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He’s still here.

Have you ever woke up in the morning, a smile on your face, then noticed a few hours later that the smile is nowhere to be found?  Today is a great day.  Aaron didn’t sleep well, but woke up in a bubbly mood.  His antics this morning have kept us laughing.

David took Patrick, our 11 year old, to work with him.  The smile on Patrick’s face as he “got ready for work” was priceless.

For the girls and I, it’s a different story altogether.  Both girls seem a little under the weather.  Me?  I’m unmotivated.  And the unmotivation is turning into a full blown pity party.

That hurt to admit.

So, I sat down to write out my thoughts.  As I typed, God spoke to my heart.

And so did my sister in law (she returned my call from an hour ago), giving me back the words I spoke to her just yesterday.

And so did my father in law (he called to ask me a question about a text I sent him).

And in a very obvious way, God showed me He is right here.

He cares about the silly little things that I am struggling with (MUST. STOP. CONSUMING. SO. MUCH. SUGAR).

He notices me.  I’m one in several trillion human beings.  And He still sees me.

I sit here now, feeling silly.  And humbled.  And loved.  He was right here with me all along.

The Biggest Change

We are moving.

There.

I said it.

We.  Are.  Moving.

After moving to our current home in Natalia, the home I thought would be our forever home, we are moving.

We attended a funeral last week, and the burial happened to be across the street from where my dad is buried.  We took a few moments and visited Dad.  Do you see the picture engraved on the headstone?  The tree and driveway?

That tree is behind the house we currently live in.  I spent my high school years here.  It was sweet to bring my own family back here.

I am so sad to leave.

We aren’t moving very far.  Only to the north side of San Antonio.  To my dream house!

Yes, you heard what I said.

To my dream house!  The home we are moving to belongs to my in-laws.  My husband grew up there.  I have loved this house since I first laid eyes on it.

OK, maybe I loved my husband first (I met him the first time I ever walked into that house, when I went there with my sister-in-law/then my best friend.)  So, I guess the house is just really special to me.  I will love raising our kids there.

And, in case you were wondering, my in-laws do not still live there.

I feel as though we are coming home.

Here are a few more fun pics from the last couple of weeks:

David holding Aaron, at the cemetery. Isn't he adorable? Aaron's pretty cute, too.

Aaron eating his babyfood through a straw. You thought I was kidding, didn't you?

Getting rid of junk cars. The kids are sitting on the fence watching the wrecker-guy finishing securing the cars before he drives away.

We've enjoyed a jillion fires in this fireplace. I will miss it!

Depression Still Lurks

We pray best when we are fallen on our faces in painful helplessness.–Charles Spurgeon

It’s been a rough ten months.  This has probably been the toughest bought of post partem depression I’ve battled yet.

It always lurks at the edges, looking for an opportunity to manifest itself.  Skewing my thoughts.  Over-exaggerating my feelings.  Causing feelings of hopelessness.

The smallest thing can set it off.

Doom,

Gloom,

and Despair set in before I realize it’s even happening.

Then I look around.

And I see this.

I arranged for a photographer friend to do a photo shoot of the young woman and her son that were living with us. I didn't realize I would score some cute impromptu pics, too!

And this.

David took Patrick to a robotics class in the fall. Patrick loved it! And so did David.

And this.

All three of the big kids sang solos in the children's musical. Above is Brook Lynne. I love that you can see her on the screen in the above left corner of the picture.

And this.

Just had to repost this one! They are so silly! I love my little boys!

And this.

The kids playing Just Dance. If you look in the background, you can see David with the 4th controller. Sitting down, with the baby in his lap, playing with one hand, he usually wins. :-)

Depression tempts me to miss the beauty.  The darkness causes every good thing to be blurred, distorted by the negative.

When I begin to suffer, I force myself to seek the Truth.  It’s not what my flesh wants to do.  It’s easier to see the wrinkles around my eyes in the pictures that I just loaded, and remember again how difficult the year has been and how much I have physically aged.  I WANT to feel sorry for myself.  Thanksgiving, praise, joy and peace are the last things I want to feel.  But I know where I need to run (notice I said RUN, not walk).  To Him.  And, in time, the Light begins to shine again.  Sometimes it’s immediate.  Sometimes it takes a few days.  But I do know that He is with me, walking me through.

**My personal disclaimer:  generally speaking, you can’t just “think” depression and anxiety away.  They are real.  They are true physical conditions.  If you think you might be suffering from depression or anxiety, please get professional, medical help immediately.  Do not try to go through it alone.**

And it’s short!

Loooovvvveeee it!  My new haircut is great!  A and her mom did a wonderful job on all 7 of our haircuts.

I don’t really remember how I met A, just that she was a single, pregnant, 20-year-old young lady at church.  Having been a young single momma myself 18 years ago, I felt compelled to reach out to her.  I applauded her boldness and courage.  I wanted her to know that she was loved, that the Lord forgives, and that my family was there for her, if she needed us.

Our babies were due last spring, 5 days apart.  A gave birth 3 weeks early, and so did I, 5 days later.  As it turns out, her mother is now one of my close friends!   God’s plans are always better than ours, aren’t they?  I thought I was serving Him by reaching out to A, and instead, He gave me two dear friends.

A came over last night to cut my boys’ hair.  I asked her on the phone yesterday if she would mind cutting a few bangs for me, too.  She said, sure!  I don’t think she realized what she was getting in to…

We started here yesterday…

Playing ABBA Just Dance.

Notice my girls’ long ponytails?

And we ended up here…

My girls’ haircuts are in honor of their new foster-cousin, Lovebug, who has exactly the same haircut.  (After the required 6 month foster care stay with my sister-in-law, Lovebug will officially join the family by adoption.  And I’ll tell you her real name then, too.)  Now, the girls can keep their hair short or let it grow out together.

After the three boys haircuts, David clowned around a little.  He’s so silly.

Then it was my turn.  The babies’ were fussy, but I was determined to get a complete haircut.  A’s mom cut my hair.  Drum roll please…

I love it!

And it seems so much darker now that the old color is cut off.

And here is the silly picture the little guys took.  Being the stick-in-the-mud that I am, I couldn’t think of anything silly to do.  So I stepped out of the picture.

More new news from my family tomorrow!  See you then!

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to have someone come to your home and cut everyone’s hair?

A dear friend comes to our home and does just that for us!  It’s wonderful!  She comes once a month and blesses the socks off of me by doing all of our hair right there in the kitchen.

Shameless excuse for posting a pic of me, my mom, and sisters. Family is great, isn't it?

 Which brings me to my next question:  I’m considering a new do!  This hair of mine has been growing for 6 long years.  I am getting to the point where I have to keep it up all the time or it is in the way.

My hair, two years ago.

This is how I wear my hair most days.  Although I do love my long hair (and so does David!), I think I’m ready for a hairstyle change.  I’d love to cut off the old color that is growing out and start fresh.

Flingshot monkey surgery: Yes, Timothy, it is grave. But I think we can save the monkey.

Send me your suggestions!  My friend is coming tonight.  We don’t have a lot of time!  Link me to a pic quick!

And how do I do the baking soda/ACV thing with my hair?

Fill a small squirt bottle with 8 ounces of hot water and 1 tablespoon of baking soda.  I use a small dishsoap bottle, but an old water bottle will work, too.  Shake until baking soda has absorbed into water.  Next, mix 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar with 8 ounces of water in a spray bottle.  I find that a squirt bottle works best for the baking soda mix while a spray bottle works best for the ACV mix.

While your hair is still dry, squirt the baking soda mix on your scalp.  Rub in to make sure it gets all over.  You do not have to get the length of your hair wet.  It will run through when you rinse your hair.  Rinse with warm water.  Then spray the ACV mixture into the length of your hair.  Everything I’ve read says to avoid spraying too much too close to your scalp if you tend to have oily hair.  I spray the sides and back of my head, then down the length.  Then, I rub my hands over my hair lightly to make sure it’s mixed in.  I hate the smell at this point!  I still question if it is worth it when I’m doing it.  It wreaks!

Now, rinse your hair out.  The smell completely goes away after the vinegar is rinsed out.  I am fascinated by this.  If I cut pickles, the smell seems to stay on my hands for hours, even after washing.  How is it that it doesn’t stay in my hair?

I am told that it can take up to 2 months for your hair to balance out.  Other than an itchy scalp the first week, I didn’t have any problems.  I assume this was due to my scalp adjusting to the baking soda mix instead of shampoo.  It doesn’t itch at all at this point.  To find more information about going shampoo free than you could ever read, type “poo free” and you’ll find a jillion blogs and articles.  My favorite is this one.

If you end up trying this, let me know!  I am curious how it works out for your family, too.

Big Changes Afoot!

There are big changes in store for the McKeen family!

Seriously.

Shampoo and Conditioner have left our shower.

Bet you didn’t think that was what I was going to say.

Two weeks ago, I removed all shampoo and conditioner from our shower.  Only David (I have no idea how his bottle of Pert Plus lasts 6 months.  I didn’t have the heart to evict the mostly full bottle.) got keep his.

I now wash the boys’ hair with baking soda and water.  I spray it right on and rinse it out.  Viola!  No more stinky boy smell!

And, I wash my hair and the girls’ hair with baking soda and water, then condition it with apple cider vinegar and water.

It sounds C-R-A-Z-Y.  Generally speaking, I’m a fence riding kind of girl.  I’m open to new ideas.  I love my big family.  But Wal-Mart is still my favorite place to shop, even if they do run all the mom and pop stores out of business.  It’s okay with me that Target is owned by a French guy.  I still like their girl clothes.  We watch Disney movies, and for a year, owned a Ford truck.  And, yes, we are completely dairy free and mostly gluten-free for health reasons, but I WILL have a glass of store-bought, ultra-pasteurized chocolate milk just as soon as I quit nursing Aaron.

As you can imagine, I was shocked that I LIKED the baking soda/apple cider vinegar (ACV) method.  I did not expect it to work.  I have waist length hair!  Courtesy of the frizzies that I inherited from my mom, even the most expensive bottle of conditioner has never rendered my hair tangle-free.  After spraying an ACV/water rinse on my hair, I have no tangles after the initial brush out!  I have no idea how it works (yes, I could look it up, but really, with my brain already so full with trying to remember who is on which subject and whether or not they’ve finished their schoolwork, do you really want to add any more information in?), but I have been pleasantly surprised.

I have washed my normally very oily hair 3 times in two weeks.  And it’s fine.  It’s soft and manageable.  And, somehow, despite the lack of chemical perfumes, it smells good!

Gotta run.  The school timer’s going off.  If anyone is interested in how I do it, post a comment and I’ll update my blog tomorrow with how I do the baking sode/ACV thing.

Wait until I tell you my next endeavor.  It’s equally as perplexing and surprising!

It’s been a while…

It really has!  I only have a few moments.  But, isn’t that always the case?

Isn’t he cute?  He turned 5 on Sunday.

I’m going to start taking birthday pics with mom and dad every year.  I wish I had thought of it before.  And Timothy almost never looks at the camera.  For being such an outgoing kid, he’s frustratingly shy when we’re trying to take his picture.

Aaron has grown up so much.  Now he sits with his brothers and watches tv.  Their current favorite is Cars 2.  (please excuse the pile of shorts and shirts in front of the tv.  They were waiting for a certain forgetful child to pack them away in the “Spring” bins.  I could tell you that we never have piles of clothing sitting around.  But, that’d be lying.  This pile sat there for two days until I raised my voice (I DON”T YELL!) and reminded a certain child to put them away.  Grrrrr.)

Family from Lake Tahoe came to visit.  We went to the zoo one last time before our passes expired.  I could probably make an album with all of the pictures I’ve taken on these lions through the years.

My mother-in-law multi-tasking.  She was feeding both little ones while I cooked dinner.  My in-laws and my sis-in-law come out for dinner almost every Friday.

We have new roommates!  Kellie and her son, Caden, moved in with us a couple of months ago.  Here is a pic of Caden being dedicated. It’s not a very good picture.  Apparently one of the kids had “pushed buttons” on my camera and changed the settings without me realizing it.  Kellie and Caden are standing to the left of the pastor.

And here is a pic of Kellie being baptized 2 weeks ago.  There have been big changes afoot for the Toepfert family!

My niece, Sarah, communicating with Aaron.

Sarah!  I wonder what you were thinking when you made this face?  :-)

Such a cute smile.  And Aaron appreciates you letting him chew on your phone, too.

And last, but certainly not least, Brook Lynne taking Aaron to the van.  I did not ask her to take Aaron to the van.  I noticed he was gone from his place by the front door as I walked out and got ready to lock up.  When I walked outside, assuming his daddy had him, this is what I saw.

David’s think-outside-the-box gene has certainly been passed on to my children.  They crack me up!  This morning, Brook Lynne and Allison were moving clothes from one closet to another.  They took my broom apart and used the broomstick as a hanging rod, carrying it from room to room, each girl holding one end.

One thing for sure, life is never dull around here.

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