Leave a comment

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!
2016-10-07-10-08-54
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!

Advertisements


2 Comments

Sixth Annual Kids Day plus

Today I left the farm with two bushels of tomatoes, and lots of onions, garlic and peppers.  There is something incredibly rewarding and delicious about canning our own tomato sauce each summer.  Nadine was a wonderful help, as she always has been in the kitchen.  We got through one bushel together before I sat down, put my feet up with a cold dandyblend beverage, and let her finish the second bushel.  We chatted about life.  It was a special time together, and I appreciate her youth and helpfulness!  Having teenagers is great!  The entire process took about 8 hours, but we now have tons of delicious roasted tomato sauce canned for the winter.  Not exactly the most convenient day to can and get the kitchen as dirty as can be.  Matthew is busy installing a new hot water heater in the basement, which means we temporarily have no water.  I’m soooooo excited to have hot water again!  Our tank has been leaking for a while, and he is replacing it with a tankless water heater, which confuses me to no end.  Which is why I can the tomatoes and he installs the water heater!  Yes, we did about forty jars, and yes, that one green-lidded fella bothers me too.  It’s the Where’s Waldo of my canning jars.

Processed with MOLDIVYesterday we celebrated Kids’ Day.  This is our sixth year doing it, and it is never a specific date… just someplace in August when the time is right.  The inspiration of this day is due to my sweet friend Ruthie.

It was a rather scattered morning, in which we found out the coupons we had been saving for this specific date were expired.  But we still ended up driving to New Jersey to venture around Six Flags Great Adventure for the day.  It was so fun that we never even got a picture of the kids on their special day.  Most of the day was spent in two groups: the three oldest, who were tall enough for all the rides, and the short crowd who wished they were, but made the most of as many rides as they could.  Each group was accompanied by either a parent who doesn’t really care for rollercoasters because it makes them somewhat sick, or a parent who adores rollercoasters, but happens to be growing another human being and wasn’t able to do any of them.  I’ll let you take a stab at who’s who there.  We shut the place down, and made many memories in the process.

Processed with MOLDIV

The Ferris Wheel was the only ride Mom could do, which was fun with the little girls. We started school, and much is done around our table. Elijah had a sweet tea time with the girls to make up for a friend who was unable to come. My diligent artist, learning how to create 3D drawings and illusions.

As the month comes to a close, I relish how beautiful it was.  Playing.  Splashing.  Growing things.  Experiencing imncredible heights.  Being with friends.

Processed with MOLDIV
There were a lot of super difficult days, to be honest.  A few in particular which threatened to unravel me for no apparent reason except to remind me that this is not my home.  I’ve also been remembering how different our life was three years ago, when Matthew’s life was hanging between life and death.  It’s not fun to go back to that place, even though somewhere in my deep subconscious I know that this week was the week.  As hard as it all was, it was what God used and is using to bring Him much glory and many people to a place of freedom in their health.  We’re so excited for the stories emerging about how God is changing lives through Plexus!  We share our story, never knowing what He will do!
2016-08-24 23.41.19.jpg
Baby “Chip” is growing so much!  I’m twenty-eight weeks along already, and have only begun to realize that we should start getting ready to welcome a baby into our busy little home!  I feel great, though huge, and am enjoying his antics which go on every night around the time I’m crawling into bed.  He is so loved.
2016-08-02 09.59.18-2Have a delightful last few weeks of warmth and summer!


Leave a comment

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.

 


Leave a comment

Sweet Summer

Since school is beginning very soon, I thought now would be a good time to do a quick overview of our summer so far.  It’s been delightful to say the least!  June started out with a half marathon, which I completed with two friends.  It was much harder than anticipated, but I finished and was thankful for the challenge!June 2015 phone photos
July was full of some sickness, but was trumped by the ocean, soccer camp, girls’ camp, wrestling camp, and family time.
July 2015
So far, August has been beautiful.  Our dear friends came to visit us from Ohio.  Ruthie and I go all the way back to age ten.  Lots of front porch talks, a trip to the beach, and seeing our kids play with each other was such a joy.  The garden is bursting with color.  Matthew made the girls’ room a lot more fun by hanging their bed from the ceiling.  It is only accessible via a ladder and monkey bars.  Notice, my oldest daughter has to bend over a bit to look like the same height as her mother.  Matthew is doing marvelously well health-wise.  More on that later.
August 2015
God has been so faithful and good to us.  Summer isn’t over yet, and it’s been grand so far.


Leave a comment

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:
2015-05-14 20.03.03
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:
2015-05-16 10.00.21
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.
2015-05-16 10.02.24
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.
2015-04-18 17.47.08


Leave a comment

Only 179 More Days

Last night I pulled out the half-dead morning-glory vines and squeezed back tears.  My feet crunched dead-ness all around, and I fought the yucky pit in my stomach that creeps in every year around this time.  This morning I put on shorts, somewhat in defiance, but succumbed to long pants because my body just can’t take anything below seventy degrees.  Then I heard somewhere how today it’s fall, which means my favorite time of the year is over.  So I did what is only natural for an African-born gal to do.  I cried.  Mourning the loss of barefoot days, flowers in abundance, fireflies at night, and countless hours spent outside, without having to worry about a coat or something to cover my feet.  I may have even found a counter to check off how many days are left until spring.  There are 179 more days.  But who’s counting?

So, yeah, I cried over the phone to my ever-patient husband, who didn’t laugh at me for the hard morning I was having as a mom and as a summer-loving girl.  But I’m not the sulky eleven-year old that I used to be.  Yes, I still resist the urge to slam my bedroom door, and sometimes the door swings out of my hands a little faster than I was hoping it would, and makes a louder bang than I truly intended it to make, but I’m growing up.  So, when seasons change and I let my dislike of it get to my very soul, there is a problem.  I’d like to think there’s a problem with the thermometer or perhaps even the entire earth, but honestly, there’s a problem with me.  There’s this tricky little part in all of us that quickly gives in to difficulty.  It’s the part in us that needs words like, “In everything give thanks,” and “Endure hardship like a good soldier.”  So when everything is wrong with the world, and people who love fall move to my hit-list, there is  problem inside my heart.  I have failed to give thanks, to see the beauty in change, and to wonder at what this change will bring to my life.

Things that thrill me no matter what season: sunshine, my man, running, fresh veggies, aromatherapy school, my amazing children, and music.

So, I choose joy.  Even though I want to curl up in my bed, with chocolate and hot tea until the first day of spring, I simply can not.  I will embrace this colder season of life with dignity, grace and strength provided from the God who made me, knows me, and never leaves me.  I will keep donning my sneakers (along with many other layers) and run with endurance.  I have goals to accomplish.  Children to teach.  Things to learn.  Places to go.  Life can’t stop just  because the sun is further from my part of the globe.  It’s time to pull out my scarves, check my thankfulness-meter, and perhaps buy a few mums to brighten my dead-looking garden.  


Leave a comment

Nothing But Good Things

This week Matthew turned 32, meaning I have known him for exactly half of his life.  This week there have also been three incredible blessings as far as his health is concerned.  About a week ago he called me in tears, because he could actually hear me over the phone with his bad ear.  We’ve been experimenting with rubbing essential oil behind his ears, and will continue to do so.  Last weekend, he was able to see all 3 (out of 4) ENT’s at Jefferson hospital in Philly.  The ear guy is pretty sure his constant infection will clear once his sinuses get under control.  The nose guy agreed, as long as the throat guy thought putting him under was no longer risky.  After scoping him, the throat guy saw improvement from last time in his subglottic region and agreed to doing surgery.  So, on the 28th he is scheduled for a thorough cleaning out of his sinuses, and another balloon dilation of his stenotic area.  Today, he saw his rheumatologist who oversees his blood-work results and is in charge of his treatment.  He told Matthew he saw “Nothing but good things”, for which my heart is leaping with joy!  After surgery, he will begin weaning himself off of prednisone.  This all-too-familiar road is marked with many promises of God’s presence and goodness along the way.  We praise Him for today and the ability to live and breath and have each other!  This was the best birthday present ever!

DSC_0916-4
This week the crocuses started to show their happy faces in the garden!  When we were outside, unbeknownst to me, Betty picked all of them into a purple bouquet.  She came running over to me with a HUGE grin on her face.  I was very tempted to scold her for picking the ONLY flowers in our garden.  God spoke to me in that moment, through her joy and smile, and told me I would crush her spirit if I corrected her in impatience or anger.  So I knelt down and met her joyous face with my own smile.  Gratitude for her love gift made it even sweeter.
2014-04-01 17.04.17-2

Amidst the sweet, there is also the crazy.  If a video had been rolling  of our dinner the other night it would have looked a little bit like this:

Jack was karate-chopping carrots intermittently with a knife and then his hand.  Next to him, sat Elsie, singing “Let it Go” at the top of her lungs.  I looked across at Nadine, making crazy faces while Elijah went on and on about how her hair looks in the morning.  In addition to his narration, he continued to blather nonsense about gaseous terrain on the planet Venus.  Not to be undone, Betty stood in the middle of it all, crying with her stuffed animal in hand, because she didn’t like what was being served for dinner.  Matthew and I looked at each other.

Sometimes this is how life rolls.  It’s rough, it’s silly, it’s beautiful.  Full of good things.