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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.

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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.

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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!
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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!


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A Permanent Paint Job in My Hair

“Is that paint in your hair?”  He grinned.  I think I glared.  He knows perfectly well that even though I am the one to get paint in my hair while painting, that none of this has been going on for a few months. He kept grinning and then said, “I LOVE your grey hairs.”  He actually gets kind of giddy about them.  I guess they are factual of our journey from teenagers to pushing forty.  It is a beautiful thing to grow old with someone and know your grey hair makes them excited.  He’s actually getting a tiny swath of grey himself, which I find very attractive.
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I could name a handful of reasons for a few extras which may have popped up this month.

Earlier in July, Nadine came downstairs one morning with an incredibly stiff neck.  We had done massage, chiropractor, essential oils, and more, but she steadily got worse.  More sore, feverish, and absolutely exhausted.  A few doctor’s visits later and bloodwork drawn, I noticed a nice red circle on her leg.  And her shoulder.  And her arm, and torso and so on.  The number hit 17 bullseye rashes.  Her body felt and looked like it was shutting down.  We had spent so much time in prayer over her and Lymes kept running through my head.  As horrible as those bullseyes were, at least they showed up to confirm my thinking and get us on a path of treatment for her.  Just 24 hours later of being on strong antibiotics, she was sitting, standing up, and walking without having to collapse into bed.  She even swept the floor!  If people think I am anti-medicine because I’m a crunchy-granola-Plexus-mama, then they’re misinformed.  There is a time and there is a place, and I thank God for the ability to research and choose and make informed decisions.  I do not take antibiotics lightly.  So thankful too to have a quality probiotic to counter the nasty effects it will have on her good gut flora!

A few days after she started feeling nasty, I was grabbing some groceries and meeting my mother-in-law to pick up the youngest two who had been having a week at grandma’s.  We were waving goodbye as we backed out of our parking spot when all of a sudden the gear shift popped out of place and the whole gear shaft just started spinning around.  Thankfully, Linda hadn’t driven away yet, so we pushed the van into a safe spot and we all piled into her car where she drove us home!  Thankfully, it was not a huge fix!  Yesterday something else happened and we had to tow it again, but it’s fixed already.  We’re getting to know our local tow-truck drivers!
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I spent a lot of time sitting still and being quiet that first week of July.  Not my strong point.  Our front porch is my summer haven, and it gets a lot of love.  Between a broken arm, a broken vehicle, and a broken down body… I was pretty broken myself.  But God.  He’s in the business of fixing and providing and healing.
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One of the biggest blessings of this trial was seeing the rest of the kiddos rise to the challenge of taking over Nadine’s chores and jobs and serving her in many different ways.  From getting her icewater, to cleaning the kitchen, to hanging out with her while she couldn’t do anything but lay there.  It was refining for us all!  We also saw her faith grow in Jesus by leaps and bounds, as she audibly thanked Him for the sickness, and acknowledged He knows what’s best for her.  Do you know how hard that is to do?2016-07-13 14.19.53
As her body started to heal, God did another amazing thing for our family.  Because of the many broken things which needed money to fix them, we had to tell the kids they weren’t going to be able to go to soccer camp this year.  It was super difficult to tell them that, but we reminded them how God had the power and ability and means to provide for them if He wanted them to go.  So we laid it before the Lord without telling anyone else about the need.  On Saturday, one week before the camp would be starting, Elijah said to me, “Mom, camp starts in 7 days.”  I told him to keep praying and trusting God would provide if they were to go.  The next day, we recieved a phone call from someone who wanted to pay for our kids to go to camp if that was something they were wanting to do.  Seeing their faith grow when we told them the news was incredible.  At that point we weren’t even sure if Nadine could go!  We didn’t shop for her, until two days before they had to leave, when she was showing signs of having enough strength to handle a week at camp.  God provided in more ways than we could imagine!
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Now camp is over, and we are on our second day of school!

We are still celebrating summer, with later nights and a bit of sleeping in, but I always need a week or two of slowly easing into what our year will be looking like for the next ten months.  This gentle beginning also gives me room to purge from last year.  The last couple of days have seen six trash bags exit our house, lockers cleaned out, shelves re-organized, new books introduced, and a general feeling of newness and anticipation for the year ahead.
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I’m incredibly thankful for these amazing blessings entrusted to us for a time.  For the five independent ones downstairs eating icecream, and the one who is sending me love kicks from my womb.  We actually decided to find out whether “Baby Chip” is a boy or girl.  Here is the video of the kids’ reaction to the news:

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There is so much more I could write, but I have a few things left to do with my quiet evening, which my greying husband gifted to me tonight.  Thank you, love!


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Let Freedom Grow

A word which has shaped and defined this year is freedom.  I’m seeing it played out in so many ways throughout my every day.  For instance.  Today my skirt fell off.  Under many circumstances, this would have been categorized as one of my most embarrassing moments.  Thankfully, I was *only* outside in the front yard, having just walked out to our van to grab something and bring it inside.  The mailman wasn’t there.  No one was walking by.  The neighbors weren’t mowing their lawn.  I speedily pulled it together and ran inside.  This can be categorized as freedom, though not exactly what I had in mind on January 1st.  My box of wrap skirts have taken center stage in my wardrobe.  And I will not let a small setback, such as one falling off of me, deter me from wearing them.  My twenty-week-belly loves the wrap skirt idea.  2016-06-30 17.31.40This week the kids have been able to feel baby Chip move so much.  Their faces are priceless!  Jack sat there with his hand on my tummy for a couple of minutes when all of a sudden his hand shot back and he looked at me with his eyes and mouth about the same width.  It was great!  As I sit on the front porch this evening after a busy day of mommy-ing, attacking the weeds in my garden, and doing the regular mounds of laundry, I feel some kicking.  Baby Chip most certainly had a growth spurt this week, because all of a sudden I make a funny noise when I bend over, forgetting my front has expanded into my ribcage when in that position.  That, and I keep stubbing my toes when I walk upstairs.  I think it’s because I don’t lift my legs as high right before I take a step.  Pretty much on the dot, every night around 11pm the gymnastics starts, and I sit with my hand on my belly, in wonderment at another life bursting with joy inside of me.  Freedom.
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For the past six weeks, Elsie has had a cast on her right arm.  After about a day of figuring out how to do stuff with a perpetually bent arm, she quickly resumed life with a cast, almost as if she had none.  She literally lets nothing hold her back.  Even without the use of her thumb, she figured out how to tie her shoes, do monkey bars, climb, ride a bike and even play baseball!
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Monday was a big day for her, when she was liberated from its confines.  Freedom.  They say a picture is worth a thousand words:
IMG_8590[1]This week I had to say goodbye to a dear, sweet friend.  Our husbands met at a spin class about 8 years ago, which was definitely a God-ordained meeting, since I don’t think either of them have been to a spin class ever since.  Our kids are the same age, and we’ve watched and prayed eachother through some mutually serious health issues.  She is the friend who introduced Plexus to me, and after watching her journey to health and freedom, jumped in to join her.  She has been an incredible source of joy and encouragement and wisdom to me the past few years.  I love how in Heaven others will truly find out how much impact they’ve had on your life.  Thankfully Tennessee isn’t too far, but knowing I can’t just pop over makes me get a little teary.  Letting loved ones go and be and do what they’ve been called to is one of the hardest things on earth, I believe.  Yet, letting them go gives you more freedom to love stronger and deeper and further than before.
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Once a week Nadine has been getting back into the saddle.  It’s the highlight of her week.  She gets to ride with one of her best friends as well, which adds all sorts of amazingness to her week.  To me, it’s scary.  To her, it’s freedom.  She continues to be a huge source of help to me around the house and is growing in her babysitting abilities.  nrw
Today our not-so-bitty-Betty lost her first tooth!  She is growing up, embracing her big sister role already, and is somwhat of an old soul.  Sometimes I look at her and wonder on what wavelength she communicates to God.  He must tell her things I can’t quite fathom.  If you’ve ever had a conversation with her, you might understand what I’m having a hard time putting in to words.  Growing up requires a little bit of pain, which usually results in more freedom.
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Speaking of growing up.  There are these two characters who live in the attic, who often sound like a small herd of elephants when they come down the stairs.  But they are in actuality, boy-men.  Boys trapped in bodies which are swiftly becoming men.  Boys who dream of motorcycles and ammunition and muscles and big stuff like jobs.  Jobs that pay money so Elijah can get his pilot’s license and fly his friends wherever they want to go.  It’s fun to listen to their dreams and know that many of them will come true if we never plant seeds of doubt into their fertile minds.  Freedom.
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Apparently there is a “look back and compare an old picture of you and your spouse to now” thing going on over on facebook.  So, for fun I decided to do just that.  I practically died when I pulled out this doozy of a photo from nine years ago!  Matthew had been sick for about a year and a half, was on high doses of toxic meds, and I was barely surviving as a mom of three.  How incredibly blessed and grateful I am for the road we have traveled, and for the way the Lord has helped us navigate the stormy path.  I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

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We don’t even know how many prayers have gone up for us on Matthew’s behalf.  So many.  There were times we literally felt like there was no way to go on.  We praise the Lord for the gift of health.  We know we are never guaranteed another breath.  But for every breath we are given, we praise Him!  Matthew is out running right now, his reflective vest on, heart pumping, lungs breathing, windpipe open.  Not something we would have thought about before.  It is the storm which has made our love so strong.  It is being in the pit which has made the air above so clean and worth savoring.  2016-06-28 23.14.09
We pray for open hands to receive both the sickness and the health.  The richer and the poorer.  Til death do us part.  In doing this, there is great freedom.

 


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Fifth Annual Kids’ Day and Other August Adventures

August has been simply amazing.  One highlight was our Fifth Annual Kids’ Day.  We decided to pack up the kids and take them to Six Flags Great Adventure for a day of thrills and laughter.  Everyone loves rollercoasters, and even though the one who loves them the most is the shortest, we still did a whole lot of fun together.  On the Congo Rapids, we laughed so hard because on each and every opportunity for water to crash into our raft, Jack and Matthew got soaked.  Meanwhile, Elijah, who was the only one hoping to get wet, stayed completely dry.  He wasn’t too happy about that.  My favorite part of the day was going on Nitro with the three bigs, in the dark, right before closing.  It was so fun, we ran all the way around to the front of the line again so we could ride it one more time, and we made it to the second to last ride before it shut down for the night.  We laughed and screamed and declared it to have been the perfect adventure.
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Our second adventure in August was our family vacation down at Ocean City, NJ.  I barely pulled out my camera, but we sure had a blast.  Betty adores the ocean, is fearless to ride the waves, and we all had so much fun boogie boarding together.  It’s been a long time since I’ve body-slid onto the shore from the top of a wave and had my bathing suit filled with sand.
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This is how sad Betty gets when she’s told Daddy needs a break.
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A few gorgeous runs with Matthew lit up some of the mornings.

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One night, we hung out at the boardwalk.  I asked someone to take our family’s picture, and happened to ask a professional photographer.  He nailed it.
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That night we enjoyed the musical talent of many different bands, and joined in the dance party with some friends.  It was a blast.  At one point I had ice-cream dripping down both of my hands, where the kids had stuffed their cones so they could dance instead.  They busted some sweet moves and won enough free mini-golf games so they could go golfing the next day.  One night I found the kids on the upstairs deck, talking and laughing together.  It felt strangely grown-up-ish and not childish.  Good food, walks, talks, sand, sun, runs, and many wonderful memories made it the perfect week.
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From there, we traveled to MD to visit friends, and then to Washington D.C. to see the sights and more friends of ours.  It was a great memory, for sure!
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By the time we reached the White House, our feet felt like they just might fall off.  Some, more than others.  However, it was still worth the time and mileage to make those memories together.
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Summer’s memories are treasured, like love notes tucked into my pocket. Every once in awhile I will pull them out and smile, remembering each moment together.
A favorite song of mine recently has been rolling around in my head all week.  I thought it fitting to put the words on the backdrop of one of this week’s sunrises.
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Summertime in a Jar

Yesterday I worked for eight hours on canning tomatoes into all sorts of yummy summery goodness.  90 lbs of tomatoes went through our kitchen this week.  The lady behind me at the farm asked me what on earth I was going to do with all of those tomatoes.  Summertime is my favorite time of year, and I’m so excited to have made and canned my first batch of summer salsa.  Here is my loose recipe, which I divided up between two large glass cake pans, because I lack a big roasting pan:

16 cups of tomatoes
4 sweet onions quartered
2 large sweet peppers
1 pineapple
1 whole garlic bulb
bunch of fresh oregano
2 teaspoons cumin
4 teaspoons sea salt
2 cups apple cider vinegar

I baked this for about 30-45 mins at 400 degrees, stirring every 15 minutes or so.  I would have preferred fresh cilantro, but didn’t have any on hand, so that is omitted.  Blitz in blender until a salsa texture is achieved.  Refrigerate, or can for the winter!  This made 2 quarts and 5 pints of salsa.  (If I remember correctly)

The tomato sauce is just tomatoes, onions, garlic and sea salt roasted in the same way, then blitzed in the blender to a rough chop/puree.

Summertime Tomatoes


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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.
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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.
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God has been so faithful and good to us.  Summer isn’t over yet, and it’s been grand so far.