It boggles my mind how much can change in just a year. The only thing that has stayed consistent for 3 years is how deliriously happy the family is about living in our home that still seems so new to us. I still smile when I turn down my street and see the Dead End sign. Even the No Dumping sign brings a smile to my face. I still turn my head in all directions as I cruise down our street – looking for deer, checking the river level, observing the wildlife and trying to spot the blue pelican that periodically graces us with her presence. Just outside our front door, we have a turtle habitat on the left with guarded turtle eggs that the kids anticipate will be hatching any day now. There is a duck habitat under our bay window and a ramp that leads in and out of one of our 3 koi ponds that Roy built over the summer for all of our baby ducks. We hatched ducks and chickens all year long and watch a momma hen take care of her little chicks. Bridges have been built, 4-wheelers fixed, new trails blazed, a sniper stand and walls added to the air soft war, etc. We look for every excuse to bring people over and share our blessings with them. God has blessed us beyond measure but he has blessed us infinitely more with the people He has brought into our lives – our own family.
Nick has temporarily moved into a house just across the state line with 4 other young men to be a missionary with the St. Paul’s Outreach. It is a Catholic young adult program that ministers to the students at the local community college as they struggle with faith and relationships. Nick doesn’t talk much but he does make visits here and there to pick up props for inspirational talks he gives to the students, takes some time to play Frisbee with the kids, and get his monthly haircut from Samantha. He’s happy, safe and faithful.
Mary Kate is still attending Developing Potential – a program for adults with special needs so she can continue her education and stay busy with activities and field trips. The whole family loves to call her boyfriend “her spoochy-spoochy” so we can see her go nuts. She is still the kindest and most generous person you will EVER EVER meet. She is always happy, even in the wee hours of the morning when no one wants to hear it.
Samantha had a summer that changed her life forever. She spent 4 weeks at two different Catholic retreats. She came home a new young, confident woman. She read the stack of books about her faith and purity, goes to daily Mass, helps me without me having to say a word, cares for the kids, is joyful all the time, studies hard and has very high expectations for her life in matters of faith, modesty and chastity – the only components of life that really matter. And even though the boys seem to be lining up on our doorstep, she is perfectly content having her daddy be the only man in her life.
Max is 15 and has a permit! He grew quite a bit over the summer and was constantly asking me for new clothes at the thrift store. I couldn’t keep up! He is a freshman in High School now which stressed him and inspired him to try harder with his school work. He spent a week at Camp Savio where he was the popular man on campus. When I arrived to pick him up, I heard so much murmuring from boys, girls and staff about Max and what joy he brought to the camp. One of the leaders told me about a girl that Max sat down with to talk about her dignity and worth.
Theresa is 13 years old. She also attended the same camp as Max and had the time of her life. She wants so bad to do everything that Samantha and Max do and gets so frustrated when she can’t. She loves her friends and tries to love her enemies even more. She is always reaching out to people, especially if these people are challenging (quiet, unsociable, or simple don’t work well with others). She is there to bring them around. She is not scared of anyone no matter how big or old they are. She could back a grown man into a corner if she needed to.
Benjamin is 10 years old and still a handful. There is always a lesson or 2 or 20 to be learned by him every day. He has inspired us to make a list of grueling punishments taped on our refrigerator. #1 is to listen to Mary Kate for 15 minutes lecture him on doing the right thing. Yeah. He lasts for about 2 seconds and is ready to pull his hair out. In March, Ben played Michael Banks in Mary Poppins with Calvary Bible College. Ben was the perfect choice. Michael is a noisy, mischievous boy – just like Ben. There was not much acting on Ben’s part. He made me the happiest mom on the planet.
Josie is 8 years old and still cute as a button. She loves the attention we give her about her cute chubby cheeks. She is at our local public school for her last year before coming home for 3rd grade. She is a confident girl that never gets her feelings hurt and always happy. She is easily pleased, playful and helpful. She got the traditional “8 year old ‘talk’” and feels more grown up and part of the older kids ‘club’ now.
Matthew is trying to keep up with 7 older brothers and sisters. He fights and wrestles all the time! One time he went to school with 4 black eyes and he only has two eyes! Yes, I got a call. The public school is not well educated on big family dynamics. He sneaks up to any one of his siblings, whacks them with something and then runs like hell in the hopes a wrestling match will ensue. He gets his wish 100% of the time. We have added glasses and a nifty looking pirate’s eye patch to help fix his vision.
Roy got to have an amazing summer at Camp Savio with his kids, Boy Scout camp, and a high adventure 70 mile hiking trip with Max in Philmont, New Mexico. He escaped another year from being deployed but we know another deployment is in his future. He still works his tail off every day and night. He can’t stand to rest or even play with the family if he knows there is work to be done. He always ropes in the kids to work too so there is plenty of time to bond. Whenever a boy comes to visit Samantha, he is dragged off by Roy to split wood for hours while Samantha puts up her feet and eats a bowl of ice cream. If a boy is ever able to get close to one of his daughters, it will only be after years of blood, sweat and tears.
I am very blessed to be 43 and carrying another baby in my womb. I don’t deserve all of these kids. I fail as a mother and a wife daily but God still gifts me with everything I have ever asked for and still gives me exceedingly more than my imagination has ever ventured to imagine for myself – house, land, fertility, faith, health, husband who spoils me, kids who bring everyone joy, etc. Roy and I are very busy with teaching our chastity class every week for our 8th year. It is so much fun and the kids really enjoy it. I can’t imagine ever giving that up.
I pray you had a fabulous 2015 and an even more blessed 2016.
Love, The Christy’s
Nick, Mary Kate, Samantha, Max, Theresa, Ben, Josie, Matthew, Andrew and baby #10