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2 Months, 1 Amazing Guy, 5 Kids, 1 Rabbit, and 22 Bobby-pins

We stood on the edge of the woods, arms around each other and Nadine started to quietly sing: “Nah-nah-nah-nah, nah-nah-nah-nah, hey, hey, hey, good-bye.”  Matthew and I hugged her close and sang along, our mournful song stretching past the trees and into the May evening with respect and emotion.  A pile of stones marks his grave, as this week we said goodbye to our first pet.  Toby was Nadine’s rabbit, and she loved and trained him well.  I will miss watching her train him on the front porch and take him for walks around the block on his little leash.  The words sharpie-d onto his grave-stone say it all:
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On a happier note, our school-year is done. We are schooling all year, which basically means we are taking a short break before starting again!  This allows for longer breaks during Christmas-time and the dreaded February blues.  Today I have an incredibly special place to school-plan.  While Matthew works on a side job, this is my view:
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I do not take this for granted and have spent most of my morning in awe of the fact that there is no one needing me.  In fact, I even managed to go to the bathroom without anyone yelling, “MOM!”  Because as every mother knows, the time when every child all of a sudden urgently needs them, is the moment the bathroom door closes.
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In the past few months of non-writing, there are mounds of funnies jotted into my phone’s notebook, along with lots of pictures.  Our spring has been full of gardening, school, organizing, and purging.  Recently, we’ve been going room-by-room throughout the house and deep-cleaning every nook and cranny.  This is useful for two things: to get rid of what is not needed, and to find lost things.  I don’t know about you, but there are a few items in our home which notoriously get lost throughout the year:  bobby-pins, scissors, pencils, pens, hair-ties, hair-brushes, and socks.  There is a small list of things of more value and meaning which have also gone missing, and this was another reason for the deep-cleaning.  Unfortunately, those things still haven’t been found, but we do have a FULL jar of pencils, pens, and scissors again.  As well as this nice array of 22 bobby-pins confiscated from one room alone:

My  heart is so full of thankfulness for the five amazing gifts God has given to us.  They bless our lives more than words or pictures can express.  But I will try to express it anyway.
Nadine has such a huge heart.  This was shown so clearly this week when she lost Toby.  How she carried him bravely from the accident and stayed with him and didn’t shy away from showing her grief.  She has been babysitting and absolutely loves kids.  Her passion for horses has not been abated, and she loves to spend her free time writing letters to her amazing friends.  She is keeping alive the art of creating home-made envelopes and giving the post office lots of service!  She holds the highest record on “bop-it”, which is like a concentration game: 250.  I think my record is 21.  She sang her first solo and did a beautiful job at their end-of-school play.  She is a strong girl, and loves to arm wrestle.  I love how she cleans up the kitchen at night for me, when I’m feeling like toast.  Her energy is exactly what I need sometimes.
May 2015 phone photos
Elijah is growing up, like boys do.  Our recent trip to the Franklin Institute to see the “Art of the Brick” Lego display was pretty epic.  He and Jack have been building all sorts of things in their spare time, making guns that shoot legos, and vending machines that actually work.  It is beyond me.  He is often my side-kick in the kitchen.  He recently made some chicken curry that was pretty bombdiggity.  He did a great job a couple weeks ago, helping Matthew at our church to teach a lesson about lying.  He has a gift for music and I absolutely love listening to him jam on the guitar.  It is his new passion, and he brings us great joy to hear him play and sing.
May 2015 phone photos1
Jack finished up his year of wrestling, turned 9, and all sorts of other momentous things in April.  At the kids’ end-of-the-year school celebration with their co-op, they performed a musical called, “Rats”.  Jack was one of the rats, and I learned something I never knew about him before: that boy can act!  He was not afraid on the stage, and he actually hammed it up quite a bit.  He is fearless on his bike, which is sometimes not a good thing.  He loves to hold hands, and can give the best shoulder massages.  When I think of Jack, I think of a strong, tame, hug-gable tiger.
April 2015 phone photos3
Elsie is a fearless, yet at times, shy girl.  She has the most beautiful singing voice, and the ability to pick up songs on the piano naturally.  She did a great job at the end-of-the-year play as well.  When she has two wheels under her, she becomes very bold.  The other day our family went to the skate park together and she was the only girl in the entire park, fearlessly rollerblading between some crazy fast boys on jumps.  She prefers to be outside, and has the best imagination.  Her end-of-the-year science experiment with flowers and colored water worked out well, and it was fun watch the flowers turn into different colors.  She turned 7, got glasses, and seemed to grow up all in a matter of months.
April 2015
Betty, who is four (which really means “I’m almost five”), tops our charts with hilarity.  She adores school, her yellow crocs, and being a part of everything.  Like when the kids were all playing “Truth or Dare” in the car.  She piped up: “Truth or dare?  Truth is, I dare you to jump out of the window!”  Elijah calmly answered, “Betty, I’m not going to jump out the window.”  She probably crossed her eyes, which is something she does a lot of right now when she’s annoyed.  She recently learned how to ride a bike without training wheels, had her first three-legged race, and a host of other firsts that come with being under the age of five.  She tells stories which go on for many minutes.  The most recent one she told started off like this: “Long ago, when I was three…”  She loves “noodle” cookies (snickerdoodles) and “reading”.  When we were gardening last week she exclaimed, “There’s a lot of bees in this village!” I must have said, “Sweetheart” to her at some point because she looked at me with a dead-pan face (as she always looks when she says things that crack us up) and said, “Sweetheart?!   Why do you always call me sweetheart?”  I was so taken aback, I wasn’t sure how to respond!  April 2015 phone photos4
Another highlight of our spring was saying hello again to my parents who recently just arrived back from Africa.  It was fun house-sitting for them,  but much more fun having them back again.  You can read all about their trip here.

Meeting our international travelers at the airport.  I love hellos!

Meeting our international travelers at the airport. I love hellos!

Matthew has been doing pretty well.  I don’t think I could be more thankful for him than I am right now, although I know tomorrow it will be more, because that’s how love is.  It grows with time.  And though we’re not old, we’re older than we were, and I have time on my side to say without a doubt: It just gets better.
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Willow’s Day

Life is so beautiful.  Today I had the privilege of going to the smallest funeral I have ever attended.  The baby was in a tiny wooden box, about the size of a man’s hand.  Inside, a life that just one day ago was warm and cozy inside her mother’s womb, lay still, but spoke volumes to our hearts.  Sixteen weeks old, her hand barely covered half of her mama’s fingernail.  Her feet, about the height of a penny, never touched earthly soil, but now they skip and play on golden streets.  The beauty of the spring sunshine and barely green willow trees framed the morning perfectly.  We all gathered under the weeping willow tree which marks her earthly tie.  Friends and family who mourn, stand, hope, and love.  There is courage on her parents’ faces, as they trust in the Maker of life who gave and took away.  On the faces of her two brothers and two sisters, there is pride in their baby sister, who made it to Heaven first.  We’re told to mourn with those who mourn, and my heart aches with these amazingly special friends.  Yet, what joy and comfort we have, knowing she is being kept safe in Heaven for you.