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Italian Surprises

Surprises are the spice of life.
We had a surprise brewing for a few weeks now.  I kept it from the kids, excitement building in my own heart.  It had been almost three years ago since we saw these sweet faces, flown straight from Italian soil to our side of the ocean!
One night previous, Elsie had just been in tears for her cousin, Hannah.  She missed her so badly.
Few words are needed.  It was a blessed week and a half.  So thankful we were able to see them a few times and cousins were able to connect over dress-ups, dance-parties, and sidewalk chalk.
In the between days when we weren’t at Matthew’s parents house visiting, we kept busy with the usual school and business of life.  Soon I will post pictures of our entire family together.  What a beautiful week it’s been.
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Giving Thanks for Twenty-Seven, Road Trips and Scavenger Hunts

Thanksgiving weekend began with our Weldon family gathering.  Turkey vegetable tray, dangly earrings, a crackling fire, and games highlighted our time together.  We even managed to pull off a paleo thanksgiving breakfast, complete with monkey bread!
November 2013
Next, we took off for New York.  With new tires on the van and every inch packed to the gills, sipping joy tea, we listened to a Thanksgiving history audio book from my dad and enjoyed an almost completely argument-free drive up North.  It was delightful!
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We were welcomed by a happy sign:
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The highlight of our time together was the Mall Scavenger Hunt we did one day.  We divided into four teams, according to birth.  Various items on the list to find were: “something that smells good, the largest bug, and someone doing the best karate move.”  We also had to “plank” as a team and find Grandma and Grandpa who were wandering around the mall.  The team who found them first got… the honor of finding them first.  As leader of the 3rd-borns, I’d like to acknowledge we found them first.  We had one hour to scavenge the mall.  The creativity started flowing.
There were the firstborns:
Aaron's pictures
The second-borns:
Beck's pictures
The third-borns:
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The fourth-borns (and Betty):
Sherry's pictures
Besides the fun of the scavenger hunt, the daddies took almost all the kids ice-skating, and we enjoyed snow, games, and many delicious meals together.
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Our entire family:
At the beginning of November, my dad reminded us of the news we received as a family twenty-two years ago: Get one small bag packed with all that you treasure the most.  Get ready to evacuate Nyankunde tomorrow!  As a girl of almost twelve, this was an exciting adventure.  It didn’t turn out how I imagined, however.  Our “quick” trip back to the United States turned into permanent.  It’s hard to imagine how twenty-two years later, our family of six has grown into a family of twenty-seven, with another on the way!  (My sister, not me!)  God has richly blessed us with a family who loves each other, drives great distances to be with each other, and children who think their other cousins are the absolute bomb-diggity!  I couldn’t be more thankful.


Four Times Four Plus One

We’ve been home over a week now, and every day Matthew is stronger.  He is heavily medicated, but we are thankful!  Yesterday was his first day back at work and he still feels well.  He will begin more stringent treatments on Monday, having weekly infusions of a drug called Rituxan for a month.  This helped in the past to put him in a good place health-wise, and we pray it does this time too!

The weekend turned into a wonderful family reunion and all four of us “original” Watt kids and our families were altogether again.  Four kids has multiplied into seventeen grand-kids!  We are blessed!  Here is the cousin line-up from oldest (almost 17 years old) to youngest (two and a half).


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The “Watt girls”.  I missed the memo about the turquoise shirt.
A collection of cell phone shots:
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My camera was balanced on a chair and pointing at a jaunty angle, but here is the whole family.  Not too bad, for staring at a big open yard and an inanimate camera.
My sweet Betty with her baby browns.  If you ask her what color her eyes are, she will tell you: brown.
This is one of the many reasons I love my family.  We pray for each other whether we’re apart or together.2013-09-01 19.26.34
Some of my favorite people.  I share shoes with my boys, and my daughter is the same height as me.  Life is beautifully marching right along.  DSC_3984-001

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Christmas Week The First

It’s hard to believe we were getting ready for our big road trip last week.  Now it’s come and gone.  Just like the seemingly endless roads from Pennsylvania to Indiana.  The two older kids came along with us on our thousand-plus mile adventure.  The van felt oddly familiar in an old sort of way.  More than once Matthew and I remarked about how big the kids had become since our last cross-country trip with the two of them in that very space, nine years ago.  We joked at how I didn’t have to hand Elijah a bottle this time, or that we didn’t give Nadine handfuls of Q-tips to keep her hands busy, ripping them apart.  They contented themselves with a kids’ meal toy, books, Odyssey, and talking.  I was a tad miffed that I never won a single round of the Alphabet Game.
We had a marvelous time at our friends’ wedding.

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Then it was back on the road again.  We stopped in Ohio to visit our dear friends.  There is nothing quite like driving through the night, in the snow, on roads the map seems to make up as you go along.  Somehow we made it, with much opening of the windows so the freezing air would keep us alert.  It was an exciting memory!

From Ohio we arrived back home, and happily reunited with the other three kiddos.  We enjoyed a Christmas Eve-Eve with Matthew’s cousins.  There’s nothing quite as precious as a new baby.  Zachary Taylor made a perfect little Santa.
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Christmas morning was spent at home by ourselves for the very first time ever.  Matthew’s parents, brother, and sister flew to Italy on Christmas Day to visit his other brother and family who are stationed there right now.  It was strange to be on our own, but special as well.
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Then came the snow.  What a delight!  The kids played and played.
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Today was spent doing things which needed doing.  Making laundry soap was so much more fun when I had a cute helper who liked to smile into her reflection on the mixing bowl!DSC_1416-001

Next, an impromptu trip to Chic-Fil-A for the younger three kids to get their faces painted.  DSC_1455-001


Betty sat oh-so-still while the lady painted her face.  Once she finished, it was as hard to keep her still enough for a picture, as it is to keep a butterfly from flitting away.  
She became the butterfly painted on her cheek.

It has been a full week.  Full of miles, brimming with memories, and overflowing with whimsy.  Tomorrow we get to keep our Christmas week going, as we pile into our van once again and trek our way up North for a Christmas weekend with my family.

Merry Christmas!

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Thanksgiving in a Nutshell

Instead of writing what I am thankful for, I have been enjoying those things the past couple of weeks.  Other reasons kept me from the computer as well, but here is my short recap of our Thanksgiving.  It was wonderful to see both sides of my family for a few days in a row.  First mine, then Matthew’s, then mine again.  Thanksgiving morning was spent with Pop & Grandmom and the Weldons.  I just can’t take enough pictures of these two.

We played a Thankful game which Mom made up.  I pulled the card about a man, and got to gush on my wooly husband.  He hasn’t shaved or cut his hair this month which makes him look very different.  His eyes looked tired in most of the pictures, so I told him to keep them open wide and got the funny one in the corner.  I loved every minute spent with him during Thanksgiving.
Back at my parents’ house, we took a walk through the 500-acre wood.  My dad made a scavenger hunt of trees and other forest-y things to observe.  It was lovely.

Hanging out with Daddy is one of the best things in the world!

Our wonderful host and hostess for the weekend… they put up with many mouths to feed, many messes to clean, and many noises to be heard!
One of my favorite parts was just being with my sisters and mom!  I don’t know if we’ve ever had a picture of just us!  I am thankful for my family.

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Impromptu Family Reunion

It’s the first day of summer, and while the world complains about the heat, I actually enjoy it.  This morning I enjoyed some early morning gardening, thankful that I can stand without too much pain today.  Two days ago I found myself flat on my face at the top of our stairs, the second toe of my left foot throbbing like mad.  It was almost numb and yet on fire at the same time.  Without an actual x-ray to confirm it, I’m 99% sure it’s broken. Its black and blue self stares back at me as I prop up my feet.  I’m thankful that I don’t have to be anywhere or do anything.  I’m thankful for a lot of things.  The last week was a whirlwind of family and sisters and my brother and cousins galore.  It was packed with many fun moments and the time went way too quickly.  I’m thankful for the photos of this past weekend, which keep cheering me up.  It’s hard to choose a few out of a couple hundred pictures, but these are definitely my favorites of this week:

I remember when these guys were all little babies, about 6 months apart each.

I was obsessed with this tree at Valley Forge.

Cousins minus the four Watts.

Nadine kept picking flowers and putting them places to honor the soldiers who died at Valley Forge.  It was beautiful.

Betty and Auntie Heather holding hands.

I was also obsessed by these weeds.  So pretty.  So painful to touch.  So much like some choices we make.  They look so good, so appealing, yet bring pain and choke out what’s truly beneficial.

This little guy is a heart-melter.

Jack walked the entire time carrying his backpack and this huge stick.  It’s how he does things.

At last, all seventeen cousins together!

Creek walking is something we did way back when the entire tall crowd were mere munchkins.

I love my brother and everyone loves him!

Jack, finding the biggest rock to throw.  In his mind, skipping rocks means heaving heavy boulders.

A few of the kids who went swimming.

After Audrey found a host of feathers, most of the boys became Indians.  Jack’s war dance was especially funny.  He found a shoe string in the creek, which became part of his attire.

On my brother’s birthday, we all enjoyed cream puffs under the shade of the hundred-acre-wood, also known as my parents’ front yard.

Sisters are the best!

Another highlight of the week was Betty learning to walk.  Just before 18 months, she took her first steps, and every day now she is getting more confident.  She also learned how to climb ladders.

We enjoyed a campfire one night at my sister’s.

I’ll close with my favorite picture of the entire week.  


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Scrumptious Birthday

Last weekend, we celebrated Rachel’s 11th birthday.  Rachel is my niece, and she’s a special girl to all of us.  Her recent long stay in the hospital was so difficult.  How thankful to see her happy, cheerful face again!  There was a lot of love and craziness going on the other night!

This little munchkin with a heart on her bum, knocks my socks off every day.  She personally doesn’t care for socks herself and pulls them off whenever she can.  Her sweet baby booties are just about too small for her, but they keep her feet deliciously warm.

Speaking of delicious, her eyes are so chocolatey.  She’s sweeter than the peppermint patty that I’m eating right now.

This one is growing up too fast for her mama.  Some days I’m lost between the fact that she’s not five anymore, and that double digits are upon us this year.  

Birthdays are special because they celebrate special people.  After cake and more cake, what party isn’t complete without the Oreo game?  I was thrilled to catch my first cookie ever, playing this game.  Usually it gets caught pirate-style, in the hollow above my cheekbone.  This time it slipped straight into my mouth and surprised me more than anyone!

Life is sweet when it’s full of children and birthdays and cookies.