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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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Silver Belle

This past month has been absolutely overflowing.  We bought a house.  We had a baby.  He is one month old.

Oh, and one more big thing happened too.

Matthew told me he would be a little bit late coming home from work on Wednesday night, because of some Christmasy errands he had to do.  No questions asked on my part, because I LOVE surprises.  He came home with a small box in hand and a note rolled up.  I expected him to put it under the tree, but he went into the kitchen (looking back, it was probably to try to calm himself down) then came back into the living room where I was holding Harry on the couch.  He sat down next to me, took Harry, and gave me the box.  Nadine was standing next to me, recording on her phone.  I tilted my head and asked if that was really necessary.  Yes.  Yes, it was.  He told me to read the note first.

My beautiful Amy Lyn,
Just about 15 years ago you married a teenager.  What a journey it has been so far!  You have had to wait a little while as the boy you married became a man.  Haha!  You have lovingly stood with me through the most difficult and uncertain times of my life and for that I am extremely thankful.  I know I have not always considered the full weight of the responsibility that I have as your husband.  There have been times that I have not stepped up as I wish I would have.  This Christmas, this anniversary I want to renew my love for you, my commitment to you and express the overwhelming joy that I have each day to work hard for you!  With this ring, I want to express my unending love for you and resolve to always consider you.  Each time you see it, if we are apart, remember that I am working hard to come home.  I love you more than words could ever express.  The greatest blessing in my life is the prospect of growing old with you, my bride.  Merry Christmas!  
I love you!
Matthew

The entire note was interrupted by many sniffles on my part and more snippets of, “Does she really have to be recording this?” And, “Do I really have to read this out loud?” because I kept choking up.  When I read, “with this ring,” I got a bit fluttery inside.  We had talked about maybe getting a wrap for my engagement ring, to celebrate our anniversary in a couple of weeks.  But I knew there were other more pressing needs, so I was NOT expecting that.  I gulped and opened the box.  There was a silver ring, threaded through a gold-trimmed red ribbon.  Underneath all the ribbon, attached to the ring, was a key fob.  I just stared at it.  “Matthew!” is my favorite thing to exclaim when I’m a bit overcome or excited.  He told me to look out the window.  This is when the recording by Nadine starts to have a lot of excited movement as everyone rushed to the window.  There, on the street, with a big white bow on the hood, was parked a new van.

We had started talking and praying about this need a few months ago.  Well, pretty much the day we found out we were having another baby.  Oceanus only seats 7.  We had more recently been doing a lot of research on this particular make and model.  I had spent many hours reading and sending Matthew photos of different vans, all while he worked secretly behind my back to settle on this one.  So patient.

The kids immediately settled on naming her “Silver Belle”.  We all hopped in and drove to my parents to surprise them.

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We are all completely blown away.  Such a lot of change this year.  God gave me the word “Freedom” at the beginning of the year, and it has truly been a year of freedom for us.  He has set us free from many fears, unhealthy mindsets, and doubts.  He has restored things which were broken, and given us courage to ask, knock and seek.  Praise God from Whom all blessings flow!

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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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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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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.
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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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The Best Chocolate Chip

The sound never grows old.  A faint, steady rhythm.  So tiny, yet so strong.  We call him “Chip”, because at one point, baby was the size of a chocolate chip. The name stuck.  Now Chip is bigger, and his heart is definitely beating.  Life.  Hidden and mysterious, but unmistakably there.  On Monday I had my first midwife appointment and got to meet Chip in a super special way, as the tears pooled in my eyes and his heartbeat met my ears.  Every morning for the past couple of weeks I’ve sighed a great hallelujah that my pants still button.  But thirteen weeks into this journey, and it’s time to expand my wardrobe for my expanding wasitline!  I’m definitely tired of sweat pants and feeling frumpy.
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The second highlight of our week was Tuesday.  Hearing a solid “well done” from the kids’ evaluator, marked another year in the books for the Weldon Academy of Natural Studies.  We now officially have one 1st grader, one 3rd grader, one 5th grader and two 8th graders.  Good thing I’m sitting down right now.  It’s been a huge year, full of much learning and growing.  We celebrated with lunch at the Green Street Grille.  What a HUGE accomplishment!  They’re growing up so fast.  In fact, the other day Jack asked Betty how old she wants to be when she grows up.  She thought for a moment and said, “Seventeen.”2016-05-10 13.20.18-1Last month, I had the incredible privilege of flying out to Portland to visit my dear friend, April.  We grew up together for a few years in the middle of Africa.  Her house was just a shout away.  In fact, we would often stand at the bottom of their hill and yell, “Do you have a roll of toilet paper we could borrow?!”  Or “Do you have butter?!”  You know, the essential things.  This is probably one huge reason I love my neighbor, Jen, so much.  I don’t think a week goes by without borrowing something from her… and it is often ONE egg, or TWO INCHES of butter, please.  Having someone who loves you and doesn’t think any less of you because you fail to figure out just how many eggs you’ll need each week… on a weekly basis… is pretty grand.

April and I have been friends for almost thirty years.  I don’t even FEEL like I’m 30 yet, so this is pretty wild for me to comprehend even still.  But we have, because Math doesn’t lie, or something like that.  She is one of the most genuine people I know.  I love her courage and gusto in life.  I love that she doesn’t let fear hold her down from following God’s leading.  That leading happens to be into the middle of the jungle of Papua, Indonesia.  I am so thankful I got to squeeze her and even run a mini “Amazing Race Portland” with her and a friend before she flew back across a HUGE ocean to her home.  As we prayed before she dropped me off at the airport, I was absolutely floored by the goodness and grace of God to weave and keep tight the bond of this friendship which has spanned more time and miles than I can comprehend.

As things grow and change in our family, this guy remains constant and steady.  2016-04-08 07.10.53-1We have had such fun dreaming together.  He is such an encouragement to me every day.  I don’t often feel what he sees, but I choose to believe him, because he’s never lied to me yet.  We are so excited to see how the Lord is going to work out the details of our future.  We sense His stirring in our lives and know He has something amazing in store.

Baby Chip is proof of that.


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Fingerless Gloves & Papaya

It’s 8am and only the sound of batter sizzling in the waffle iron is hitting my ears.  Snow fell rather silently all night long, accompanied by vicious wind, which uncharacteristically woke me up several times throughout the night.  We even ended up with a small little darling in our bed, half-way through the night.  Nadine is getting snowed in at a friend’s house, which caused Elsie to abandon her usual spot with Betty, and snuggle instead in big sister’s bed.  This in turn caused Betty to find her way to our room in the middle of the howling night with some howling of her own, begging us to bring Elsie back to her bed so she could sleep.  It’s sisterly love at its finest.  Just not at 3am, please.  Snuggling in our bed was certainly only second best.  I was reminded once again just how much room one tiny body can take, and by 7:00 I found myself more than ready to abandon my swiftly shrinking cacoon and make for the kitchen.  With snow piling up outside, I decided to do what any snowstorm calls one to do: make cinnamon rolls and waffles.  Carb overload for survival.  So, with the dough proofing in the oven, waffles sizzling away, and snow falling, my half-gloved fingers are enjoying what my African heart is craving: papaya.  2016-01-23 08.03.47And a hot mug of tea.  2016-01-23 08.28.17Matthew comes downstairs, with his slippered feet shuffling across the kitchen to me.  By now, everyone has emerged from their beds.  2016-01-23 08.35.34He gives me a big kiss, which gets a full evaluation by our eager observers.  “Eeew!  That’s gross!”  “Oh, man.  They’re kissing on the lips!”  “I’m just looking at my plate.”  “How do you breathe for that long?!”  “Doesn’t your air go into his nose?”  Yep.  It’s always preeetttty romantic having a running commentary while exchanging  a kiss.  But that’s okay.  I love that he’s not ashamed to show how much he loves me in front of eager eyes.

Here’s to a snow day full of cinnamon rolls, a turkey dinner and each other!

That’s right.  A turkey dinner is on our list.  We thought since we never had a white Christmas, we will extend our celebrations to mid-January.  So if you happen to find yourself craving a turkey dinner, we’ll carve a spot out on our street for you and you can join us at our table.