt’s family arrived with Pop-Pop, he was a great sport as the boys pretended to be snipers. 

Nadine loves animals!  Granddaddy, Matt’s dad, sketched this beautiful picture of a horse!  
We’re thankful for our family and friends to share this special time of life with us.  Nadine is enjoying being ten!