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Hidden Burritos & Poly

Last Thursday was Thanksgiving.  It began in a very non-traditional way.  Usually we have a delicious breakfast and relaxing morning.  This year we moved our table outside into the yard and every other object out of the two downstairs rooms.  It’s been on the list to refinish the floors for a very long time, and the time worked out to begin.

Thankfully we were able to enjoy some family time at Matt’s brother’s house that evening.  2017-11-23 16.05.37-2

The rest of the week has been spent sanding, staining, and polyurethane the living room and dining room floors.  It’s been a puzzle, figuring out the timing of when to be home and when to be out. One morning, the oldest two went to school and Matthew finished the second coat of poly, while I stayed upstairs with the short crowd.  We didn’t have a ton of food, because I didn’t think it through very well, but we survived until the floor was dry enough for us to venture downstairs and leave the house.2017-11-26 19.58.26

Every Thursday the street cleaners clean our side of the street where we live, and we have to move our van from 10-noon.  I remember getting a ticket when I was 9 months pregnant with Betty.  Matthew was in Haiti, and I drove my pregnant self over to the police station to beg forgiveness, because we were that broke, and twenty bucks was almost at tank of gas.  Ever since then, I’ve been pretty vigilant about Thursdays.

Today, as I moved the van to the other side of the street, I glanced down to see an eighth of a burrito in a piece of foil on the floor of the van.  I grabbed it and went to the bathroom to get my shower.  I’m sure no one else has pulled this trick.  I hunkered down in the bathroom to “take a shower”, when in reality I just sat on the footstool with the five bites of burrito.  It was delicious, by the way.  Reminiscent of my hurried date with Matthew the day before, when I delivered a tool to him at work and brought him a better-than-chipotle-salad from our favorite Mexican joint.

I finally did shower, and by the time I was finished, Harry was awake.  This is kind of when things started spiraling rather quickly.  It might have been the clean laundry spilling onto the floor from the overflowing baskets (who’s idea is it to do laundry during a renovation??) or maybe the cans of polyurethane, or the broom handles, crumbs, coats, and papers which all acted like they had magnets built into them… the floor being their greatest attraction.  There was probably one more question asked, one more whine, voicing what was welling up inside my own spirit all day long.  I don’t even remember.  But I yelled: “Mommy needs a timeout!” and ran to my room.  After throwing some of the aforementioned clean towels around, I sat down and started to fold them.  I cried and complained about living in such chaos.  Then a quiet little knock on my door.  A kiss from Jack.  A smile from Harry.  A note from Betty.  A freshly baked cookie from Elsie.  Tears were dried, apologies were spoken, forgiveness was given.  We set out for a coffee shop to soothe the cabin fever which felt smothering to us all.  Because acknowledging the problem is ok and helpful.  But staying there is not.  2017-11-30 13.09.29

We’re all definitely ready to get the piano out of the kitchen (sounds cute, I know, but definitely not practical for our house, unless it doubles up as a bar stool for the island).  We’re ready to sit down together at the table again.  To have our couch back inside and not go to bed with the smell of fresh poly wafting up the stairs.  Will all this chaos and mess be worth it?  Absolutely!  If I’ve been reminded of one thing, it’s been this: every difficult thing we go through produces something beautiful.  If we let it. Some of the most beautiful things we enjoy have been forged through fire, heat, friction, water, repetition, monotony, blood, sweat, tears, and time.  And if I may add: sandpaper and polyurethane.

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Cheveux Blancs

Yesterday we went to an auction for the kids’ school.  It was full of incredible things to buy and I found myself more than once getting caught up in the heart-pounding adventure of raising my little number and making eye contact with the auctioneer.  A quick nod to stay in the running.  Swifter and less complicated than figuring out if a credit card is facing the right way and much faster than signing my name.  Then the words, “SOLD!” and a nod to my trembling little self as I REALLY hoped I followed the auctioneer’s sing-song voice correctly.  Yes, I paid twenty dollars for two homemade pizzas.  Not one-hundred and twenty.  Big sigh of relief.  A few times I wasn’t positive.  Or I was sure the number was at fifteen when it in fact had soared to FIFTY.  I didn’t walk away with a few of the items I had my eye on, but some delicious pizzas and a home-cooked chicken BBQ dinner to be picked up in a couple of weeks, were some of my claims.  Harry fell asleep on my chest, lulled by the smooth cadence of the auctioneer’s voice.  I found myself toe-tapping a few times because it was just that catchy.


Speaking of school, Nadine and Elijah absolutely love it.  They are making friends and growing deeper in their own personal ways.  It is a joy to watch.  Their teachers are incredible and it’s very evident they love what they do.  The bus comes bright and early for them, and that’s been a nice break for me to not have to drive them each morning, but I still pick them up occasionally, because it’s a consensus that the drive home is one of our favorite parts of school.  To hear about their day, talk about deep teenager things and debrief about life.  In a year someone will be practicing to get their driver’s license, and I know this job won’t be mine anymore.  My stomach kind of does a weird flip flop when I think about that.

Nadine is playing junior varsity soccer after school every day.  She is a fantastic babysitter on the weekends, and is an incredible big sister.  She knows how to make her little sisters feel loved, whether it means asking Elsie to help her with her homework (which is her cup of sweet tea!) or reading Betty a story.

Elijah has a natural bent towards photography, and is enjoying taking a class about it in school.  He is even acting as a pinch-hitter for the toothfairy… who kind of retired about five years ago.  And he’s much more creative too, leaving teeny tiny fairy-sized notes.  Last month we had the privilege of having my dear sweet childhood friend, Nadine, for a night.  It was a joy-filled 24 hours.2017-08-06 17.33.19

Jack practices his math skills, then works on flips.  He reads through his spelling list, then works on flips.  He plays with legos, then works on flips.  He eats an apple, then works on flips.  About half of his day is spent in flipping motion. IMG_4048[1] His hand is all healed from the last break, and he promptly did the trick which broke it in the first place.  A living breathing example of not letting our fears of past failures paralyze us from action.  Wrestling started up again, and it’s a privilege to have this one-on-one time with him when I drive him to practice.  He has a favorite play list of songs and I can guess which ones he will pick for our drive.  The other night he told me he wanted to treat me to a coffee after practice.  So we drove through Starbucks and he bought me a drink with his own money.  He’s practically my size, but how did it happen so fast?  I’m sitting here on our living room couch with his baby blanket wrapped around my legs.

Elsie had her hair cut this week for the first time in a long while.  She also got new specs, which make her look older.  It’s hard to believe in only 6 months we will have FOUR children in double digits.  Right now we’re sitting at half and half, but the ratios are changing and our tribe is maturing.  Elsie keeps me inspired.  She loves order and neatness and has always had an eye for design.  She rearranges furniture like a pro, and I’m not sure between the two of us, who is more excited for our living room renovation to be completed.  2017-09-21 22.30.51

Betty keeps our world going around, with her practical no-nonsense self and sage-like wisdom.  She can’t be intimidated by a messy diaper, a blood-gushing wound, or a stomach bug.  However, keep her up past her bedtime and things can unwind rather quickly.  2017-09-12 17.07.20-2She cracks us up with her dry sense of humor.  The other day I remarked about Elsie being my right hand girl, since she had been cleaning all day.  Betty replied in her dry way, “She’s a lefty.  I’m a righty.”  I about died.  She snaps her fingers too.  This morning she woke up with a smudged rainbow sneaking out from under her bangs from the fair yesterday at school.  She’s trying to “collect money” which is why she is “trying to loose teeth”.  2017-09-20 13.56.36

Harry.  Just saying his name makes me smile and chuckle and wonder what he will learn and pick up today.  Every day it’s something different.  He can communicate when he’s hungry, say please and thank you in sign language, and blows us kisses.  When he says thank you, he swings his arm vigorously against his cheek or ear.  He knows so many words!  Banana, bath, ball, bus, hot, and can mimic everyone’s names… although most of them sound like “Elijah”.  He is a huge fan of Alexa, the Amazon Bluetooth speaker.  Sometimes he yells at it with a smile: “A-le-le!” and when we tell it to say, “Hello, Harry,” he can hardly contain himself.  He loves to purse his lips and whistle.  I’ve never had a baby who can whistle, and he surprises himself every time.

He loves to eat everything.  Enchiladas, chili, curry, sweet potato pancakes, guacamole, African food, bagels, yogurt, kefir, crepes, fruit, peppers, lemons… he loves to eat.

And all the praise hands: he is sleeping through the night now, for about 11 hours.  Not exactly sure how it happened, but about a month ago he just did.  Right around the time when I started weaning him.  He nurses once a day now.

Matthew’s work is going very well.  He has had a lot of doctor’s visits as well.  We’re actually excited about having another surgery at the end of October to dilate his epiglottis which will hopefully help his breathing improve!  We had a lovely experience this month called Dîner en Blanc.  It was a magical night in a cleared out section of someone’s backyard forest, with long wooden tables and white lights strung throughout the trees.  Everyone brought a picnic supper and we shared our table with friends dressed in white.  2017-09-14 09.15.40That’s not the only thing that’s white around here.  As I type, Betty is brushing my hair.  She keeps me humble with her honest chatter: “I just saw a GREY HAIR!”
I asked her: “What do you think about it?”
“Weird.” Then she yelled across the room:  “Elsie! Mom’s growing white hair.  What if dad is??  You’re both getting OLD!”  It is our motto, after all. Grow old with me.  Old and white-haired and better by the day.  I’ll hold up my number to that every day, heart pounding, until my dying breath.


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Milk Bath

This morning I woke up a little after 4 o’clock, feeling very uncomfortable and wet.  “Oh no,” I said out loud, not really sure why I wanted sympathy, but just that I did.  Matthew was sleeping too soundly to hear me, though.  Yesterday I had washed and line-dried our sheets.  Of course.  This morning I woke up in a puddle of milk.  Which meant one thing: Harry had slept through the night for the first time in awhile.  He had been doing really well before we did our traveling to Nevada, then Tennessee.  So, I was glad for the sleep, but super uncomfortable.  Somehow I managed to go back to sleep for a couple more hours, and woke up to a chattering baby, who had happily slept 12 hours.  I had prayed the night before with the girls: “Father, please help Harry to just sleep.  He’s chubby enough and doesn’t need the milk.”  We all burst out laughing at the cute picture instantly painted in our mind’s eye: thighs for days that squish and squish.  He answered our prayer, though!

Harry is certainly chubby.  We squeal over him every day.  He is seven months old and loves to babble and crawl and get into everything everyone is doing.  He is a tiny human vacuum cleaner.  Whatever doesn’t stick to his onesie, gets put into his mouth.  Today alone I’ve fished out a tortilla chip, a rock, a dice, and a bug.  This morning he found an apple core and was like a puppy who had found a bone.  I watched him chomp on it for awhile, but once he started to bite off pretty substantial pieces, I had to take it away.  He did not like that.  He is a foodie through and through.  He eats and loves whatever you put in his mouth.  We do a little pureed baby food, but he would prefer small bites of chicken, or curry, or eggs, or chili, or lemons.  He loves them all!

This week the two oldest kiddos are away at teen camp.  It is so quiet!  Betty burst into tears yesterday because she missed Nadine so much.  It is SO much fun having teenagers.  There are stormy moments, but we are all learning this together.  We encourage communication, not stuffing of feelings.  If someone is being selfish, serving someone else is a wonderful antidote.  Late night porch talks are their favorite thing.  A big change is on the horizon this year.  Nadine and Elijah will both be going to Linville Hill Christian School this fall for high school.  It was a huge decision but one we are all excited about!

Jack had an acrobatic accident last month which landed him with a spiral fracture of three bones in his right hand.  Nadine recorded the flip before the flip that broke his hand.  It was impressive.  After a month in a cast, he has only one more week of a brace.  He is back to flips and tricks.  Can’t keep a strong young man down!  The only positive side to having his hand in a cast was that he was opted out of writing assignments the last month of school.

Elsie is my resident interior designer.  She rearranges their room almost weekly.  She actually rearranged the dining room last month with smashing success.  I came home to a new look and liked it even better than how it was before!  She has an eye for design with clothing too.  She is starting to bake more, though she prefers riding her bike or swimming.

Betty is a proud second grader.  She loves to read and reads well! Sometimes the words that pop out of her mouth surprise us with their seasoned-sounding wisdom.  Other times she just makes us laugh with her dry sense of humor.  The other day the girls were walking around with their clipboards taking orders and having us sign our names a hundred times for various reasons.  She came up to me and asked if they could have a bowl of pretzels.  “Sign ‘yes’ or ‘no’ next to your name.  Don’t write maybe.  This is a yes or no question.”  I about died.  Then she asked me, “Is your name Amy?  Can I call you Amy?”  This morning we were moving out a bookshelf I had sold online.  Betty took a look at it and said, “How old is that?  It looks like it’s from 1994!”  The laughing emoji face is constantly circling around my head when that girl talks.

This morning Matthew finished up with his third out of four infusions.  His voice seems to be a tad bit better, though we only have symptoms to base any improvements off of right now til he gets his next round of bloodwork done.  We sometimes battle discouragement, but we know that doesn’t get us anywhere.  Yesterday I read a familiar and comforting verse: “Thus far the Lord has helped us.”  It always pops into my daily reading at a time when something larger than I can comprehend is happening.  I remember when Matthew and I were dating and it seemed like we would never be able to get married.  He was, after all, a teenager.  It was one of the hardest waiting times of our life.  Each season is a stepping stone to the next.  Like trees coming to life in spring and then preparing themselves for fall and winter… each season has a purpose and a beauty all its own.  We can declare with surety and confidence that up until today, the Lord has helped us.  He will never quit being Who He is.  He is worthy of our trust and confidence.

We’ve done a lot of traveling already this year!  Matthew and I enjoyed traveling to Las Vegas for the annual Plexus convention.  I’m over halfway through my studies to become a CNHP (Certified Natural Health Professional).  Ever since highschool, I’ve been passionate about how our bodies work.  I’m absolutely thrilled to have this avenue of study to learn more and this area of work to help people with gut health!  It’s so exciting to hear all of the stories that come my way every single day.

Hopefully it won’t be so long between the next journal entry!  Here is a small camera dump of the past month!


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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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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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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.