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End of February Highlights

There is no such thing as an empty week in this household.  Snow forts, lots of books, and fun with friends were just some of the highlights.
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The girls are often dressing up… here are a few shots of Elsie twirling.  Her dream is to take ballet soon.
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The ice-caked trees never cease to amaze me with their beauty.  Entombed in glass, one day soon they will come back to life.
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Betty loves to help shovel snow.  Trouble is, there are no shovels her size.  My garden trowel is a good substitute for now.
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Jack had a small run-in with a shovel one night.
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School sometimes includes looking through the dictionary.  It’s not hard to believe how funny they found the word “underpants”.
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This week we also began nature journals.  I love how most of them spoke of spring, while drawing snowflakes.
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Betty enjoys playing the little games I find online.
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The highlight of my week happened on Monday when my dear sweet friend, Sarah (who lives in England), showed up at my front door.  She and I spent a few hours together in the city.   We’ve known each other for over half of our lives.  It’s a beautiful thing when entire continents and years can’t stop friendship from growing.
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Thoughts From Mt Everest

We have windows facing the north, east, and south of our house.  Every morning for about five minutes, I get to see part of the sunshine as it creeps up past our neighbor’s brick wall and sneaks into my window before it rises higher, becoming indirect light for the rest of the day.  There is another small slice of time when it shines full force into the laundry room downstairs and bathroom upstairs.  During those times, if I’m able, I practically paste myself to the glass pane while it shines its bright happiness on my white and wintry face.  Growing up with access to full sunshine every day it didn’t rain, makes its absence more intense some days.  Yesterday, I even climbed the Himalayas for it.
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Ok, so it wasn’t the actual Himalayas.  It happened to be this ginormous seven-foot snow-pile in our front yard, with a tiny corner of sunshine right at the top calling my name.  For a few minutes I disappeared into a world dripping with vitamin D and vast expanses.

My fellow arctic sojourner.

My fellow arctic sojourner.

 

 

Practically the North Pole.

Practically the North Pole.

Then Betty started crying because she couldn’t get up from the deep snow where she had fallen.

Yesterday was Valentine’s day.  We generally don’t make a huge fuss about it.  If it truly is commemorating an amazing man who was martyred because of his faith in Christ, and who helped to secretly marry Christians who were being persecuted for their faith, because he believed so strongly in the institution of marriage before God, then I think we’ve cheapened it immensely.  Passing out messily-written notes out of obligation isn’t exactly how I imagine we should memorialize love.  Not to say I dislike Valentines Day, or I didn’t immensely enjoy seeing so many fun and creative ideas floating around yesterday.  I mostly dislike the mandatory feeling placed upon so many, when love should never be forced.  We have fallen prey to this just as much as anyone else.  I MADE my children create valentines for their classmates.  It was an assignment, though, not a freewill offering on their part.  There is something beautiful about love given when you don’t ask for it, and love received when you know it wasn’t coerced.

When Matthew was on his way home from work, I asked him to stop at the store for a couple of items we needed for supper that night.  I ended with, “Don’t buy me flowers!”  He replied, “I wasn’t going to!”  Then we both laughed.  That’s how we work.  Don’t buy me flowers when they’ll be jacked up in price to more than is ethically possible.  Don’t buy me flowers out of obligation because every other guy is doing it.  Buy me flowers (better yet, pick them for me when they’re free and fresh from the garden!) when I least expect it and because YOUR heart told you to do so, not some looming expectation from society is practically forcing it upon you.

Giving out of guilt is one of my biggest pet peeves.  It was one of Paul’s too, in the Bible.  This is in the context of money, not valentines:
Each of you must make up your own mind about how much to give. But don’t feel sorry that you must give and don’t feel that you are forced to give. God loves people who love to give.
(2 Corinthians 9:7)  God loves a cheerful giver: one whose heart is in the giving.

We can not force people to give.  Actually, sadly, we can, but we most certainly can not make people’s hearts love to give.  Nothing feels less loving than conditional love.  Nothing feels less generous than compulsory giving.  Nothing produces less blessing than forced and guilt-driven gifts.  This goes way beyond Valentines day.  The joy of giving is actually stolen when it becomes no longer voluntary but because someone is begging for it.  Don’t steal my joy or reward by forcing upon me a dollar amount, a percentage, or a suggested amount.  Giving should not be packaged like a vitamin, with its Recommended Daily Allowance to go along with it.  It is incredibly personal and no one’s business.

The only consistent amount of money, time or services we are instructed to give can be summed up in a few words.  Give secretly.  Give willingly.  Give until it hurts.  Give your best.  Give your all.

As I look outside, it appears as if a few more inches are being added to our Mount Everest.  We may have a few more climbs before the weekend is over.


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Icy Poetry

This week was full of challenges, beauty, tears and smiles.  And lots and lots of ice.
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Great cases of cabin fever produce much creativity.
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When the lights flickered off on Tuesday morning, I didn’t think too much of it.  Our power-less morning meant walking over to our neighbor’s house and warming ourselves by their wood stove.  We had two fevered boys chilling on the couch, and our day felt like it was going in slow motion.  Not until later on did we realize just how wide-spread of a disaster the ice-storm created.  Overnight, our entire area came to a screeching halt.  I only pulled out my phone camera this entire week, but my mind holds the incredible beauty in its memory bank.  One shot of an evergreen tree, encased in ice:
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On Thursday, we ventured outside of our neighborhood and drove a few miles.  Instead of typical scenery, we entered a magical, sparkling world.  Glass trees, as far as our eyes could see, covered the landscape.  I couldn’t stop exclaiming.  Looking at the other-world-like richness, it seemed like my soul sang poetry.  Words only meant for the Creator of such splendor.  Words I have no ability to write.  Now I know why crystal is one of God’s choices for Heaven’s decor.
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Who knew such beauty could wreak such  havoc?
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Yet amidst the disaster, more beauty.  Fellowship with friends who still lacked electricity.  Sharing of warmth and coffee.   I know it has been a super-challenging week for many folks.  However, it’s been such a blessing to be on the giving end of the stick.  Sometimes it can be very difficult for people in this country to allow themselves to be showered with love (or water!) in time of need.  We are naturally prideful, and it can be cloaked in the tidy words of: “I don’t want to be a bother”.  Let me be very clear on this matter: If I don’t want you to come use my shower or accept a cup of hot coffee, then I would not offer!  It was beautiful to see and hear stories of different folks bunking out at other people’s houses, or getting clean in other people’s showers, or doing laundry with other people’s washing machines.  We should both be quick to offer our help, and quick to receive it when needed.  What heaps of joy for those who are on the giving end!
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On Friday, Matthew got scoped again to see what’s going on in the subglottic region of his throat.  The doctor was pleased with what he saw: nothing worsening; small improvement; no immediate action needing to be taken.  He has two weeks until he sees the ear doctor again to see if he will need a new tube put in the one side that has been infected for a couple of months.  Afterwards, we sat down at our new favorite cafe in the city: Le Pain Quotidien.  The chocolate banana bread with caramelized bananas: amazing.
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Then yesterday, it was determined the length of hairs in this house was out of control.  Everyone got their hair cut, including mama.  At first, Matthew was going to cut my hair.  It soon became clear how very different cutting wood and cutting hair can be.  After a few snips and exclamations, which clearly indicated he did not know what he was doing… I grabbed the scissors and got acquainted with the mirror.
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Now another fresh inch or two of white has fallen from the sky, and I didn’t even notice at first.  Snow is no longer shocking, and I’m slowly making friends with it.  Underneath each snow-flake, there is dirt and life and growth.  Between cold and foggy breaths, there is great anticipation of spring in the air.  Like all promises true, it will come.  Be of good courage, and He will strengthen your heart.  Wait on the Lord.


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We have woken up to snow so many mornings this winter!  Today’s snow dumped another six to eight inches on top of what was already there.  A couple of weeks ago, the kids made a fabulous three-door hobbit home in the front yard.  Hours upon hours were spent carving it out of the snow with my garden trowel.  I love their creativity!
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After hours in the snow, hot tea or hot chocolate are a welcome treat.  Elsie is my usual tea-girl and loves it just like her mama.
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Last weekend we finally were able to meet the newest cousin on the Weldon side of our family!  Taylor Grace fought her way out of Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and is home and smiling!  What a treat to snuggle and love her in person.
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We celebrated Christmas Part III, since she was admitted to the hospital Christmas Eve.  It was simply delightful.
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One of our favorite gifts: five little minion hats, crocheted by Aunt Heidi!  They are a scream.
January 2014

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A collection of life through the lens of my phone:
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School of Snow

We recently wrapped up our study on Ancient Rome by going to a Roman feast, hosted by our friends.  The kids lounged on the floor on blankets and pillows and ate barbarian-style.  It was fabulous.  Except for the authentic pear and cumin custard pie… rotisserie chicken suits us just fine.

 

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After our homeschool co-op this past week, the kids all went sledding.  It was the perfect way to start our Christmas holiday.

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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!
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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:
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The second-borns:
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The third-borns:
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The fourth-borns (and Betty):
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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:
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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.


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Forever Young

Once in a while I am privy to the children’s imaginary games.  The other day Elsie was blocking the kitchen doorway so Jack couldn’t enter.  Apparently, there was certain criteria for one to enter the kitchen.  She began the interrogation:
How old are you?
One-hundred.
Do you have any children?
Yes.
Where is your mother?
At home.
And finally, the kicker.  The most important requirement for entering the kitchen: Do you have a grandma?
Yes.
You may pass through.

The other night they requested classical music and danced ball-room style.  They carefully choreographed the swing and spin.  It was fabulous.  DSC_7543
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When they were looking through old photo albums, both received major brownie points for their observations.
Mom, you  look so young now, said Jack.
She’s always young, Elsie countered, making my heart feel forever young.
  Betty also has her own specific interpretive dance.  First, with Elephant:
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Next, she likes to close her eyes… almost… and squint while her hands slowly raise into the air and she spins very slowly and purposefully.  A little toe raise here and there for good effect.DSC_7600-2 DSC_7604
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Then, when the audience starts to touch the rug one too many times, the entire dance is ruined and little ballerina melts into her own arms.DSC_7610
Everyone has been enjoying the new snow.  There have been snowmen and sledding galore!
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We had a marvelous Thanksgiving weekend with Matthew’s family, and then in New York with my entire family.  There were cousins, fun, and… of course, Grandmas.  I’ll save those pictures for another post soon.  I’ve been secretly working on surprises which have taken every waking minute.  And even when I have things to make and things to finish, somehow people still get hungry around here and their clothes still get dirty.  As I speak, the pizza is out of the oven, and we are ready to eat while the snow falls outside.