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Friday, April 29, 2016

The Wecker Five - On Our Sibling Tattoo and It's Greater Meaning


My best friends are my siblings.

As we get older, I am more aware that our relationship is rare.

So many people have so much distance in their family and have a different experience of what siblings are to each other.  For me, every time we get together, it is coming home.  Should my parents ever leave their physical house entirely, those people will still feel like home (although the house they live in is magical and I should write about that for the world to hear).    I cry every time I leave my family, and I cannot help myself.  They make me feel like me.  Isn’t nostalgia an amazing force?! It's more than that though right?  It is a spiritual connection in a way.  We are tied to our family in such a unique compilation of emotions.  Putting it to words almost feels wrong, like there is no way to describe the force that exists between family. 

Our parents love us more than I can comprehend and brought us up in church with Christian schooling, ballet, drama, and athletics across the board.  Ups and downs with death and new life, heartbreak and victories, celebrations and defeats, our family went through it all.  Really hard times and really beautiful times.  Times that we were united and times when we were torn apart.  When I think about it, I am amazed that we are as close as we are.  What would have torn others apart really brought us closer.   Does everyone get overwhelmed thinking about their family story?  As we add new members through marriage and birth I am constantly amazed that my heart can expand because it always feels at capacity with the amount of love I have for each and every one of my family members.

Most of you know us, but I’ll give you our rundown just to be sure we are all on the same page.  Christian and I are twins, and the oldest of the “Wecker Clan”.  Stephen came 1 year and 50 weeks later.  Faith was 2 and a half years later and Joy was 2 years and few months after Faith.  The boys are on the East Coast (Pittsburgh and Baltimore), and the girls are on the West Coast (Long Beach and Anaheim).  I pray for a day where we are all in the same place at the same time.  I am not sure how or when, but I know my parents pray for the same thing.  However, during this season of life (which is now going on 10 years for me in California), we rely heavily on Facetime, text messaging and phone calls to feel together.  

I cannot recall exactly when the idea of a “Sibling tattoo” was first dreamed up, but I know it has been an evolving process for quite some time.  At first it was going to be a 5 (or some rendition there of – tally marks, Roman numerals, etc…).  Where we landed was five dots, and the order you are in the sibling order is filled in.  Everyone put their’s in a different place, and mine is the only one on my foot, but I honestly feel so connected every single time I look at that tattoo.  It reminds me of a bond that exists between 5 people as we are now, adults who grew up together.

Adult siblings is a new world for all of us that demands respect and grace in new ways.  While inevitable conflict exists, as we navigate these new waters, I think that we are the strongest we have ever been.  We know what sacrifice is, recognize strengths and weaknesses, are learning daily about love, are learning to respect each others differences, are growing to understand that faith involves theology and that we can share faith and disagree on the theological aspects.  My siblings are intelligent, faithful, intellectual and creative individuals.  I am amazed that God chose me to walk through life with them and if my tattoo could speak, it would tell you all those things, every day, for the rest of my life.




Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Matthew Robert Simone - My Best Friends Miracle

My dear friend Heather wrote the following words on her blog, and I could not help but share her incredible story (She included more pictures of her new bundle of joy on her blog, so make sure to check those out!).  To say I am blessed to call this beautiful woman a best friend would not be to give her enough credit.  She continually impresses me and I am so proud to know her.  

Heather Simone, I love you and your family and am so glad you have found so much joy with them.  You are an amazing person and someone who protects those that you love fiercely.  Your boys (that includes you too Rob!) are in good hands.  I only hope to be half the mom that you are one day.


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For Heathers Blog, Click this Link.  

(Make sure to look back over her first born son's incredible story as well)  

This girl has lot's to share with the world!

Present Day- "You may want to consider a therapeutic abortion." Back in August, those words were spoken to me and as I sit here holding my newborn son, those words ring in my ears. Me, mother of one already, woman who wants MORE children, ME. How could this have happened? At a mere 4 weeks pregnant, those words still stung me to my core. I was comforted by a verse read to me a few days earlier by my mother, 1 Peter 1:6. “Be truly glad. There is a wonderful joy ahead." God knew I needed just a tad bit more reassurance in those seconds of silence on the phone with my doctor, and the words to Hillsong's Oceans, which I just sang at church a few days prior started overpower the sentence that had just been spoken to me. "You've never failed, and you won't start now". God began telling me in those moments to trust Him. To look back and see what intricate plan He had been working on. All of these thoughts flew through my head in literally seconds. With tears in my eyes and a shaky voice, I said to my doctor, "No, that's not an option."

June 2015- I started having some issues with my pacemaker. I'm admittedly stubborn and when I finally went to the doctor in July, it was determined by my cardiologist, I needed a specialist to determine what was wrong. Despite the specialist being booked until mid-August, I got a call the next day asking me if I could take an appointment that very week because his schedule had suddenly opened up. Coincidence? I think not. At this appointment, the Electrophysiologist quickly discovered the problem. He was able to do a “quick fix” that stopped the symptoms I was having and explained that there was no immediate danger. The problem could be fixed whenever I wanted. I could wait 18 months until my battery life was lower, I could wait to see if the problem got worse, or go ahead and get things taken care of in the next few months. After some prayer and discussion my husband, Rob, and I came up with some questions for my doctor to help determine what course to take. Number 1 on the list- What if I were to get pregnant in the next 18 months? The answer was simply stated “We cannot do the surgery if you are pregnant.” Although we were not trying or planning to try, 18 months is a long time. We decided we would schedule surgery for some time in September. God intervened again, and my doctor with the jam packed schedule, gave me a surgery time a week later, for my non-emergent pacemaker switch out. The timing wasn't ideal for me. I had things I wanted to do the rest of the summer and recovering from surgery wasn't one of them. I resisted, was angry and annoyed that my plans were getting messed with. God likes to laugh at my plan to make a plan mantra; He often reminds me that His plan reigns supreme. I tried to fight the fact that I knew this is what was happening, but after some angry tears and rationale from Rob and my mother, I accepted the surgery time. The timing although not ideal for my wants, was ideal for everyone else. My mother who works during the school year, arrived to stay for a portion of my recovery time to help care for me and our 18 month old son. 

August 3rd- I arrived at Hopkins. Standard pre-op procedures were done, including a blood pregnancy test. My results were negative. The surgery went well. There was an additional complication with my pacemaker that was not detected beforehand. My doctor found and corrected that while he was in there. This added an additional hour and a half to my procedure. While I was in recovery, the doctor reported back to Rob saying, "It's a good thing we did this now, with the other complication there were more risks with waiting that we didn't know about”

August 5th- Now home recovering with my prescription pain meds I had a random fleeting thought. What if the pregnancy test was negative because God knew I needed the surgery, but I really am pregnant?" I don't know exactly where the thought came from and it went as quickly as it came. I shared with Rob, who immediately laughed and said I was crazy. I wrote it off as hormones, pain meds and lingering anesthesia. 
August 6th- The thought comes and stays longer this time. By mid-day I had rationalized to myself that I needed to take a test because I didn't want to continue with my heavy pain meds until I had confirmation. I truly didn't expect a result different than what it was in the hospital, but 3 minutes later I saw those 2 pink lines and began to weep. Panic set in. I had undergone radiation, anesthesia, heavy pain meds and to top it off, I remembered the words of my doctor, "This surgery cannot be done while pregnant." Questions flooded my head. What had I just exposed my child to? Why had God allowed this? How in the world am I pregnant?! After taking 3 more positive tests, there was no denying it. I was pregnant. I called my OB and explained the situation and they told me that if I had a blood negative just a few days prior, these at home tests were wrong and I needed a blood test confirmation. I called my regular doctor and went in for yet another test and blood draw. Their initial testing was also positive. The next day, my growth hormone level was high enough that there was no way it should have come up negative just a few days before. I called Hopkins where I had my surgery, and asked to have my blood test results read to me again. They were negative. Now having processed this chaos I found myself in, the word shielded became a powerful one to me. As I had cried to God about why He'd let this happen, another thought was impressed upon me- My baby was fine, God has shielded them from any harm. My confirmation to this thought came a few hours later as my mother had a verse pop up on her computer- Psalm 119:114 “You are my hiding place and my shield. I will wait for your word.” I began to cry again- God shielded my baby. Everything would be fine! A call from my heart doctor came soon after this. After hearing my situation he explained why this surgery isn't done on pregnant women. There was a constant radiation flowing through my body for the entirety of the procedure. He explained that at such a high volume he felt that irreparable damage was likely caused. "You may want to consider a therapeutic abortion". He was doing his job of course, and he was respectful of my decision to not pursue that option, and I still see him for my heart issues. I hold no ill will towards him. He didn't know what I did. God shielded my baby, and my baby was fine. Confirmation once again came soon after in the form of the verse of the day in my mom's devotional. Psalm 139:16 “Your eyes saw me when I was formless. All my days were written in your book and planned before a single one began.”

August 26th- My pregnancy was not drama free. At 6 weeks I began to bleed. I thought for sure that this precious baby that God had shielded was going on to be with Him before it even had a name. I prayed all night that God would save my child, or at least allow them to feel and know it was loved and cherished during its short time here. As I sat in the waiting room with other pregnant moms waiting to catch a glimpse of their child's face on an ultrasound, I cried as I waited to find out if mine was even alive. As soon as the ultrasound began I saw that flicker of a heartbeat and the nurse turned up the volume for us to hear that beautiful beat. God reminded me of His power, control and compassion in those moments. "I've never failed, and I won't start now." 

November 19th- My OB recommended I see a Perinatologist for multiple reasons during this pregnancy. One of which was the radiation exposure. At our first visit with him, he told us that he felt the timing was literally "just right" for NO harm to have been caused to our child, however he wanted to keep a close eye throughout the pregnancy. At our 20 week ultrasound, he confirmed that no damage had been caused and felt we were in the clear. I prefer to say that we were in the palm of God’s hand.

Present Day- Matthew Robert "a bright gift from God” is now here with us, healthy and perfect in every way. He is a constant reminder of how God has woven each of us together with great care, love and intricacy. He makes no mistakes. Hind sight is 20/20 and even better than that, God is always 20/20. As I look back over Matthew's story I see God in all the tiniest details, to the largest ones. His timing is perfect, His plan is perfect. From opening an appointment so I could see my doctor sooner, getting my surgery scheduled at the "just right" time for no damage to be caused, a timely false negative pregnancy test that we've been told scientifically should have been positive, the daily confirmations like special verses or song lyrics that would come to my mind. Through all of those things and more, God showed me how to relinquish my own control to Him and rely fully on His grace, power and perfect plan. To say our healthy son is a miracle, feels like an understatement. So many people rely so heavily on science, but Matthew’s story defies it and makes me want to lean deeper into faith instead of reason. Every time I look at his sweet face I remember what the Lord had brought our family through to get here together, safely, held in the palm of His hand. It’s easy to go day to day not realizing what God is protecting us from. Since this journey unfolded, I have found myself more and more grateful for His protection and plan for my life and my family’s lives. I pray that God will use my life and Matthew’s life to reassure those around me that He DOES have a plan, and that it is so much greater and more perfect than our own. No matter what you are walking through friends, be reassured that the Lord Almighty is walking it with you, shielding you from things you could not be aware of and things you cannot see.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Food I Ate Friday - Vegan Brownies


Y'all, I know what you are thinking.  Vegan Brownies?  

Come on Ryan.

Hear me out!

These babies were easy, healthy and honestly tasted like a fudgey brownie! What's could be wrong with that?! There is a chance I will always have a batch of these in my fridge moving forward. 

I'm TRYING to move towards a healthier mindset, although I crave French fries daily, but recipes like this are just the ticket to make me feel like I'm not missing much. Try it, and please let me know your thoughts. 

Two thumbs up over here! 

Ingredients

2½ cups loosely packed pitted dates
1 1/2 cups walnuts
6 tbsp cacao or cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 tsp water
1/4 + 1/8 tsp salt
1/4 cup cacao or cocoa powder
¼ cup pure maple syrup (or raw agave)
2 tbsp vegetable or melted coconut oil
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

Instructions

Combine the dates, walnuts, 6 tbsp cocoa, 1 1/2 tsp vanilla, water, and salt in a food processor. Process until completely smooth, scraping down as needed – It may seem dry at first, but don’t add any extra water. Lightly grease an 8-inch square baking pan, or line the pan with parchment or wax paper. Transfer dough to pan and press very firmly until dough is evenly distributed in the pan. In a medium mixing bowl, combine remaining cocoa and vanilla extract with the maple syrup and oil. Stir until mixture forms a paste (this is the frosting). Spread evenly over dough in the baking pan. Refrigerate brownies for at least 2 hours, to set. Leftovers can stay covered at room temperature for a day, or up to 2 weeks in the fridge, or 1-2 months in the freezer.

Credit where credit is due: Original Recipe Found Here

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

The Celebration Continues - Temecula Memory Makin'

I am so far behind!  I need to rapid fire some blogs at you to catch up, but the first of many is of the day following our Big Birthday (and birthday party), we headed out on a trip to nearby wine country, Temecula, which is about an hour away from our home.  


Bill’s Parents, often referred to as “Rogers 1.0” by us (they call us “Rogers 2.0”), gifted us an overnight in Temecula for Christmas to take place sometime in 2016, and we decided it would be really fun to piggy back and do it birthday weekend!  We started out our adventure at Stone Brewing where they give you a beer float for your birthday.  The location is gorgeous and was the perfect place to start off the day.  Excellent food, wonderful service and of course world renowned beer.  It honestly never disappoints.



After such a strong start, we headed to wine country, and wow what a perfect day we had!  The weather was perfect, the wine was flowing, and we just had the best time.  Bill’s parents are so easy to hang out with and when we are together we always have such a lovely time.  It is all about family to us!  We snacked and drank our way through 4 wineries and landed at a fun and funky gastropub for dinner downtown.  

After all that drinking, we turned in early and shared some laughs at the breakfast buffet the next morning, fighting a big group for the waffle maker and ignoring the fact that our microwaved bacon was a little unappetizing.  

As Tim Riggins said often, “Makin’ Memories.”  
We certainly did, and I cannot wait to go back.  





We are all contemplating joining a wine club and making it a quarterly thing… Only time will tell!