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My Heart{s}

They say that when you have a child you... "decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body." 

This past week has been one of moments where I have been reminded how much I love my tribe. We picked up the children from school before noon on Wednesday and all headed to Great Wolf Lodge in the Poconos. Douglas met us there. The room was so nice, we had a suite to accommodate all 7 of us. Having Douglas there just added to the magic.

The children played hard in the waterpark. I had planned for this trip for quite a while, including getting matching pajamas for the children. They were such good sports going out to the main lobby for pictures. As we stood there between the little performance and the bedtime story in front of the fireplace real snowflakes started falling from the ceiling. The next day Kayla (Douglas' girlfriend) came to join us. I had fun watching the kids and taking pictures. As I looked though these fun pictures my heart was just  bursting!

On Sunday Douglas and Kayla came right away in the morning so that we could celebrate Christmas with both of them. The children opened gifts from them. I think it is safe to say they loved them! Timber got to open his gift and some really great pictures happened again!

Douglas and Kayla had driven back to PA from SC where they had visited Kayla's grandpa, they were pretty tired and snoozed a bit off and on throughout the day.

We all went to a Christmas service at the church Kayla's family attends. This is also the church Douglas has gone to since he moved out, so it was nice to visit there. 

And so these children of mine keep marching on, never realizing that I look at them with such a combination of joy, pride, and bittersweet pain. I hang on to every moment, knowing how quickly they change and grow and knowing that the sweet moments of this year will be outgrown by next year.

To J, With Love

On Saturday my J passed away. Today is 2 years since Nan-Naw passed. I know they are together again and they must be rejoicing. I know that J is walking tall, confident, and pain free once more, as he did when he carried me on his shoulders when I was a little girl. In my mind I can recognize the goodness of his passing, but my heart is still broken.

 He is part of my earliest memories. I remember he and Nan-Naw pushing me on a swing. He was behind me and Nan-Naw in front. He would tickle me when the swing went back and she would tickle me feet when it went forward. We were all three laughing. I remember the warmth of the air and the feeling of being loved. This is one of my earliest memories.

 When I went to their house sometimes I would borrow one of J's t-shirts to sleep in. I remember how soft they were and how they smelled so fresh. I remember the way it felt on the top of my feet where the t-shirt hung to because it was so big on me.

 Through the years he did so many things for us. Once they took us 4 oldest girls on vacation to the Gulf of Mexico. They bought a box of peaches along the way and Nan-Naw was trying to get us to eat the peaches before they spoiled. J would slip us cookies under the peaches when Nan-Naw wasn't looking.

 I remember him sitting on the beach watching us play in the water for hours. His bald head and the top of his feet were blistered the next day.

I remember sitting on his shoulders to feed sea gulls and being terrified as they swooped towards me. I remember "betting" on horses with him at the races.

I remember him always being there. Patient, mostly quiet, through my entire life. Grumbling a little here and there as he patiently baited hooks for us and took us to the fair and bought Long John Silver's and took us to Pizza Hut and made shelves, doll cradles, and kitchen sets for us. But always, always ready to step in and do anything at a moment's notice if we needed anything at all.

And now he is gone. No amount of recognizing that it is better for him takes away the sting of the finality of death. But no amount sting and grief now takes away the hope that I will see him and Nan-Naw, whole and strong again some day.

Thank you, J, for teaching me about love and sacrifice. Thank you for your unconditional acceptance.   

Little Dancer

Last week we went on a cruise. Eliana, as is typical for her with new experiences, was full of questions and anxiety as the time to get on the ship approached. She even shed a fear tears as we waited while Keith parked the vehicle.

On that first afternoon, as we were delayed in port thanks to a tropical storm, there was a kick off dance lesson. At first she was just dancing off to the side, but soon she was right in the middle of it, keeping up move for move, jump for jump.

And she didn't stop when it was over. She kept right on dancing. At first a few people continued with her, but soon she was the only one. Occasionally, over the next hour and a half, someone would join her for a while, but most of the time she danced by herself. On and on, jumping, twirling, joyous and free from inhibition or anxiety.

It was a beautiful start to our vacation. And I think she danced all of her anxiety away, because we certainly didn't see it again.

Birthday Party Day for Annika

We don't do a lot of birthday parties. We have done a few through the years. Last year we did a big one for Eliana, but let the other children invite friends too. It has long been one of Annika's wishes to have a real birthday party.

So we just up and plan it and pulled it off. We kept it small, but we tie-dyed shirts and had cupcake and I think it was a smashing success judging by the pictures!

It was one of those good, old-fashioned invite a few friends over for cake and ice cream parties and it reminded me how much fun a few little girls can have together for an afternoon. We played a few games and had a treasure hunt, but mostly they jumped on the trampoline and played outside. It happened that we planned it for one of the few nice days weather-wise recently, so we were very thankful for that!

I believe my sweet girl is turning 11 in style. It is her birth-week and there are more fun things to come.

Family Day in DC April 2018

On Sunday we loaded up the crew bright and early and headed out to drive to Washington, DC. We wanted to get to the National Cathedral in time for their 11:15 service. (Douglas had to stay behind this time due to a busy schedule. I know it is inevitable, but this mama isn't ready to have a child miss out on a family day!)

There is something about a beautiful, grandiose building that stills the heart and reminds one how small and insignificant we are and how glorious God is. I do believe that you do not need impressive buildings to worship in, but sometimes having a visual reminder of God's glory can make for a meaningful worship service.

They had a special service in memory of Martin Luther King Jr's final sermon there 50 years ago on March 31st, just a few days before his assassination. We sat and listened to a recording of that final sermon from 50 years ago and many challenges rang just as true today as they did then.

After the service we headed to the National Zoo. Our main goal was to see pandas. We were wildly successful. They have beautiful displays indoors where you can just watch the pandas right there. It was so fun! We also saw elephants and lions and lots of other fun animals. I had so much fun watching the girls rush from animal to animal, Casper snapping pictures, and Freeland pointing out unique things about the animals.

Our next stop was the tidal basin to see cherry blossoms. After some intense walking along the road with a wheelchair experiences we were happy that the blossoms were truly at their peak and gorgeous!

Part of what made the day successful was that we took my wheelchair this time. Keith and Freeland wheeled me all over the zoo, along busy streets, and to the Jefferson Memorial. I could never have walked the miles we covered that day! But I am not used to being pushed in a wheelchair either. There is this trust factor that enters in and it can be a little scary. At one point Freeland and Casper decided to race. Freeland was pushing the wheelchair. Let's just say I haven't moved that fast in quite a while!

The girls got a little turn in the wheelchair. Keith horrified them by taking it down step backwards. Poor girls! :)
It was such a good day the whole way around.

Bonus Snow Day!

When you have a snow day after the official first day of spring, it feels like a bonus. And when it is a big enough snow storm to actually close school for not only the four younger kids, but also for Douglas, there is great rejoicing in the Martin household. Add in Chick-Fil-A closing for the day and Douglas having the day off and it feels like a true holiday.

I laughed watching the dog running after Freeland, the snow is deep enough that running is pretty difficult, but they had so much fun!

Eliana was just free-falling into the snow. You can do that when there is a foot of snow to cushion your fall.

We are thinking that we can probably count on at least a delay for school tomorrow. We are hoping anyway, not bad for a spring snow storm...