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Better Than a Box of Chocolates

Why are some days so hard?  This question was texted to me from the other room.  I sat upstairs feeding Harry, while a raucous crew finished their supper.  For various reasons, we both had an uphill day.  I woke up with the urge and desire to make our bedroom look cute and tidy.  But all I managed to do today in my room was eat chocolate.  Because even though the incredible supplements we use have taken away my cravings for donuts, candy, just about every cereal, and most things found in the center aisles of the grocery store… chocolate is still okay in my book.  In fact, today I did something I’ve always wanted to do.  A rather nicely sized box of mixed chocolates came into my possession this week, and I took a bite out of every single one.  Just to see what was inside it.  None of this dainty and mysterious picking out of what you really hope isn’t orange-cream-filled chocolate or weird chocolate liquor.  (At least that’s not my favorite.  Everyone is entitled to their own opinion.)  I bit into each one, leaving a tooth-marked morsel in its place.  It looks like an animal sniffed out and sampled the box of crack.  I mean chocolate.  Nope.  Just a mama of six who may have had one or more things overwhelm her slightly sleep-deprived mind.  I claim with Anne of Green Gables: “Tomorrow is always fresh, with no mistakes in it.  Yet.”

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Betty decided today was a great day to pull out all of the summer clothes and try them on for size.  I suppose I forgot to mention where we are heading in twenty days.  Our entire family will be boarding a plane and flying to Roatan, Honduras!  2017-01-25-19-24-25-1It has been our dream to return, since Matthew and I lived there for six months when Nadine and Elijah were babies.  Now, thirteen years later, we are.

It’s hard to imagine Caribbean temperatures and bathing suits as I sit wrapped in my scarf, clutching yet another hot drink.  2017-02-01-18-11-07-1As Betty squealed with excitement over her shorts still fitting her, it slowly started to sink in today.  The last time we traveled outside of the country was to Belize, when Jack was Harry’s age.  I guess I should start thinking about fitting into my bathing suit.  Stupid chocolates.

So why are some days so hard?  I don’t have a solid answer, but my reply was: So we will long a bit more for Heaven.  Because as awesome and beautiful as our life is here, it’s covered in pain and sickness and brokenness and imperfection.  If you don’t know where you’re going when you die, this is as good as it gets.  But if you have peace in the finished work of Christ, then the best is yet to come!  Better than a box of chocolates.  With no mistakes in it.  Ever and for eternity.  Come, Lord Jesus.

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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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Silver Belle

This past month has been absolutely overflowing.  We bought a house.  We had a baby.  He is one month old.

Oh, and one more big thing happened too.

Matthew told me he would be a little bit late coming home from work on Wednesday night, because of some Christmasy errands he had to do.  No questions asked on my part, because I LOVE surprises.  He came home with a small box in hand and a note rolled up.  I expected him to put it under the tree, but he went into the kitchen (looking back, it was probably to try to calm himself down) then came back into the living room where I was holding Harry on the couch.  He sat down next to me, took Harry, and gave me the box.  Nadine was standing next to me, recording on her phone.  I tilted my head and asked if that was really necessary.  Yes.  Yes, it was.  He told me to read the note first.

My beautiful Amy Lyn,
Just about 15 years ago you married a teenager.  What a journey it has been so far!  You have had to wait a little while as the boy you married became a man.  Haha!  You have lovingly stood with me through the most difficult and uncertain times of my life and for that I am extremely thankful.  I know I have not always considered the full weight of the responsibility that I have as your husband.  There have been times that I have not stepped up as I wish I would have.  This Christmas, this anniversary I want to renew my love for you, my commitment to you and express the overwhelming joy that I have each day to work hard for you!  With this ring, I want to express my unending love for you and resolve to always consider you.  Each time you see it, if we are apart, remember that I am working hard to come home.  I love you more than words could ever express.  The greatest blessing in my life is the prospect of growing old with you, my bride.  Merry Christmas!  
I love you!
Matthew

The entire note was interrupted by many sniffles on my part and more snippets of, “Does she really have to be recording this?” And, “Do I really have to read this out loud?” because I kept choking up.  When I read, “with this ring,” I got a bit fluttery inside.  We had talked about maybe getting a wrap for my engagement ring, to celebrate our anniversary in a couple of weeks.  But I knew there were other more pressing needs, so I was NOT expecting that.  I gulped and opened the box.  There was a silver ring, threaded through a gold-trimmed red ribbon.  Underneath all the ribbon, attached to the ring, was a key fob.  I just stared at it.  “Matthew!” is my favorite thing to exclaim when I’m a bit overcome or excited.  He told me to look out the window.  This is when the recording by Nadine starts to have a lot of excited movement as everyone rushed to the window.  There, on the street, with a big white bow on the hood, was parked a new van.

We had started talking and praying about this need a few months ago.  Well, pretty much the day we found out we were having another baby.  Oceanus only seats 7.  We had more recently been doing a lot of research on this particular make and model.  I had spent many hours reading and sending Matthew photos of different vans, all while he worked secretly behind my back to settle on this one.  So patient.

The kids immediately settled on naming her “Silver Belle”.  We all hopped in and drove to my parents to surprise them.

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We are all completely blown away.  Such a lot of change this year.  God gave me the word “Freedom” at the beginning of the year, and it has truly been a year of freedom for us.  He has set us free from many fears, unhealthy mindsets, and doubts.  He has restored things which were broken, and given us courage to ask, knock and seek.  Praise God from Whom all blessings flow!

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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.

 


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Halfway To Seventy

Every time March rolls around, I get very excited.  I love birthdays and am not afraid of them.  I am now officially halfway to seventy:
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Today we got a foot of snow for my birthday.  It was PILES of fun, and I’m thankful Matthew was able to work from home!  This week was full of surprises.  It began with an early birthday cake, made especially by our cousin, who owns The Master’s Baker.  Seeing as though we didn’t even have a wedding cake, this was my first experience at receiving a professional custom-made cake.  Isn’t it gorgeous?
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Since winter is here and all, we decided we would take it by the hand and have fun with it.  My next surprise was a night away with everyone at Bear Creek mountain resort, for our very first family skiing adventure!  2015-03-02 20.20.03-2
The last time I went skiing was on my 19th birthday.  My best friend, Rebecca, was giving me clues on what to do to prepare for this epic surprise she had planned with my sister.  She told me things like, “Make sure you shave your legs,” and “Dress nice!”  When my birthday rolled around, they blindfolded me and brought me downstairs to the kitchen where I was met by Matthew, his brother, and Rebecca’s brothers.  Matthew handed me my “treasure map” to the surprise: a map of the ski place we would be going to that day!  I laughed and said, “Good thing I shaved my legs!” before running  back upstairs to change.  It was a great memory.  That may have been the time I kept skiing backwards and couldn’t figure out how to turn myself back around, which only came in handy when I wanted to wave at people as I passed them.  It also may have been the time I accidentally went down a black diamond, without knowing how to slow down at all.  I do remember flying past Matthew, and truly hoping I would make it down to the bottom in one piece.

Funny how time telescopes when you find yourself in the exact place you have been in the past.  I wasn’t skiing backwards or even down a black diamond.  Yet all of a sudden I felt the same freedom mingled with danger, and I was 19 again.  Except when I fell.  Then the nostalgia went poof like the snow in which I landed, and I was definitely thirty-five.  And I definitely had five people I had birthed from my body, sharing the ever-expanding niches of my heart.  I don’t remember what it is like to be completely separate from those feelings of mother-love.  To do anything apart from my mind, body and soul being so deeply connected with another human being.  I would rather be halfway to seventy and not remember what it’s like to be independent of those feelings, than be nineteen and have no idea what I’m missing.  And as exhausting as motherhood can be, it’s even more exhilarating than that.

My breath caught more times than just when the wind whipped my face.  As I skied next to Elsie while she zipped to the bottom of a hill, red cheeks, one strand of hair constantly falling out of her hat and helmet,  I smiled at her bravery.  She went from being scared to death to go down the hill, to falling, to dusting herself off and saying, “Let’s do it again!”    It caught when I saw Nadine gracefully maneuvering the snowy hills, her tall self looking so beautiful.  She was so helpful with Betty, both on the slopes and the night before, when we had supper together.
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She’s a wonderful big sister.  So is Elsie, who is also not afraid to perform interpretive dance in the middle of a restaurant in pj’s and socks.
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I laughed at Elijah, my crazy, creative boy, who thought to video himself while he skied and then simultaneously wiped out at the bottom.
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I found it hard to breath as I watched Jack plow recklessly and fearlessly down hills and over jumps, creating a puff of snow when he fell.
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He wore his t-shirt around his face for most of the day.
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I found it especially hard to believe my baby bear is growing up enough to have a ski day of her own.  She absolutely loved it when Matthew held her waist all the way down the hill.  I almost cried when her little voice called down to me from the ski lift and she waved her little mitten hand and went higher and farther away from me.  When her daddy was not able to ski with her, this is what she thought about the whole idea:
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Yes, this is her “I’m-happy-and-I-know-it-but-just-not-about-skiing” face.

Our day ended abruptly when I got a call on my phone, just as I had sat down in the lodge with Nadine and Betty and a hot cup of tea.  It was Matthew, and he said Elsie had fallen getting off the ski lift and he wasn’t sure if her arm was broken.  My throat had a lump in it when I saw the snowmobile with a red cross on it make its way to the ski patrol, a tiny bundle on its sled.  I told Nadine to pray and then ran over to meet Matthew.  This darling little thing was getting checked out, and we still weren’t sure about her condition.  After a lollipop, an ice-cream bar, and many attempts by the sweet ski patrol medics to get her to smile, Matthew got the rest of the crew packed up and we left.  I experienced one of the most frightening and harrowing drives through ice and sleet and snow, but made it to the hospital near our house.  Long, happy story short: her arm is not broken!  We are so grateful to God.
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When Matthew and I collapsed into bed, he sighed, “That was the best day ever.”

I would have to agree.  And this time, I didn’t even have to shave my legs.


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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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