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Fearless Overcomer

A few times now our high-schoolers have gotten themselves on the bus. Our bedroom is right above the front door, and I’ve been jolted awake by the bang of the door closing behind them.  Ninety percent of the time I wake up before them, but every once in awhile Harry’s teeth bother him through the night or some other reason makes me turn off my alarm.  The front door will wake me up every single time.  From taking full advantage of our flexible homeschool schedule to waking up by 6am each morning and getting out the door on time every day, they truly are some of the coolest, strongest, best teenagers I know!  I love hearing all about their day, and seeing them grow.  2017-12-23 17.21.132017-12-24 11.08.30Last night while I was out with Jack, Nadine pulled out the cookbook and made chicken parmesan from scratch.  It’s difficult to describe the feeling of weariness and hunger being met by a delicious aroma wafting through the door, before you even open it, and knowing that aroma came from the loving labor of your own daughter.  On the flip side, it’s strange for me to be in the thick of toddlerhood once again.  I am swiftly being reminded how much disaster a tiny two-foot person can make in five seconds flat.  It’s been six years since Betty was at that stage, and she wasn’t ever that messy.  It’s been ten years since I had a little BOY that age, and I am getting daily flashbacks of how Jack used to be.  From painting our freshly laid wood floor with white paint, to swimming in mud puddles, sometimes it’s hard to believe this strong, disciplined young man is the same person.  Take hope, young mamas!

Jack is in the middle of wrestling season and was chosen to be on an all-star team this weekend.  He is the only elementary kid from our school district to participate.  It’s been so much fun watching him get stronger not only physically, but mentally too.  2018-01-13 11.49.52We’ve had a mild case of the stomach bug floating around our house.  It seems to have worked its rounds thoroughly, and it’s wonderful to be feeling strong again!  Betty had it last, and sometimes I wonder at her strength.  She is a running commentary of hilarious tidbits and comical statements.  She loves to help and has just about mastered making pancakes all by herself.  All on her own accord, with the encouragement of Elsie, she decided to stop sucking her fingers.  So they cut off all the “taggies” on her pillows, stuffed animals and blankets, to help her break the habit.  It’s been a month, and she is doing fabulously.  I’m so proud of her determination.2018-01-07 08.27.08-1Elsie is beginning ukulele and voice lessons next week.  She has been waiting a very long time for this, and we’re so thankful to at last be able to open this door for her.  She practices constantly, and when she isn’t practicing, she is sweeping the floor.  Ever since Matthew refinished our downstairs floors, they have remained spotless, thanks to this girl.  She is the epitome of helpfulness.  She can make Harry giggle (which is hard to do) and has a beautiful voice.2018-01-03 11.55.48 HDRWhen Elijah gives me a kiss, I’m taken aback every time.  Not sure how this teeny tiny boy grew up and surpassed his mama in height.  How his soft baby cheeks have the hint of manly roughness to them.  I am so grateful eyes never change.  He still has the same gorgeous blues, so I can feel for at least a moment, the same way I felt the first time I locked eyes with his and was in complete awe that this little boy was mine.  I say that loosely, because I know none of them are truly mine.  They belong to God, and He has blessed us to raise them, then release them like arrows into whatever He has planned for their lives.  Watching them get on the bus every morning has been a small taste of that letting go, and it fills me with the oddest concoction of feelings.2017-12-22 19.07.26Matthew has had a whole round of doctors appointments this week.  He had pre-op yesterday for surgery on Monday.  When his doctor scoped him Tuesday, he found his sinuses to be clean and not needing any cleaning on surgery day.  This was good news!  The trouble he has been having catching his breath and breathing is all due to scar tissue and shrinking of the subglottic area of his throat.  So he will be sedated (not put under!) and they will balloon open his airway and laser some of the scar tissue away.  He has never had the laser done before, and the last time they did the balloon was 4 years ago.  For it to have lasted this long is fantastic.  All of his blood work came back great yesterday!  So, even though he sounds and feels tight, thankfully (according to bloodwork and examination) the disease is not active right now.  I don’t think either of us have been THIS excited for him to go to the hospital before.  They said he should feel immediate relief.  2017-12-24 11.06.10This year I have cried many times.  There have been so many unexpected blessings, even through an intense month of work for Matthew.  We haven’t even celebrated our 16th anniversary yet, but we will.  I’m keenly aware of the battle for our marriage, and am so grateful for the challenges we’ve experienced which have brought us closer.  This year my word is fearless, and his word is overcome.  I am bursting to share more, but it will have to wait a little longer.2017-12-24 12.14.38

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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.

 


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Facial Hair and Handsprings

She had a large metal caribiner tucked between her ear and shoulder.  She laughed into the air and walked around the kitchen before disappearing into the laundry room.  Then she poked her head back around the corner and tipped her head at me to say, “I’m just on the phone.”  I nodded to her then proceeded to overhear her continuing conversation via the caribiner-telephone: “That’s just my mom.  She cooks supper.”  Then continued laughing her way through the conversation.

Yes.  I am mom.  And I cook supper.  But it is not all I do, though I could let that define me. And to be honest, I don’t even get supper done every night of the week!  At least not one that doesn’t start with a “P” and rhyme with “aches”.  And those don’t fully count as supper unless there is plenty of bacon to go along with them.  Which there usually isn’t, because those “ache” nights often coincide with the need to go grocery shopping… which in turn most often include a run to my sweet neighbor Jen for a couple of eggs.  And butter.  And milk.  Yeah.  She’s more than just an amazing friend.  She’s my go-to-grocery joint when my day has been so full of everything but… dinner.  Love her!

So a huge reason why I have pretty much stopped writing, is this: my brain keeps telling me I didn’t even write about Christmas this year.  It’s been beating me up inside.  “No, you can’t write anything about January… or February… or March… you haven’t even written about Christmas!”  So tonight I’m ending that negative talk.  In fact, I WILL write about Christmas.  It was a special and dreadful day all wrapped into one.  Betty was so sick we almost went to the hospital, and I spent the entire day watching Star Wars and holding a bowl for her while functioning on two hours of sleep. That is probably why I never wrote about it.  But as my mother always promised: “This too shall pass.”  And it did.

Until last week.  The same thing hit us, but thankfully it was only 8 hours instead of 36.  But those things are definitely not worth dwelling on for more than a second.

Two days ago it was my birthday.  I’ll stick with how old my mother-in-law thinks I am and enjoy another year of being 32.  WHAT a fun day.  Delicious chocolate chip crepes and hot tea for breakfast, then a clean house to welcome our first round of company.  Julie came and showed some gorgeous jewelry from a company called Trading Hope.  Basically, the purchasing of this jewelry provides business, dignity and hope to artisans who would otherwise not have any.  I LOVE this kind of thing.

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The next round of company was almost my entire family.  My brother was able to drive up from North Carolina with his family, and I believe this is the first time since I was a kid he’s been able to celebrate my birthday with me.  SO special.  Everyone except my one sister and family came over for dinner.  This was after we spent the late afternoon cheering on my nephew at his soccer game and watching him score a goal!  Time spent with family is never wasted.  I am so thankful for mine.
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Our five blessings fill our cup to overflowing.  Betty, as mentioned, keeps us cracking up and shaking our heads.  She is reading small words in school, and piles ALL her books into her arms to eagerly do her work each day with me.  She makes teaching a joy.  She has all of a sudden become a sweet young lady and is so incredibly independent.  She loves to take care of hurt and sick people so much that it didn’t surprise me when she told me she wants to be a doctor one day.   Here is a small taste of what I get each day in school with her.  

Elsie got a taste of color guard at school, while the boys did wrestling this past season.  She pretty much sets her mind to anything and gets it done.  She tells us she wants to play basketball, judo, wrestling, soccer, gymnastics and karate.  If we were one of those special families blessed with an extra 24 hours in our day we might be able to make all of her gigantic dreams come true.  However, for now we will have to narrow it down to one at a time and see how we can encourage her love of MOVEMENT.  

Jack finished off his wrestling season so well!  At his last team tournament a couple weeks ago, this is what Matthew wrote on his facebook wall: “This guy.  Wakes me up at 4:30 this morning feeling sick. Throws up at 6:15. Picks himself up and wrestled out of a 12th seed to finish fourth in the league finals tournament!”  That pretty much sums him up in a nutshell.
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Today he called me excitedly to come outside and see his back handspring.  Yesterday he learned how to do a back walkover all by himself.  No spotting.  I kind of gulped but watched him as he took the leap backwards and did it.  He is tenacious to the core. 

Elijah also finished off his wrestling season a much stronger young man than when he began.  If you missed Matthew’s post about how he took a giant step towards becoming a man, then you should read it.  He is definitely changing.  The other day he nonchalantly mentioned how his lip was feeling numb.  Matthew and I were both somewhat distracted and I didn’t think too much of it.  Quite a while later he started to reference a former conversation we had had not more than an hour before.  Something about his upper lip starting to show a shade of ‘stache.  I stopped what I was doing, looked at him and laughed.  “You shaved!  Didn’t you?”  He grinned.  No wonder his lip was feeling numb.  How is it possible?  Our three-and-a-half-pound little baby is becoming a man.  For the past year, ever since flying with my brother, he has been sure of his future plans: he wants to become a pilot.  He asked me yesterday if Geometry is useful for a pilot.  “Because I LOVE Geometry,” he said.  And he does.   He actually is doing Geometry on his own, besides the pre-algebra on tap for this year.  He also has a musical beat inside of him which can not be stopped.  This is a little taste of what math class looks like around here.  I dare you not to watch it more than once.  

Nadine is the most genuine girl you could ever know.  If she seems sweet, it is because she is.  If she seems helpful, it is because she is.  If she seems incredibly knowledgeable about animals, it is because she is.  She started piano lessons this year and is progressing quickly.  She isn’t taking riding lessons right now, but a recent school assignment involving changing contractions to whole words, showed her dream is stronger than ever: “I will be a horse owner one day! I can not gallop yet though. I will not let that stop me from riding! I have what it takes and you have what it takes to ride. All you need is yourself. I would not say this otherwise.”  2015-12-07 13.43.40-1
Maybe tomorrow I will finish with this super long update.  Like about the time I went to Tennessee last month.  Just in case I never hit “publish”… because there is always something more to say… I am going to do so now.  But first, I have to at least include ONE photo of Christmas.
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The Greatest Loss

It was his first match in two years.  His opponent had definition in his arms and fire in his eyes.  As the match progressed it was obvious to me that Elijah’s opponent didn’t have a tremendous amount of skill but he made up for that with aggression.

Elijah, on the other hand, was almost trembling with nervousness.  In that moment I don’t know exactly what he was thinking but I am sure there was a mental battle between the thoughts,”I can’t do this” and “just keep breathing!”

For the past few weeks Elijah had been tagging along to wrestling practice with me and Jack.  Elijah wrestled two years ago but last year decided he didn’t want to continue.  It was hard for me not to press him.  I knew his participation in the sport would be really good for him. He has struggled in a few areas in his life pressing forward when it’s hard.  This is one of the core principles of the sport of wrestling; when you’re out there all alone, nowhere to hide, all your weaknesses exposed and you know you’re going to lose; you still fight.

Elijah whispered to me during one of the practices he was watching, “I kind of miss it.”  I could see in his eyes the desire to be out there working hard. He expressed this a few times and we agreed to have him join the team with the absolute agreement that if he started there would be no quitting.

Jack has been practicing with the advanced group and we thought Elijah, although less experienced he is older, would start his first practice with this group.  He did, and lasted all of three minutes.  He couldn’t keep up with the intensity level. After two minutes of sprints and bear crawls he looked up at me with nervous pain and fear in his eyes and said,”I think I broke something.”  In Elijah speak this means, this is really hard and I want to quit. As he walked off the mat and sat down I realized I was raising a son who was being controlled by his fear.  The intermediate group practiced that next evening and that night I sent Elijah this email:

“Elijah, I love you. I don’t accept your quitting. You are not allowed to quit. You need to allow the man that is inside of you to come out through this hard work. The quitting spirit inside of you needs to be put to death. Every time you step onto the mat and stay there you put another knife in that quitting spirit. Every time you walk away in fear the quitting spirit gains strength. This wrestling season it’s time to pin that quitter inside of you down and put it to rest, for good!! So, when you walk onto the mat tomorrow with coach Bob, when you take your first step onto the mat, tell yourself, I’m learning not to quit, I won’t quit. Wrestling for you has very little to do with winning matches and that’s ok. It has everything to do with feeling pain and fear and struggle, and pushing forward. I love you and I push you because I KNOW you ARE strong! I see it deep inside of you and it is my job and passion to see my boys become strong men in the Lord!  I love you Elijah!”

It was no longer about whether or not Elijah wanted to be a part of the wrestling team or if he enjoyed the sport.  I saw in my son at that practice a weakness that could potentially haunt him for the rest of his life.  I knew he needed the struggle of wrestling for purging and forming this son of mine into a young man with confidence, perseverance and self-respect.

After two practices Elijah was going to face off against this aggressive kid from Valley Forge Military Academy.  Not exactly a warm welcome back.  This is exactly the point though; life is not full of unending warm welcomes and there is not always a safe space.  When those times come you have to know who you are and how to stand your ground.

With deep breaths Elijah walked out onto the mat.  He was literally tossed around for 50 seconds. With ten seconds left in the first period Elijah was tossed to the mat again. On his way down the referee didn’t move quickly and Elijah smacked his forehead into the officials shin.  The buzzer sounded the end of the first period and Elijah laid there, sobbing.  Coach Bob looked at me as if to say, aren’t you going to go help him? I wasn’t sure what to do.  It is so hard to push you kids into pain.  It is hard to give them no option to quit when in that moment they feel like there is no ability to move forward.  I walked out and told him to lift his head up.  Whispering in his ear I said,”this is exactly why we’re here.  This is when you have to learn to keep fighting.”  Slowly he rose but a part of his spirit was crushed.  He just wanted the whole thing to be over.  Less than a minute later Elijah was on his back and the match was over.  He stumbled off the mat sobbing,”I can’t do this.”

The image of Boromir came to my mind for some reason.  I asked Elijah if he remembered the scene in the first Lord of the Rings when Boromir fights off orks while being killed with arrows.  He said yes.  “Elijah, you are Boromir. Even if you know you are going to lose you have to fight.” The example resonated in his mind and I could see in his eyes the scene playing.  He knew exactly what I was talking about.

A little later that day it was time for him to step onto the mat again. “Let’s go Boromir!” I shouted.  Three minutes later he was finished.  He stood his ground and finished the match.  It was a 6-1 loss.  The greatest loss I have ever experienced.  A loss that will reap immeasurable gain as I call out the man in my son. It was emotional for Amy and I as we talked about the struggle in our boys to become men, emotions of pure joy and gratitude. This is just a much a journey for me as it is for my boys.  All of the sudden we’re at this point in their lives where ideas are becoming reality through the crucible of wrestling, and I am loving it!

We bought this shirt for Elijah which had arrived the mail when we came home from the match.  He hasn’t taken it off yet. We’re not looking back.

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-Written by my favorite guest writer, Matthew Weldon.  AKA: the best husband, dad, and coach in the world!


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The Fever That is February

My oldest is speaking a made-up language.  It sounds very much like each word is being spoken through a mouth that is simultaneously trying to sneeze.  She has it written down, and is trying very hard to make Elijah learn it.  He keeps strumming on my guitar, the new-found chords finding a home in his brain and fingers.  A few days ago I left my winter coat at a store, forcing me to go shopping for another. So I spent the other afternoon shopping with just my boys.  This was an exceptionally fun experience.  They tried to convince me to get a brown leather jacket.  “Just like Amelia Earhart, Mom!”  IMG_7911
I didn’t, but sure loved our time together.

Yesterday when Nadine and I were out by ourselves she said,  “Mom, remember that poster you showed me once?  The one with all the faces that said, ‘This is a man’s day, and this is a woman’s day?'”  I nodded.  We looked at each other and laughed.
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It’s all you can do when a morning has gone the way ours just had.  In a nutshell:

I woke up, and somewhere between math lessons and reading stories out loud, I became overwhelmed and convinced the walls were literally closing in around me.  Gloves left out, little pieces of trash, random articles of clothing, pencils, and marks of salt throughout our entire downstairs tipped me over the edge.  It didn’t help that the time-consuming task of making freshly squeezed mango juice was ruined by the simple knock of an elbow.  All that deliciousness, wasted on the floor.
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If I had recently mopped the floor I would have licked it up like a tropical-fruit-starved animal.  However, since I can not remember the last time I mopped, I licked the counter instead.  And then mopped.  Delicious.  It was also almost the only sweet spot of my morning.  We bulldozed through math conversions, borrowing, and reading about Paul Revere.  Then the sensation of our house shrinking started to come over me again and I found my secret spot to cry and reflect on how fast five children can create messes.  Unfortunately, on the way to my secret spot I had to surmount an obstacle course in the hallway and a very very messy bedroom which had just been clean twelve hours ago.  That did it.  I snapped a picture and sent it to my even-keeled husband with this text:

This is part of my insanity.

This is part of my insanity.

His reply?  “In order to manage well you can’t get sucked in too much emotionally.  Love them, lead them.  Don’t get bogged down.  That’s a small problem.  I love you SO much!”  His steady response led Nadine to her observation of how Matthew’s day might be going in comparison to ours.

We are so very thankful he is back from the tundra of the North.  He and a few co-workers traveled to Warroad, Minnesota this week for a couple of days of training.  We were itching to take a road trip while he was away, but with temperatures in the negatives and the heat on the fritz in our van, we decided to stay close to home.  Betty learned where Minnesota is on the globe, though!  Matthew had his fourth and final infusion this week.  We still aren’t sure if it’s helping at all.  He feels pretty similar to how he felt before he started.
February 2015 phone photos
Elijah is doing archery and even split an arrow with one of his shots last week!  Hot tea, school work, fruit arrangements, Valentines day roses, and sledding has filled the crannies of our week.  The girls were thrilled with their bear and moose hats from Minnesota.
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Even though February cabin fever has hit us with its full stomach-churning blow, we dust ourselves off, put on our snow suits and go sledding.  When you can’t beat winter, embrace it.  I am so thankful for these five little adventurers, trekking this beautiful life alongside of me.  Salty snow footprints through the house and all.


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Tonight’s Snapshot

Five children are outside in the swiftly darkening evening. The snow draws them outside like an ocean pulls in its waves.  Cabin fever has struck us hard and fast.  I think we are all feeling a slight letdown after lugging our tree out to the alley and tucking all the ornaments away.  I remedied the ache by hanging little white lights all over the living room.  It somehow lessens the winter blow.  I’ve also been taking some pretty hefty doses of vitamin B’s and D to help alleviate the crazy mood swings I’ve been going through the past few months.  Today at the nutritionist there was marked improvement, which encourages me to keep going, and get back to being more strict with what I eat.  It feels like the fog in my brain is slowly lifting.  

Someone’s head got bonked with a piece of ice.  Four children are outside in the winter night.  

I stir the turkey curry.  Leftovers from a friend, gratefully received from this growing, always hungry family.  I check my patient.  The ice from the recent clobbering is no longer needed and she seems fine now.  A little face appears at the door.  Too much cold for her to bear, and now three children are outside on this deepening new year’s night.  

The quiet swiftly diminishes as little girls, still full of energy, play their imaginary games.  Evening tents are being made with cushions and blankets.  The seams of the living room burst as usual.  There is no evidence of the tidying recently employed.  Laundry baskets are boats and wagons.  Roosters crow.  Entire days and weeks are played out in five minutes time.  Not a whole lot unlike real life.  A loud banging on the back door and a young boy looks at me with pleading eyes and red cheeks.  He is my lost puppy.  He wants to curl up and be warm.  I understand.

Two children jumping on the snow-covered trampoline in the dark.  Strong wills which often clash and rarely collide in togetherness.  Something about a challenge brings them together like nothing else.  The challenge of cold and darkness.  The thrill of physical exertion drives them to play hard. 

More games.  The smell of soul-warming food wafting through the house.  The sight of square headlights coming to park out front.  He’s home.  

No more children outside on this wintry beautiful night.  Let the snow fall.

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Last night Elsie wanted to sleep in her “tent”. This morning I asked her how she slept. “Not that good,” she said. I love how she’s not afraid of the uncomfortable.